Dying fabric with Rust

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by RightHand, Feb 28, 2013.

  1. RightHand

    RightHand Been There, Done That RIP 4/15/21 Moderator Moderator Emeritus Founding Member

    I used to do a lot of quilting, not so much in recent years, but I am working on one now so I've been getting a quilting newsletter that gave directions for this method. You guys may not be too interested but I'm sure some of our fabric mavens will be. I'm anxious to try it.

    How Dye Fabric with Rust
    By Laurie Brooks

    Metal tray
    Spray bottle
    Solid, light-colored fabric
    Steel wool
    Pieces of old metal such as washers, springs, grates, and nails
    Large sheets of plastic or a large plastic bag
    Stack of books or other flat, heavy objects
    Note: Be aware that most metal products now are made NOT to rust. I find the best place to look for objects is at scrap yards, machine shops, and flea markets. I've experimented rusting on different weights of linen and cotton. My favorite is 100% white cotton as it produces the richest colors. You may also want to try using silks. Whatever you choose, the fabric must be pre-washed and free of sizing or other fabric treatments.

    Fiber art made with rust-dyed fabric
    by Laurie Brooks.


    1. Using a clean spray bottle, combine 1 part water with 1 part vinegar.

    2. Lay the fabric on a metal tray, such as a cookie sheet or baking pan.

    3. Spray the fabric thoroughly with the water and vinegar mixture.

    4. Tear pieces of steel wool and scatter them on the fabric. Arrange the other metal objects in a random manner, leaving enough negative space to develop or embellish with other materials. Later you may want to be more deliberate with the placement of metal objects to create a particular design or pattern.

    5. Spray across the top if the fabric and objects again with the water and vinegar mixture.

    6. Slide the tray into a plastic bag, or wrap it securely in sheets of plastic and close up the ends.

    7. Place books or other flat objects on top of the metal pieces to make certain they are pressed into the fabric.

    8. Leave the wrapped fabric overnight in a warm place. It can be left for up to 24 hours, depending on the depth of color desired.

    9. Unwrap the fabric and remove the metal objects. Neutralize the fabric by placing it into 4 gallons of water mixed with ¼ cup salt. After neutralizing, the fabric can then be washed in soap and water.
  2. chelloveck

    chelloveck Diabolus Causidicus

  3. gunbunny

    gunbunny Never Trust A Bunny

    A long time ago, (before realtree or mossy oak was popular) I experimented with tie-dyeing camoflauge patterns. Multiple applications did turn out a decent product, but:

    1) Pure cotton does eventually weaken and rip, even ripstop. (poly/cotton blends do take the RIT dye, but not as vividly.)
    2) Dye does eventually wash out.
    3) It does take some practice to get the types of patterns you are after.

    Thanks, Righthand, something else for me to try.

    I'm thinking a pair of old style OD green BDU's and use some strips of iron tie down wire and steel wool pulled in lengths, not in little pieces. Homemade patters seem more effective if you try to break up the overall silouette rather than trying to look just like the vegetation you are surrounded by. Other techniques can be utilized when needed, like a covering made of native vegetation and such.
  4. Brokor

    Brokor Live Free or Cry Moderator Site Supporter+++ Founding Member

    Just crawling under an old, rusted vehicle places an almost permanent stain in bluejeans, so I imagine rust can be made to actually set in fabric.

    Another method is to cook the rust with water on low heat and add your fabric with salt to activate. Simmer for an hour or two and let sit overnight.
  5. HK_User

    HK_User A Productive Monkey is a Happy Monkey

    I have used red clay mud as well as coffee to dye a few things.

    "As An Aside" I have a Canvas Hammock crafted from home made grommets, grommets start as a tar impregnated lashing made into a circle and wrapped with flat lacing, sewn into the ends and all other seams hand sewn. Canvas was comshawed from a civilian contractor and was a nice project to keep the hands busy and give the mind a rest during troubled times.

    My DW has been after me to take picrures of it, write and article and send it off to a Mil Group I'm in. Also to save as Family Heirlome Trench Art.

    Maybe pictures soon.
    chelloveck likes this.
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