Experiments in Rust Dyeing

For some time now I’ve been interested in having a go at rust dyeing and have been looking out for suitable rusty items.

At home we had a partially rusted spade and I was able to leave some bolts and a BBQ grate out in the elements, then our car went in for a service and I spotted this large spring that the mechanics at West End Skoda in Edinburgh were kind enough to let me have. A search through my Father in Law’s garage yielded a couple more treasures and with the purchase of some washers and garden wire I was all set to go.

I started by wetting a mixture of cotton and silk fabrics with a solution of water and white vinegar; some articles I’ve read suggest this should be 50/50 but I didn’t measure this accurately. Some fabrics I wrapped around the rusty items and others I simply draped onto the surface and weighted them down with other rusty items. Everything was put into a polythene bag that was left open so that air could circulate and it was left outside and checked daily.

After a few days I unwrapped the fabrics, rinsed them in a weak saline solution to stop the rusting process then put them through the washing machine. These are the first samples drying on the line.

The shibori type markings were achieved by gathering bolts up into the fabric and wrapping wire around to tie. The wire gave some very strong markings particularly on a heavyweight cotton that didn’t take up many marks but did colour nicely all over.

Beautiful results were achieved on the silk habotai that was simply draped onto the surface of the spade and weighted down – it was repositioned a couple of times during the process.The best results were using the silk, cotton poplin and calico; I was quite surprised that cotton muslin didn’t give better results. Although all the fabrics took a good all over colour some took hardly any markings.

I am very pleased with these results and will definitely dye some larger pieces  – my daughter has already requested a shirt! Now I just have to come up with some projects to use these samples.


2 thoughts on “Experiments in Rust Dyeing

  1. Hi from the Facebook WOW Julie! All looking great there. I’ve been experimenting lately too, aren’t they exciting marks. Looking forward to seeing what you do with the fabrics.


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