Class Details for Tea, Spice and Natural Dyes on Cotton & Silk

Number of Lessons: 4
Price: US$ 40.00
Tutor: Marjorie McWilliams
Start Date: To Be advised
Weeks Open: 6.5

Features in This Workshop

  • A scheduled class
  • One-to-one Teacher guidance & help for questions and answers
  • Downloadable class information
  • Text, Images and some videos
  • A Design Class
  • Dye Recipes

Tea and spice staining is easy to do with little expense and marvelous results. Anyone can do it from the beginner to the most advanced textile designers. Different teas create different colors from beiges, to pinks, to blues and grays. Household spices dye cotton and silk very well using the techniques taught in class.

This workshop also includes dyeing with flowers, vegetables, and the all new rust dyeing. Use a variety of mordants to get different results and of course, record all your discoveries in a dye journal so you can recreate the color for your next project.

Supplies and Outline

Fabric Needed:

You will need at least 3 yards of 100% cotton unbleached muslin depending on how much sampling you will be doing.  Make sure that your fabric is 100% cotton with NO blends, no wrinkle-guard, and no permanent press.  Pure cotton is what we need because the addition of other chemicals keeps the natural dyes from staining the fabric.

If you would like to buy the same muslin that I use for my customers at, go to the website and click on supplies. 

Many students have enjoyed trying these recipes on silk swatches.  If you would like to try staining silk, the best ones to use are habotai or China silk, dupion silk, or crepe backed silk satin.  Both are available on my website under the supplies section.

Other supplies:

White Vinegar (small bottle - 8 or 16 oz. size)

Alum (Aluminum ammonium sulfate) powder - This can be found at pharmacies, in grocery stores in the canning/pickling sections, or at in the supplies section.  This chemical makes beautiful gray and blue colors when used as a mordant instead of vinegar.  Alum is a generic name for several sulfate compounds containing aluminum.  Some tea stain dyers insist that Potassium aluminum sulfate is the best alum for tea dyeing although I have tried both and see very little difference.  The only real difference is the price and the very important fact that Potassium aluminum sulfate is poisonous! Use care when handling and be sure to use designated utensils if you choose to use this kind of alum.

If you are having difficulty locating this item, go to Type in "Alum" in the product search slot and you can order it directly from them.

UK source - or Artvango.

Allume is the Italian name for alum and alumbre is Spanish.  A student found a little bottle called Alumbre en Polvo (powdered alum) in a pharmacy in a Hispanic neighborhood.

Baking soda - you will only need a few tablespoons from a small box


  • 1 box (20) of Twinings Earl Grey tea bags
  • 1 box (20) of Twinings English Breakfast tea bags
  • 3 more boxes of your choice of teas

See if there are sampler boxes that have these in the mix if you do not want to buy this many tea bags.

Note: You might like to try the following teas for their pinks, oranges, greens, grays, blues, and smashing yellows.  It takes 4-6 bags for 1/4 yard of fabric for each color.  Again, look for sampler boxes:

  • Celestial Seasonings Red Zinger, Country Peach Passion, Black Cherry Berry, Tangerine Orange Zinger, Wild Raspberry, Cranberry Apple Zinger, Blueberry, Raspberry. 
  • Stash has Lemon Blossom, Peppermint and Wintergreen, Chamomile. 
  • Bigalow’s Pomegranate Pizzazz.
  • Some of these teas are hard to find but make nice colors.  Try a specialty store for: Strawberry, Loganberry, Wild Raspberry and Nettle, Dandelion, Black Currant.
  • Traditional Medicinals Dandelion Root Tea, Organic Chamomile Lavender
  • Rooibos

Spices, Flowers, Skins, Juices

These household spices dye cotton and silk very well using the techniques taught in class.  All are optional.  Some may not be available, so chose what is easy to get and easy on the finances.  We use from 1 teaspoon to 1 Tablespoon of each unless another quantity is specified.

  • Saffron (Very expensive! Other spices work as well so you can use something else)
  • Turmeric
  • Dill
  • Cayenne
  • Chili powder
  • Mustard powder
  • Curry powder
  • 4 c minimum flowers such as lavender, zinnia, cosmos
  • 12 Red hibiscus flowers - Mexican food stores as well as health food stores. Use fresh or dried.
  • Red, yellow, and brown onion skins -
  • 1-3 cups of the papery outer skins
  • Red Cabbage - 4 cups chopped
  • Cream of tartar
  • Frozen or canned blueberries - 1/4 cup minimum
  • 2 cups or more-cherries, rhubarb, strawberries, blackberries, bilberries, boysenberries, loganberries

Other Stuff

  • Access to a stove or microwave
  • Access to water and sink
  • 6 ceramic or glass mugs
  • 6 saucepans (if using stove exclusively)
  • Old towels
  • Newspaper
  • Tea kettle or large saucepan
  • Sharpie pen for marking samples
  • Timer
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Miscellaneous metal objects, rusted or not
  • 3 or 4 medium sized plastic tubs or buckets for staining larger pieces of fabric
  • Coffee (crystals or brewed)

Optional fun stuff:

  • Crystal Light Tangerine/Strawberry or Raspberry - 1 tub
  • Any color Kool-Aid
  • Espresso powder or brewed espresso.
  • 2 c minimum of juices such as cranberry, pomegranate, blueberry, cherry, purple grape juice
  • red wine
  • small box of colored gelatin


Lesson One-Tea Staining

Lesson Two-Spice Staining

Lesson Three-Fruit, Juices, Flowers

Lesson Four- Rust Staining Dyeing and Using Commercial “Food” Products