How to Coffee-Dye Cross Stitch Fabric

Non-dyed fabric (left) and coffee-dyed fabric (right)

The Spruce Crafts / Connie G. Barwick

You can change the color of your fabric and make it look weathered and vintage. Don't throw away those coffee grounds once you had that last cup of coffee. Change the color of your cross stitch fabric with left-over coffee or used coffee grounds. Soak the fabric in diluted coffee to produce an all-over color change. Scatter grounds on the fabric to produce a marbled effect. This process is great for stitching up older retro patterns. Use this process for redwork. The red floss pops against the brown/grey fabric. The longer you keep the grounds on, the more weathered and old the fabric will look.

Coffee dyeing produces a subtle aged color. For more dramatic ways to color fabric, see more ways to change fabric color.

Materials Needed

To complete this project, you need:

  • natural-fiber fabric (Aida fabric is great for this project, as well as linen)
  • brewed coffee or wet coffee grounds
  • small basin
  • white paper towels, if using grounds
  • white vinegar
  • water

Difficulty: Average

Time required: Varies


Note: Before beginning this project, allow the coffee to cool. If you use freshly-brewed coffee, take the proper precautions for dealing with hot liquid. You can hold on to your coffee grounds for the week. Keep a few for your garden and some for the dyeing process.

Getting started: Gather your supplies and read the instructions for this project before you begin. Choose whether you will use brewed coffee or wet coffee grounds.

  1. Brew the coffee if you are using it, or gather used coffee grounds.
  2. Dampen the fabric. Wet fabric takes dye much better than dry fabric. Do not soak it, just dampen it. 
  3. (If using grounds to dye the fabric, skip to step 6.) Dilute the coffee with a bit of water (as needed) to ensure that there is enough liquid to completely submerge the fabric. Pour the coffee in the basin.
  4. Place the fabric in the basin, making sure it is completely submerged. If you don't want to dye your basin, you can use a bucket or a large pot.
  5. Allow the fabric to soak. The stronger the coffee and the longer you allow it to soak, the darker the fabric will become. (Skip to step 11.)
  6. If you are using grounds, they must be wet. Make a pad of white paper towels large enough to lay the fabric on. (Protect the surface you are working on as needed with wax paper or cardboard.) Dampen the fabric and lay it flat.
  7. Scatter the wet coffee grounds across the fabric in a random pattern. The more concentrated the grounds are, the darker the fabric will dye. 
  8. Allow the grounds to sit on the fabric until the fabric has reached the desired shade. The longer the grounds sit, the more the fabric will change color.
  9. Dump the grounds from the fabric into a trash receptacle or collect them to add to your compost pile. Rinse the fabric to remove any residual grounds.
  10. If you are satisfied with the color, set it by soaking it in a weak solution of vinegar and water for a few moments.
  11. Lay the fabric flat to dry.
  12. Use the fabric for a special project. Find patterns to try in the Free Pattern Index.


  • Only use natural fibers for this project. Man-made fibers do not take dye like cotton does. Coffee is acidic, so expect your project to degrade more quickly than non-dyed fabric, but you will still be able to enjoy your project for many years to come.
  • Use a strong solution of coffee for a darker shade of brown. You can take the fabric out of the solution, let it dry, check the color, and then return it to the solution if it is not dark enough.
  • To dye large batches of fabric, save up your used coffee grounds (freeze them to prevent mold).