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Friday, 16 August 2013

Rust dyeing

During a break from quilting to order, I've played around with something a little more personal instead. I've been meaning to do some rust dyeing for ages, after all, it doesn't require much in the way of equipment, it's easy and safe, and can be done on any scale*. Simply fold, wrap, sew or twist your fabric around bits of metal (old keys, paper clips, screws–virtually everything works), put them in a bowl filled 50/50 with water and vinegar–and wait…

A solution of water and red wine vinegar,
plus a bundle of cloth and screws.

After several hours, I removed the bundle, then left it in the air to dry for the oxidization process to take place. Much to my delight, and Patrick's consternation (he told me the screws wouldn't rust as they were stainless steel) my piece of plain white linen was transformed in to a patterned fabric.

Stainless steel will rust!

I like the almost Shibori effect, which was achieved by wrapping wire and string around the screws. And since I don't really have the facilities, or space at home, to do indigo dyeing, rust dyeing may well satisfy my need to personalise cloth before it is sewn into, until I find another local indigo dyeing workshop. I'm going to play around with other acidic solutions, maybe by using white vinegar or lemon juice instead of red wine vinegar, it would also be interesting to see how the technique works on different fabrics such as silk or netting. Substituting steel or iron for copper could also be interesting–perhaps the result would be a verdigris effect?

A little bit of shisha work
to brighten the fabric. 
I love this impression left by a screw head.

I've added a few shisha mirrors, for a bit of sparkle. I hope that by embroidering around them with white threads, this piece might just find its way into my white quilt, if not, I'm sure I'll find a use for it elsewhere.


* I think this would be a perfect way to keep kids entertained during the holidays, there are no dangerous chemicals, it's fun, and best of all they see science taking place before their very eyes!


  1. It looks fantastic - we will try it!

  2. What an interesting effect, I love it. I bought a natural dye kit a couple of years ago (hope it lasts) but have yet to use it, I think I may hunt it down and have a try before the summer's out!
    Happy weekend

  3. The result is stunning. I agree it has a shibori look.

  4. Just to say I enjoy following your blog and the dyeing with rust looks wonderful!

  5. Just to say I enjoy following your blog and the dyeing with rust looks wonderful!

    1. Thanks Luise! Rust dyeing is so easy, and much cleaner than indigo dyeing, you should give it a try!


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