• Tina Witherspoon

The wonders of rust

Continuing on my natural dye journey, I've been itching to try dyeing fabric with rust, a process I've seen all over Pinterest, but haven't actually attempted myself. But where is a girl to find a big ol' hunk of rusted metal? It's not something we just have lying around — or did we? Watering the plants one day I found this enormous rusted chain just lying there on the edge of our lawn waiting to be put to work. Earlier this year my husband had been doing some work on the western perimeter of our fence near the water and came across the rusted chain nailed into the side of a post. Knowing his wife very well, he set this hunk o' metal aside, following strict orders that if anything vintage is found on the property he must show it to me before tossing it out. I'm grateful that he is so well trained because it's exactly what I needed!

I've read through a few tutorials on rust dyeing and it really can't be simpler, it just takes time. Basically, you wet your fabric down, wrap it tightly around the rusted bits, and then spritz with distilled vinegar every so often and leave it for a few days. At first I was skeptical that I would get any real rust color because it seemed like the rusty dusty bits would just fall off the fabric.

Above you can see my fabric bundle with a slight blue-ish streak running through it which is the result of me being very lazy when it comes to thoroughly rinsing my dye buckets. I just keep using them over and over. Whatever dye I used last must have been crusted up in the bottom corners of the bucket. No harm no foul in my opinion — when it comes to dyeing fabric, I prefer unexpected and unusual patterns.

The first few days it went pretty slowly, but then around day 3 the oxidation accelerated and I could see the fabric transforming in front of my eyes. I love the impression the metal makes on the fabric and hoped it would remain after rinsing and washing the vinegar out. I left my first cotton batch for 4 full days, spritzing and splashing it with vinegar and re-wrapping it, moving the rusted bits around the fabric piece a few times a day to make sure the whole piece had been transformed. I also left the bucket in the sun as much as possible. Below is a photo of the finished fabric wet, right out of the bucket.

And here is the finished piece washed and ironed. The color is not quite as dark when dry as wet, and I anticipated that, but you can still see the marks from the rust so I'd call this successful! I have some linen oxidizing now, on it's 4th day, so I'll be sharing that later.

It's approximately 1 square yard, so I'll likely make a couple of clutch bags and maybe use the scraps for embellishing. When you go to the trouble of dyeing your own fabric, you use every bit of it!


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