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Monday, September 19, 2011

Rust Dyeing 101

One of my dyeing friends asked about rusting.  I will try to explain the method I use.  It is by no means the only method, but it has been successful for me.
First a word of warning.  Dry rust can cause problems for some people.  It can mess up your hemoglobin if you handle it to much with your bare hands.  Be safe, wear gloves when handling rusty objects.  Wet pieces do not seem to cause this problem, but play it safe anyway.
I usually start by laying down a piece of plastic.  I place a piece of fabric that has been well-soaked in vinegar on the plastic and arrange my pieces of metal on top in a design that pleases me.  Then I take a spray bottle of water and spritz over the entire piece to thoroughly wet the metal.  You can either place another piece of vinegar soaked fabric on top or just lay another piece of plastic over your design.  The fabric will pick up a mirrored image of your design if you place a little weight on top.  The top of the pile is always another piece of plastic.  This piece of plastic is there to slow the evaporation of the moisture in the pile.  Air must be able to enter in order for rust to form, so do not try to make it airtight.  Leave for 24 hrs, then remove the plastic and check your design.  If it needs more moisture, spritz again with water and recover for a few more hours.

17 comments:

  1. After you have completed rusting your fabric, you must stop the continued rusting by the metals. I recommend using a saline dip made of 1 tablespoon salt to 1 gallon of water for small pieces, and 1/4 cup of salt to 4 gallons of water for larger pieces. Soak the fabric in the saline solution for 15 minutes, then rinse well in clean water.

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    1. How can a saline solution stop the rust when salt water promotes rust?

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  2. Allow your fabric to dry thoroughly. If you plan to sew this fabric, be aware that the rust areas may be difficult to sew through. If the rust area is too encrusted, it can even break your machine's needle. Only experience will tell you when enough is enough. YOu may like to practice on scraps from the rag bag to get a feel for the technique.

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  3. After your piece is rusted,you may wish to add other colors.(See the photos Hai, Shibori & Hibachi II on the right hand side of this page). The Hibachi piece was rusted on cotton for 24 hours. I used a lot of water and vinegar, and it really spread the rust all over the fabric. I felt it was too orange for the design, so I took the piece and did some twists and wraps with string. I also took binder clips and clamped the pleats created by the twists. I threw the whole thing in a dyebath of elderberries for about 20 minutes. When it was totally dry, I unclamped and cut the strings. The tannins in the elderberries had turned the rust black. I really liked the result.

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  4. Correction: the correct photos for this comment should be Hibachi II and Hibachi II overdyed. Hai Shibori is also a rusted piece but was cooked in elderberries and left for 9 days in the dyebath.

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  5. Here are some links for additional information on rust dyeing: Prairie Fibers-Kimberly Baxter Packwood; Robin's Ramblings-Robin Mac; All About Hand Dyeing-Paula E. Burch, Ph.D.; Dyeing to Create-Amy Sullins; Ink Spiller's Attic; The Natural Surface-Rust Dyeing; How to Dye Cloth-Pin Tangle-Sharon B; The Complete Photo Guide to Textile Art....by Susan Stein; and ArtMetal Forum

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  6. In a post on Facebook 10/5/11, in Found Stitched and Dyed, Kimberly Baxter Packwood says that she has changed her mind about using salt as a neutralizer for rust. She now uses baking soda. Pat Vivod also says that she uses Baking soda. Those of you who do rusting may wish to follow up their discussions.

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  7. Hello D&S--I found your blog through Terrie's tonight and I LOVE it!! Your sensibility and knowledge, the way you write and share so freely...and you are a male felt maker, to boot (so rare in the US!!)
    Anyway, I've but scratched the surface in reading your posts, but I plan on sitting down with a cup of tea and checking more of them out soon. Thanks for the great tips on rust dyeing. I have a large 'hunk' of rusted metal with chain and I've been wanting to do something with it. Now I have the way to proceed!

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  8. Good morning, Heather. Thanks for stopping by. I'm glad you enjoy my ramblings on rusting. You should stop by Prairie Fibers and Sentimento Pentimento blogs (links below). They are both rust dyers and work a little differently than I. You may wish to do an experiment using all the techniques and see which works for you. Enjoy reading the rest of the blogs, and feel free to comment.

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  9. Thanks so much for your great side, will check it out often.
    My textiles are mainly felting, natural dye with eucalypt and just started rust dying.

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  10. Thank you for stopping by, Marijke. I hope you can find something useful on my blog. Felt, Eucalyptus and rust, all go together well. Don't be bashful, try everything!

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  11. Thanks for the information. Especially grateful for the photos that illustrate your processes. Got some rust dyeing going on right now....can't wait to see what comes out. Didn't think about neutralising it, so extra thanks for that.

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  12. Ms lottie, this can become extremely addictive. It is a blast and something that you can try all sorts of things with. Just ask, "What if?" You may use scraps of fabric not suitable for anything else, and keep records of your experiments. You will gain some control over what you do eventually. Plus, it is not expensive to experiment with this type of dyeing. Stop back often.

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  13. Thanks for the concise instructions. I'm glad to have found your blog. Best wishes.

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  14. You are welcome. Stop back anytime.

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  15. Thank you for your informative post and blog! Is it safe to wear a rust-dyed item of clothing (after completing the rust neutralisation with salt)? Thank you for your advice in advance!

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  16. It is hard to give a blanket yes or no to this question because of individual allergies in people. For the most part, yes. If you are not allergic to rust or to salt, then you probably not allergic to rust dyed fabrics. What will also make the difference, is whether the rust scale is thick enough to scratch the skin. This scale could cause a scratchiness that might be thought of as an allergy but isn't . Most rust dyed or printed fabric will be used in an over garment, so should not be much of a problem.

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