Part of my design for this gown included some frothy lace at the shoulders and bust, so I purchased a 25-yard length of lace on eBay for a really low price. Unfortunately, when it arrived it was blindingly white– something needed to be done. Well, something needed to be done to about 5 yards of it, anyway– I couldn’t imagine that I’d ever need more than that for the neckline of a dress…
I decided to tea-dye the lace to take the edge off of the white. I’ve never tea-dyed anything made from synthetic fibers before– only cotton– so to figure out how to dye my nylon lace I did some internet research first. I ended up following this tutorial by Cation Designs, which seemed to be exactly what I was looking for.
First I used Darjeeling tea, which seemed to be an appropriate color when brewed, but when I’d followed the dyeing process and rinsed the dyed lace, it looked awfully dark and orange. Like, rust-colored. I didn’t have any confidence that it would dry significantly lighter, so as long as I had all of my supplies out I tried another option– coffee. I basically followed the same steps as for tea, but using instant coffee instead. I didn’t let the lace sit in the coffee mixture for as long, removing it after only about 3 minutes, and it ended up not only lighter, but less orange-y in color.
Side by side of the wet lace (Tea on left, coffee on right):
It was around this point when I started regretting not having done any test swatches– I decided to try again, this time starting with a relatively mild coffee solution (the equivalent of one cup of brewed coffee diluted with about 6 cups of water) as opposed to the full-strength coffee I’d been using before. Instead of adding the vinegar at the end I soaked the lace in a water-vinegar solution ahead of time, per this tutorial. Then I dipped it for a bare 30 seconds into the diluted coffee before removing it and rinsing it in cold water. A decent amount of the color came out in the rinse, but it still looked somewhat creamier in color than the original white lace, so I decided to dry it and see how it turned out.
Much better! Perfect, in fact. So I’ve learned my lesson– for just a hint of creaminess, dip the lace quickly and get it OUT of the tea/coffee solution before it picks up too much color. This totally goes against my experience in dyeing the seam binding for the ribbon embroidery– the only thing I can think of is that the seam binding was almost sheer, so just wetting it made it look a lot darker. Unlike the lace, which has pretty opaque threads that look much the same dry as they do wet. Or maybe it’s just one of those things that I need to chalk up to experience.
In any case, I now have five yards of light ivory lace to use on my ballgown. Let’s go!