How to give fabric a vintage look

Hi Creative Mamas! I am so excited to share with you how to give fabric a vintage look! It’s a little secret that I have been using lately and its helping me to keep creating innovative fabric crafts even when I can’t buy fabrics and trims.

Giving fabric a vintage and an antique look is a great way to transform your existing materials and resources into something completely amazing.


How to make fabric look old

It’s a great little technique that will allow you to turn the most ordinary pieces of scrap fabric into some extraordinary vintage looking pieces. You can also easily distress fabric and make it look old and antique.

As we are starting to get settled into a new normality that is affecting the whole entire world, I am constantly trying to adapt my fabric crafts to make the most of the resources that I have at hand.

I am not sure what these tricky times will bring but one thing is for sure: I am getting creative with my materials because I can’t afford to buy expensive fabrics as I did before :).

This might look like a problem but I am actually thinking about this as a creative challenge and I am embracing it! So let’s get started with creating a vintage look that will cost you nothing but will look like a million bucks!

What is vintage fabric

Vintage fabric is normally regarded as fabric which is 30 years old or more. I have been lucky enough to inherit a lot of vintage silks that my grandmother bought in Italy in the 1940’s as well as cotton prints which my mother collected during the 1970’s in Argentina.

These fabrics have a beautiful finishing and whenever I use them in my sewing projects they bring a special something to the project.

Using vintage fabric in your embroidery or quilting projects is luxurious and a treat for a maker. Let me show you how you can achieve the same look by using the humble cotton scrap from your sewing room 🙂

Sewing with vintage fabric

Sewing with vintage fabric is very special. The fabric will have a story attached to it and creative sewing allows is to build another layer to the story.

In my fabric collage workshops I always encourage my students to bring fabric that has meaning to them. This may be an item of clothing, a piece of fabric inherited from a loved one, a piece of needle work.

Discover how to transform these pieces of special vintage fabric into beautiful fabric books and fabric journals.

How to make fabric look old and antique

Ok, my secret is simply this: Staining/dyeing or over dyeing your fabric, wool or embroidery threads with black tea. To learn more about the best way to dye fabric with tea read here.

But dyeing with tea can be much more than dyeing, it can be a way of over dyeing and changing the original color and look of your fabrics, yarns and threads. So this post is my tea staining fabric tutorial/create your own vintage fabric tutorial 🙂

How to make lace look old and antique

Lace falls under the same category as fabric, yarn and threads. The main thing to consider is the material composition.

Natural fibers such as 100 % cotton, 100 % silk and 100 % wool will absorb the dye beautifully. In this case we will be using black tea which has tannin in it so no pre mordanting processes are required.

So make sure that your materials are all mainly natural by doing a simple Fabric Burn Test.

How to use vintage fabric in your crafts

The whole idea of upcycling fabric scraps into antique and vintage looking pieces is to create amazing fabric to use in our fabric crafts. I have written these cool step by step tutorials to show you how you can make amazing gifts, quilts and crafts using your newly vintage fabric scraps 🙂 Check them out:

How to give fabric a vintage look Tutorial

Materials and Equipment

In this tutorial I will show you how to give an antique and a vintage look to a variety of fabrics. I will use old needlework pieces that I have collected or received from my family as well as new commercially bought fabric and threads.

Even though some of these pieces are old I still want to give them a more vintage look that talks about them being antique and precious.

I am using wool yarn, cotton yarn, cotton lace and cotton fabric. I am also over dyeing embroidery thread which is not 100% natural so lets see what happens 🙂

how to give fabric a vintage look
How to give fabric a vintage look

Step 1

The first step in the process of giving fabric a vintage look is to wash your fabric. Most probably the fabric you will be transforming will have some sort of industrial finish which needs to be removed so that the tea can penetrate into the fibers.

This washing step is similar to the traditional natural dyeing method in which you need to do a scouring process. But this time this washing step is super quick!

Fill a pot with clear water and pour 1 tablespoon of neutral soap into it. Stir and dissolve . Place on the stove. Place the fabric inside.

Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. After this time, remove from pot, rinse and set aside.

Step 2

Pour clear water in a pot and place at least 10 tea bags in it. Bring liquid to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes.

Step 3

You can now place your fabric/yarn or threads inside the tea pot. Note I am leaving the tea bags inside as well.

Make sure all your fibers are well immersed and there is plenty of room for them inside the pot. If there is not enough room you will get uneven dyeing and you want to avoid this!

Simmer for at least 40 minutes. You can remove from the heat before this time if you fibers have taken enough dye or you can leave the fibers overnight once you remove from the heat for further color absorption.

The examples shown in this tutorial were left to simmer for 40 minutes only and removed after that.

Step 4

Once you are happy with the vintage look created by the tea dye you can now rinse your materials with clear running water.

Make sure the water runs clear and there is no excess dye left in your fabrics or threads.

Step 5

The last step in giving your fabrics a vintage look is to dry your threads and yarn by pressing them inside a dry towel.

Note the wool yarn took the dye really well, while the cotton embroidery thread took on a much lighter tone.

As for the commercially dyed embroidery thread you can see in the illustration below that their colors have been muted and a much more interesting antique look was achieved.

This is a great option for using embroidery threads that are not a good match for a particular project since it gives you the possibility to change their colors really easily.

Also note that the cotton fabric scraps from my quilting stash took the dye differently as well and that is a great color variation that will work wonderfully once I use all these squares into my quilt.

The main thing is that it has given my fabric s a rich vintage look that they didn’t have before.

Are you interested in Natural Dyeing?

Download your FREE list of the best 40 natural dyes to use to get bright and long lasting natural color!

How to make fabric look old with coffee

Using the Solar dyeing Method is a great way to use left over coffee and dye fabric scraps and yarn in a slow but very effective way.

Check out how easy it is to make fabric look old using coffee.

Fabric crafts using fabric that has been converted into looking old and antique

how to give fabric  a vintage look

I made this beautiful hair clip holder using the lace that I showed you in this tutorial. I used it in combination with applique and quilting techniques. Check out the tutorial here.

How do you age fabric with tea?

I love tea staining fabric to give it an old look. The quilt block in the photo below is one example of fabrics that were white and blue and I made them look old and uniform by tea dyeing using back tea.

I made this quilt as you go log cabin block using the scraps shown in this tutorials. All fabrics used in this block used to be completely white before the vintage process.

Check out the quilt block tutorial here.

Other tutorials that you may like to check out:

If you want to learn about natural dyeing techniques read here

If you want to learn about natural dyes you can use read here

If you want to learn how to dye fabric with black tea read here

Want to remember this? Save this Tutorial to your favorite Pinterest board!

how to make fabric look vintage

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