Adding Interest to Paper…With Tea!

I must say that this blog topic combines two of my favorite things: tea, a delicious beverage, and paper, the medium of writers, records, history and literacy.

There is something so homey about paper…I even love the smell of paper when you open a fresh ream of it to put into the printer or copier.  Weird maybe, but true.

I have a few stashes of paper around my home: wrapping paper, origami paper, card stock, and of course, stationery.  A good friend of mine said: you know you’re a grown woman when you have a designated collection of wrapping paper and a ready selection of hostess gifts!

I have been doing several paper crafts recently (one was Homemade Paper Bows) and I love the look of aged paper and old books.

Did you know there is a whole art genre dedicated to making artwork from old, reclaimed books called Altered Books?  My witty friend who made the statement above is also a very talented artiste and does a lot of this work.  I used her passion as partial inspiration for this blog topic.

It’s easy to use a variety of teas to add interest to plain white paper!  Plain paper may not have all the history of a reclaimed book, but using this tea-dying technique definitely helps to recreate the look!

[This method of “aging” paper was also used to make the gift tag in Luxurious Sugar Scrub and the toothpick place card flags in Place Card Primer: Truffles!  Details are below.]

Using Teas to “Age” Paper

Supplies You Will Need:

* I used plain white copy paper and my computer to print names and a recipe in various fonts before I aged the paper in tea.

Boiling Water
Tea(s) of your choice (common variations are red, green, black, and white)
A strainer or tea ball if using loose tea(s)
A plastic cup or flat container big enough to hold the paper or scraps you are using
A sponge or paper towel handy to clean up any drips or spills
A rack, pan or folded paper towel to dry the papers

Pour the tea(s) into cups and fill with boiling water.

Allow tea(s) to steep for the amount of time indicated on packaging.  A longer steeping time can yield a darker, richer colored tea, and a shorter steeping time produces a lighter tea.  I steeped all my teas for about 5 minutes.  They looked like this:

After steeping, strain any loose tea(s), if needed. 

[Incidentally, one of the loose teas I used (a Chamomile Citrus) still had remnants of tea leaves in the cup, even after straining.  The tea bits gave a bit of interest to the finished paper, so I wouldn’t worry if you have a few stubborn tea leaves!]

Allow the tea(s) to cool.  Then pour the tea(s) into flat containers or plastic cups to soak the papers.  I would caution that since tea is a natural dye, wear old clothes in case you spill or the tea splashes, and remember to wash your tea cups out promptly after steeping.  I would not use any good tea cups for this project, especially for soaking, or you may stain them!!

Here is some paper soaking flat in tea.

The amount of time that you choose to soak your paper is up to you.

  • For the place cards I made, I soaked the paper for about an hour.

Here are the place cards, just out from soaking in the various teas. Left to right: Earl Grey with Cardamom, Earl Grey with Bergamot, Green Tea, and Chamomile & Citrus.

Here are the dried place cards. You can really see the color variations once the paper dries.

  • The “Erin” place card was soaked overnight in Green Tea because I wanted to show the color variation produced by tea(s) when you soak paper for a long time.  See below:

The place card on the left was soaked for an hour. The place card on the right was soaked overnight and is a deeper, golden brown.

  • The sugar scrub gift tags were soaked for about 20 minutes in the darkest Earl Grey blend and the Green Tea, and then removed, wrinkled, and soaked for another 10-15 minutes.

This is one gift tag set soaked in the Earl Grey with Cardamom. See the wrinkles I made?

Finally, remove the paper from the tea and lay on a flat surface to dry.  If you want the paper to be flat when dried, be sure to smooth out any waves in the paper.

Once the paper has dried, you can cut it or use it in projects!


Wrinkling Technique:

Wrinkling paper in a cup of tea.

To further “age” paper you can soak it for a bit, remove it, and crease, ball up, and wrinkle the paper, and re-soak it.

I used this method on the sugar scrub gift tags.  When you remove the wrinkled paper, carefully unwrap it, and place it flat to dry.  Tea residue may remain in the creases, and if you leave it there, it will darken those areas and produce a nice effect.

Air Bubbles:

When I made the “Harold” place card, the tea had some air bubbles in it.  Air bubbles can produce areas where the color of the tea is lighter or absent.

Paper on Paper:

To block off an area of the paper you are soaking in tea(s), use a teeny tiny bit of glue stick to loosely fasten a piece of paper in the shape of your choice to the paper to be soaked.  Soak the paper in a flat container.  After soaking, gently peel the glued paper from the soaked paper and the blocked off area should be differentiated.

Have you ever “aged” paper with tea(s)?  What are your favorite projects that use this type of paper?