Learn How to Dye Cross Stitch Fabrics

Tips for Coloring Embroidery Canvases

You don"t need to buy specially colored fabric for your cross stitch and embroidery projects. Why not dye your own canvases?

Unless you live near a needlework shop, chances are you’re limited to only white cross stitch fabric. It"s not hard to dye your own cross stitch fabrics.

Of course, you can choose from the many commercial dyes on the market. However, it’s much more creative to color fabrics yourself.

Kool-Aid Dyeing

The 44 assorted Kool-Aid flavors offer a variety of colors. Or, if you can’t find just the right shade, mix colors. Just be sure to first experiment on a scrap piece of fabric. Blueberry Kool Aid is excellent for skies and water. It certainly beats stitching all that blue floss for a background. Simply soak the fabric in a solution of Kool Aid and warm water. Continue adding more Kool-Aid crystals until you have your desired shade. Besides Kool Aid, Crystal Lite works just as well.

Coloring Fabric with Tea or Coffee

If you don’t mind fabric eventually fading with years, then try dyeing with it with tea or coffee. For an older, more muted look, tea or coffee works well. Unfortunately, the acids in tea and coffee degrade after about three to four decades. If you wanted your work to last longer, the coffee-dyed fabric would last 75-100 years. While tea renders a grayish look, coffee is browner.

Tea dying

Using tea bags and hot water, tea dyeing stains fibers, giving it an antiqued or “dirty” tone to your fabric. Use this dyeing technique for your smaller projects as tea bags are used, and you don’t have that much coloring. What’s more, it gives an imperfect or uneven color. For larger projects, use commercial dye.

Because tea dye is semi-permanent, it won’t wash out easily, although it can usually come out with bleach. Tea dye only works on natural fibers, including cotton, silk, linen, and maybe wool. Polyester will not take color. Tea dye is reddish brown, so it’s not a good choice if you want a creamy look.

Tea dye is semi-permanent, meaning it won’t wash out quickly, although you can usually remove it with bleach. It may also fade in sunlight. However, it is not suggested for use on regularly washed items as detergents are designed to remove the tea stain.

Boil four cups of water per yard of fabric, adding two bags for each cup of water. After allowing the tea to sit for about five minutes, you’ll have a dark brown liquid. Then soak your fabric in the tea mixture and rinse under cool water if you want to remove much of the dark color. Continue to soak until you have the desired shade of brown. Keep in mind that your fabric will be lighter in color when thoroughly dry. Then dry your fabric in a clothes dryer (set on high) and tumble dry. Iron on a hot setting to set in the permanent color.

Coffee Dyeing

Coffee also works well. Just soak your fabric in a pot of coffee. Only be forewarned that you’ll be smelling coffee for a long time, whereas tea doesn’t leave a scent.

For a darker color, use unbrewed coffee beams, as well as darker beans. Again, to set in the permanent color, iron your fabric on a hot setting.

If you’re still afraid to dye your own fabric, you can always order just the right colored fabric online. However, you’ll miss out on the fun of experimenting and be doing it yourself.

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