My pal Janine stopped by here on her way to work Monday morning, to borrow a piece of sticky tape and a ribbon — someone was retiring and she was in charge of getting the gift that everyone in the office had chipped in to buy. It was a little three-panel picture frame, really cute, but the real prize she wanted to show off was the gorgeous home-made wrapping paper!

She’d just sat down to wrap the gift late on Sunday evening when she realized there wasn’t a scrap of suitable wrapping paper in the whole house. And of course the stores were closed, so she couldn’t just go out and buy some gift wrap.

(Janine is never normally that disorganized, by the way — she said for me to be sure to tell you it was her daughter Carrie who used up all the paper on grad gifts!!)

stained paperWhat to do?

When Tea Stains on Paper are a Good Thing…

The clever woman grabbed a tea bag — living in the country, we all have lots of tea bags in the pantry, it’s tradition! — and made a cup of tea.

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She put it in the microwave, actually, and boiled it a little (since she wasn’t going to drink it) to hurry up the brewing process and make the tea good and strong.

Then she took a couple sheets of plain white office paper, the kind you would use for a printer or photocopier, and brushed the tea onto it with a small sponge. No need to try to get an even coat, she says — just splash down some random overlapping strokes of that lovely nostalgic sepia colour that tea staining will give… and let it dry.

butterfly rubber stampAgain, Janine hurried things up a little by gently pressing the paper between layers of paper towels, using just a barely warm iron to keep the paper from crinkling or scorching — though, come to think of it, a scorch-mark or two would just add to the old-fashioned look of it all.

When the paper was dry, or almost, she got out her scrapbooking supplies and went to work with a brown inkpad and a beautifully detailed butterfly stamp. Butterflies all over the paper, tone-on-tone in lovely subtle browns — nice!

We were thinking that, for a gift-giving occasion in the fall of the year, maybe for a Thanksgiving hostess gift or such, you could stamp on a pattern of leaves…

Anyway, Janine is one of those people who manage to think ahead and keep gift cards on hand, so that part wasn’t a problem. But she was out of ribbon, thanks to Carrie — and I only had some leftover from Christmas, printed ribbon with holly leaves on it. No raffia either, and not even a piece of good fat knitting wool (except a hideous orange, left over from making a clown wig… don’t ask!)

So she went through my junk drawer and found some ordinary brown package string, wrapped it three times around the little parcel, tucked a spring of dried flowers under the knot… and you know what? It looked just great!

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. domestika

    p.s. I forgot to say that most municipal water systems put chlorine int he water, and that’s essentially the same as bleach. So for the water it would be good to try to use untreated rain water or well water. Also, I find that it helps if you mix up your salt water for fixing the dye (about 1 good Tbsp of salt to in about 2 cups boiling water) and then get it very very cold before you use it. I’d use an equal amount of white vingear with that, but have also done this with just the salt water when I was out of vinegar. You’d soak for a couple of hours at least, preferably overnight…

  2. domestika

    Hey there, Anonymous! Any natural or vegetable dye will be less permanent than a chemical dye, and will fade if you use modern laundry detergents on it and/or leave it in the sun (excellent way to remove old tea and coffee stains, btw). But you can make a tea stain more permanent by (
    1) using cloth made of only natural fibers – synthetics don’t absorb the tea;
    (2) soaking your dyed fabric in a solution of white vinegar and salt water to help fix it;
    (3) rinsing, and drying it in a hot dryer and/or by ironing the fabric. The heat will help set it.

    Hope this helps!

  3. Anonymous

    Is there any way the tea stains on cloth or the brown color of cloth soaked in tea or coffee decoction be made permanent? I need to have shades of brown cloth which I hope to get using tea/coffee of different concentrations. I just dont want the color to fadeafter drying.

  4. themakeupgirl

    Yes on purpose silly!! Yeah it does look really antique and kinda cool if I do say so myself. I did the sheets and a duvet cover as well as the pillow cases. I don’t use them all together (that would be overkill….lol)

  5. domestika

    On purpose, MakeUpGirl? LOL!

    No, seriously, that effect could look really classy on bed linen: my aunt says she did tea-staining to an old white lace table runner that had gotten a bit yellow with age -now it looks antique, not just plain ordinary old.

  6. themakeupgirl

    I did this to some white sheets once!!

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