A blog about my interests, which include fabric landscapes and various and assorted other artsy pursuits and sometimes known to contain mumblings of a random nature.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Rust dye - a tutorial of sorts!

I was asked in the comments to share more about the process I used for rust dyeing my fabrics - and about the washability of them.  I'm afraid I never have washed any of the fabrics I've dyed, but I would be fairly certain that they would be fine, particularly if the fabric was well rinsed after dyeing. Here's what I did....

SUPPLIES:  - fabric scraps, preferably cotton and preferably washed beforehand to remove any manufacturer's sizing;   some steel wool (found at the hardware store) and some vinegar.  Some sort of flat container large enough to hold several layers of fabric (I used an aluminum disposable pan that is meant for roasting a turkey - found at the grocery or dollar store).  If you happen to have access to some old washers, nails or whatever might rust (raiding your DH's workshop might yield all sorts of goodies) you can add those to the mix.  Some salt.  

PROCESS:  I laid down a piece of fabric in the bottom of the pan and then pulled long pieces of steel wool out of the pad and laid them down over the fabric.  Repeat the layers as often as you'd like.   You can add any other bits of metal to your layering.  If you have a spare spray bottle, fill it with vinegar, and moisten each layer well as you make them....if you don't have a spray bottle, just wait until the layers are complete and slosh the vinegar over top until everything is wet.  Some people suggest putting the entire thing into a large garbage bag and then tying it shut.  I didn't, because I want to watch the process and stop it when I felt happy with what I was seeing.  I found that about 8-10 hours was long enough.  

When you feel it's 'cooked', carefully remove the strands of steel wool and set them aside for a later session.You might want to wear rubber gloves for that because it will stain your fingers somewhat. REMEMBER whatever you set those rusty metals onto will end up being dyed too, so be careful!!!  Rinse the fabrics really well until the water runs clear.  I then put about 1/4 cup of salt into the sink along with enough water to cover the fabrics, swish around until salt is dissolved, and let sit for a few minutes (5-10 mins is enough).  Rinse thoroughly again.  Dry your masterpieces, press them and you're all done.  

Today your quote is from an unknown source..."No one can destroy iron, but it's own rust can.  Likewise no one can destroy us.  But our own mindset can" 


  1. Thanks for explaining the process, it gives an organic look to the fabric.
    I imagine you would have to be careful or you would have bits of rust here and there,
    where you didn't intend it to be; the kitchen table, your shirt, the floor etc.
    Thanks for the tips, have a good day.

  2. Excellent rusting fabric technique tutorial you have shared. Thank You. You always share the most interesting links. Fantastic quote and one worth learning and remembering. Summer Bliss Dear...<3

  3. What a fascinating process rusting fabric is. Thank you for the recipe. I will file it away for future reference. Another excellent quote!


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