An Illustrated Guide to Tea Bag Embroidery
Why Tea Bag Embroidery?
I like to craft with tea bags because the paper of the bag is so versatile. When I first saw the colors of a natural tea bag, it ignited my imagination. I love that the paper soaks up the color. I’ve used turmeric powder, watercolors, ink, and food coloring to stain them and each time the results are amazing. Having a pile of these gorgeously stained tea bags was great, but I wanted to do more with them. This article will take you through a step by step tutorial on how to prepare the tea bag, stain it, and then embroider a design on the tea bag. I will also show you how to make a template of your design and how to transfer it to your tea bag.
You Will Need:
Used tea bags
Sharp nose scissors
White liquid glue
Matte Mod Podge
White fine tip marker
How to Remove the Tea Leaves From the Tea Bag
This step will depend on how big you want your teabag canvas to be. I started small and didn’t open the bag up completely, but teabags come in all shapes and sizes. Most of them have a string, but you could also use the tagless square kind. See the leaf and heart example in this tutorial. Another alternative, if you want a larger area to work on, is to open the tea bag up completely. See the seahorse example in this tutorial.
For more information on how to open and clean a square tea bag see my article on tea bag roses.
In this illustration, I prepared a tea bag for the leaf example. Simply cut the bag open along the bottom fold and dump out the tea leaves. Brush out any leftover leaves with your fingers.
How to Stain the Tea Bag
Lay your cleaned tea bag in a waterproof vessel. I used a plastic tray that I picked up at the dollar store. Place a few drops of food coloring on the bag and repeat with a few drops of water directly on the color stains. The tea bag paper will drink up the water and spread the color. Leave the saturated tea bag to dry.
How to Seal the Tea Bag Paper
The tea bag paper tears easily so to strengthen it I painted it with matte Mod Podge. If you don’t have Mod Podge in your craft kit, then water down some white liquid glue (75% glue to 25% water solution). It will work just as well. This also makes the tea bag a little more rigid and easier to work with.
How to Draw the Design on the Tea Bag
To make your own template is super easy. Print off or draw a design on a piece of paper. Paste it on some card stock and cut it out. Then simply trace your design onto your tea bag with a white fine tip marker. I used an opaque white pen here.
You can find designs in kids coloring books, photocopy one from a magazine or print one off the internet. I just drew this leaf as an example.
Another design transfer idea is to lightly tape your picture to the back of the tea bag. Since you've already Mod Podged it by now, the tape will come off easily. Just pull gently. Tape the tea bag with the design taped to the back, to a window where the sun can shine through. Then trace the design onto the teabag paper with your fine tip marker. It’s much like using an artist’s lightbox without spending the money on buying one.
How to Punch out the Design and Embroider on the Tea Bag
Lay the tea bag on a firm surface. I used a cork board. It could accept the needle on the other end of the teabag once I punch it but still offer the firm backing needed. Use the needle that you are going to embroider with to push holes all along the design line that you drew. I spaced the holes just over an 1/8th of an inch apart (roughly ½ cm).
I used the backstitch method on all the designs in this project because it created a nice clean line. It allowed me to control the spacing of the holes in the paper to avoid tearing.
Only use the stab method for your tea bag embroidery. If you use the scoop method demonstrated in this video you run the risk of tearing the paper.
When stitching on a tea bag like the leaf design, make sure you open the flap. Don’t stitch the back flap to the front. You will use the back flap to hide the stitching.
Once you’ve completed embroidering your design, turn it over. Pour some glue over the stitching and close the back flap. By gluing the flaps together, you hide the back threads. When you are working with a square teabag like the heart example or an open tea bag like the seahorse example, you’ll have to glue a second teabag to the back.
Tea Bag Embroidery IdeasClick thumbnail to view full-size
- Embroidery thread is made up of around 6 individual strands. Cut the length of thread that you want to work with (around a foot or so), then pull 2 strands out to thread through your needle. Anything thicker than this might be too thick and tear your tea bag paper.
- Remember the tea bag paper is not like fabric. Once you make a hole, it’s there to stay. So be sure about your design before you start punching out the holes in your design.
- Keep designs simple because the holes can’t be too close together
- If you don’t have any Mod Podge, you can also use a mix of white liquid glue and water to get the same effect. Mix 75% liquid white glue with 25% water, and shake well.
- I prefer to dye the tea bags with darker colors because the lighter the color of the tea bag, the more chance you’ll have of seeing the stitches at the back of the tea bag. The darker the color, the more the back side stitches are hidden.