Sunday, January 10, 2010

my newly found obsession: coffee filters and how to dye them

yes, you read correctly. i am currently absolutely obsessed with coffee filters. i'm literally dreaming of them...toying with new ways to use them in my crafting adventures.

and it all began with the latest issue of Somerset Life. now, this is a magazine that i have heard mentioned many times before, but i never really gave it any notice. however i recently found myself killing time at my local Borders, browsing through the magazines. i came across the illustrious Somerset collection of mags, and decided to give them a closer look...
there are a number of Somerset publications, and if you give it a google, you can see for yourself. i'm not a scrapbooker, or a doll maker, or a collager. i am, however, a designer at heart, and i instantly fell in love with Somerset Life, as well as Somerset Holidays & Celebrations. the pages abound with wonderfully inspiring photos and ideas, featuring a lot of artisans that i was surprised to find myself familiar with either from my favorite etsy sellers or blogs. i was literally charmed as i turned each page...

my experiments with crepe paper have given me an appreciation for the plasticity, if you will, of a sheet of paper. actually, i was taught to recognize this unique characteristic back when i was a grad student studying architectural design. there are a limitless amount of possibilities for transforming a flat, plane of paper into something more dimensional, something whose presence in space is completely different just because you folded or rolled it. so basically, what i'm getting at here, in a totally verbose way, is that i like making ruffles with sheets of crepe and ribbon. so naturally, i was totally taken with a picture i found in this issue of Somerset Life of a large pom pom ball made of tea stained coffee filters. i immediately imagined at least ten to twenty of them hanging from the ceiling of my studio...
however, since i currently find myself creating romantic little confections for the shop, i dreamt up a little valentine's day project using coffee filters dyed with food coloring. you can purchase the finished product in my shop, but i enjoyed playing with this otherwise mundane medium so much, i thought i would demonstrate the process for you. this is also a great project for the novice crafter, or even as a rainy day craft with the kids.

here's what you'll need:

  • package of plain 'ol white coffee filters
  • food coloring or tea brewed for staining
  • straight pins
  • styrofoam heart or other foam form
  • card stock
  • vintage sheet music or other decorative papers
  • vintage trim or other ribbons
  • glitter
  • glue gun
here's the how-to:

you must begin by staining or dying your coffee filters. the number you choose to whip up is really dependent upon how large of an application you're using them for. i do a bunch more than i think i will need, because i know i want a nice, fully look at the end. next, you must decide whether you're going to use a tea stain or a food coloring dye. for this project, i used red food coloring, in three different concentrations or shades. i simply filled a large, white bowl with water, dropped a few drops of coloring in, and mixed. when i was done dying a number of filters with this shade, i simply added a few more drops of food coloring to the same bowl of water in order to deepen the color. i did this three times, but there is no precision to this craft! do as many shades as you a number of different colors...whatever! that's the beauty of this -- there is absolutely no wrong way to execute this!

now, before i dip my filters into the dye, i pinch them at the center and twist them into a bundle of sorts. then, all i have to do is dip them in the dye bath, and then gently squeeze them out. i lay the stained/dyed filters on a large tinfoil lined cookie sheet and place them in the oven on its lowest setting to dry. you could air dry the filters, but i'm ridiculously impatient when it comes to these things. even with the oven, the drying process will take at least an hour. during that time, keep a close eye on them, and turn them often, fluffing them gently open to facilitate drying.

finally, when these babies are all dry, its time to craft up something sweet with them. i chose to affix them to a heart shaped piece of styrofoam that i picked up at my local craft shop. i simply put a dollop of hot glue on the filter's pinched end, stand it up on the styrofoam, and then for a little extra hold, i stick a short straight pin through the filter and into the styrofoam. you want to place the filters rather closely together, but try to space them evenly. the fullness of your finished product will vary depending on how many filters you use and how closely they are placed together. to make the aforementioned pom pom, you would simply use a styrofoam ball (does anyone else find the price of these things as ridiculous as i do? what is it about styrofoam that makes it so damn expensive??).

finally, to complete the heart project i have above, i affixed a piece of sheet music to the back of the heart. i then trimmed the styrofoam heart off with a strip of pink card stock that i cut with a pair of decorative scissors by hot gluing it tightly around the edge of the heart. i also added a strip of velvet rick rack for some extra detail. my final touch was a banner reading "BE MINE" in a decorative font, printed on white card stock, and trimmed out with some vintage glass glitter.

my hope in sharing this little project with you all is that you have just as much fun playing with the process as i did...if you make something great, send a pic in and share! i'd love to see what you all come up with!


  1. Hi Kristen,
    I just love this project. I have quite a number of coffee filters, which I also dyed pink, and was going to use for a garland, but I love your idea much better! I also have to mention that I also am very impatient when it comes to things drying and will do absolutely anything to speed up the process. Also, I had to laugh when you mentioned the outrageous cost of the styrofoam balls. My oldest daughter had to buy four of the largest ones for an art project and I just could not get over the cost! I'm pretty sure I muttered the exact same words as you when I was in the process of checking out. Love your blog, will be back to visit. :) - Julie

  2. aw! thanks so much for stopping by and reading, and then commenting too, julie!

    i too have recently been across the coffee filter garlands, and have been thinking about where i can put one in the house...i am thinking my pink/french guest bathroom is going to get one...some large poms too...

    its funny, i came across this coffee filter idea, and its truly causing me to rethink my entire decor at home! lol...

  3. Cute cute wreath! I made one last week out of cupcake liners. Yours is darling!!!

    I am in the process of making coffee filter garlands. I'd love to link your project in my Friday Favorites this week. Is that ok?



  4. jen, that would be awesome! my first link, i think! thank you so honored! please send a link to your blog!


  5. I love your heart! I am totally infatuated with ALL the Somerset magazines too! It can be a very expensive infatuation tho!! LOL!


  6. Love, Love, Love!!!
    I have sooo enjoyed my visit~ you have such a sweet blog!

  7. What a wonderful tutorial! I adore this!

  8. I am making this next weekend! I am forcing a valentine luncheon on my girls and this will be a beautiful addition...

  9. @ what's next: that sounds fun! send some pictures!

  10. my daughter is getting married in oct.and i would love to make garlands to hang in the tent.cant believe i found step by step instructions!how large should my stryofoam balls be to make balls the size of a softball?also how would i string the balls together?

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  12. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I've been wanting to make coffee filter poms (saw a beautiful shoot on Martha Stewart Weddings), and I had no clue how to go about doing it! Much appreciated :)

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  14. I saw a coffee filter wreath that I wanted a little extra explanation on...especially how to dye the coffee filters. Came across this and LOVED it! Beautiful! Thank you.

  15. @ Enchanted Moments...

    welcome! i'm so glad that you found the post helpful! i'm not surprised that coffee filter projects continue to be so popular! please do share a picture of your project with me!

    and thanks for stopping by!

  16. I found coffee filters at the dollar store but had no idea how to dye them. I googled and found your blog, which is beautiful by the way. I love your background and the type you have choosen. Thank you again for sharing your process and your beautiful wreath. I'm on it !

    Sandra at

  17. My coffee filter obsession stems from an Anthropologie wall display. I was searching out how to dye them when I found your blog. Thanks for the tip! Maybe I will be able to recreate the wall display after all!

  18. @ huntress: you said the magic word: ANTHROPOLOGIE!

    lol...i ADORE this store, and if you poke around the blog, i chat about it often! its such an inspiring place to visit and shop! do you know that they have an internship for their window display teams? i would LOVE to have the opportunity to learn and work under some of those creative geniuses...

    anyway, i am so glad you found the post helpful! have fun creating something beautiful, and come back again soon!

  19. @ sandra:

    thank you so much for the visit and your sweet words! i appreciate that you find the blog such a charming place to visit...

    as for the coffee filters, i LOVE anything i can do with supplies i can buy at the dollar makes the finished product so much more awesome when people think it looks like a million bucks, and secretly you know you spent only pennies on it! lol...

    i'm glad you were able to find what you were looking for here! please let us know how your project turned out, and stop by again soon!

  20. It would be a dream to intern for them! It's sad that when I go to the store I spend more time studying their displays for ideas than actually looking at the clothes! I'll post pictures when and if the flowers turn out (don't want to jinx it) I have a few anthropologie DIY's on my blog also:) I did the ever so infamous mirror tutorial that has several tutorials around the web:)