19 April 2012

How to Coffee-Dye Muslin

I recently coffee dyed some muslin for the first time. I have coffee dyed muslin bags many times using my Grungy Sauce Mix recipe that I shared in my Grungy Hang Tag Tutorial. But I had never actually coffee dyed muslin fabric, and I decided it was time to give it a go so I would have some grungy muslin on hand for craft projects. So I looked around online for various "recipes" and "how-to's" for doing this, and I ended up combining the basics of several tutorials to do my fabric. And I thought I would share that Primitive Tutorial with you.

What You Need
  • A hot pot of double-strength coffee, or enough instant coffee made to equal the same.
  • 1 TBSP Vanilla Extract
  • 1 Yard Muslin Fabric
  • 1 Cup of Soda Ash (*optional-see #1 below)
  • A Gallon of Warm Water (*optional-see #1 below)
  • Small Plastic Tub or Large Bowl (or a bucket)--something just big enough to hold the fabric covered with the coffee/water.
  • Rubber Gloves
  • A Large Spoon

  1. Now this first step is optional. But if you're wanting to help set your coffee stain to make it more permanent, this is an easy way to do it. Take your plastic tub and fill it with the water and the Soda Ash. Stir to dissolve the soda ash. Put your gloves on (soda ash can be irritating to skin). Add your fabric and soak for 20 minutes, then wring the water out of the fabric. Do NOT rinse the fabric. NOTE: Soda Ash is very inexpensive and can usually be found in craft stores wherever tie-dye supplies are sold. You can also order it online. Also note, Baking Soda is NOT the same thing. And you can skip this step all together if you want to.
  2. Empty the plastic tub and pour in your hot Coffee and Vanilla. Wear your gloves if you're worried about the hot coffee, or about getting the color on your fingers. Add the fabric into the coffee and stir it around a bit to make sure the coffee gets on all of it and get it submerged.
  3. How to Coffee Dye Muslin
  4. Soak your fabric for 10-15 minutes and then check it. Keep in mind that it will dry LIGHTER than it looks wet. If you want it darker, soak it for another 10-15 minutes. How long you soak it is really up to you. I soaked mine for about an hour or so. I know people who soak theirs overnight. If you're unsure how long to soak, do it with some swatches of test fabric first, soaking for various times. That way you can gauge how long it takes to get a color that you like, before you actually soak your full yard of fabric.
  5. Once your fabric is the desired color, remove it from the coffee bath. Mine was a bit too dark after a long soak, so I rinsed it in cold water. But rinsing is optional at this point so only rinse if you need to lighten it a bit. Again remember, the fabric will look lighter when it's dry than it does when it's wet. Wring out the fabric--wearing  your gloves (again, to avoid staining your fingers).
  6. Now you need to dry your fabric. You have three options: Air Dry, Oven Dry, or Dryer. If you choose the Oven Dry method, I would set it at no higher than 225° and lay the fabric on a cookie sheet, turning every 5 minutes (and keep an eye on it!). The oven method will add more grungy effects, which you can enhance by adding crumpled foil to your cookie sheet first. If you choose the Dryer, you may want to put the fabric inside an old pillow case first, in order to protect your dryer from the stain. If you use the Air Dry method, you can also enhance the grungy effect by using a hot iron on almost-dry fabric.
Coffee-Dyed Muslin
Air-Dried Muslin

Oven-Dried Muslin
Oven-Dried Muslin--with Wrinkles
  • You can add Cinnamon (and even other spices, if you like) to your coffee dye for some added scent and color.
  • You can crumple the fabric before dying it to give it a more grungy look and add a sense of texture. You can also crumple it as it's hanging up to dry.
  • If you're making dolls or other projects, you can put your coffee dye mixture into a spray bottle and spritz some onto your project for some added grunge and texture.
  • Add some more age to your coffee dyed fabric by rubbing it with some sandpaper in spots to give it a more worn and aged appearance.
  • You can use tea instead of coffee to make your dye, but it will not usually get as dark. You can experiment with both to see which you prefer.
You can't really do this wrong because the "primitive look" isn't about perfection. It's about looking worn and aged, something you will achieve with the dye process. I hope you have fun making lots of primitive Grungy Goods with this tutorial!

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