Sunday, April 09, 2006

Rust Solution Dyeing Tutorial

A few people have asked how I've reated my rust fabrics. I've used two methods...

Rust Solution (details below) and actual rusted objects, sprayed with vinegar and placed directly onto fabric (also dampened with vinegar). Below is a picture of my 'rust sandwich' which has been soaked for 24 hours (or thereabouts)

Rust Solution

Also know as Iron Buff and Iron Water

This is a simple dyeing method that give a range of rusty reds and grey blues. The colours and results are quite random and the 'surprise' is what I enjoy with this technique.

The beauty of rust dyeing is the speed. There are no 'batching' periods, and you don't need to worry about 'contaminating' your dye baths - it just adds to the effect. You can either put your fabrics directly into the solution or you can tie them first to create resist effects.

Finally it's cheap. The products used are easily obtainable in your garden shop or the supermarket, and cost no more than $10 (Aus).

Suitable Fabrics:
All fabrics and papers work well. I do find that I have particularly good results with silk and cottons, but synthetic fibres work just at well. Paper is also very effective and fun to play with.

What you'll need:

  • 3 large trays - kitty litter trays are a perfect size and don't cost too much
  • A box of tea bags (50 per batch) - the 'cheap and nasty' ones tend to work the best (don't know why...)
  • Ferrous Sulphate (Sulphate of Iron) - found in garden shops and used for lawns
  • Caustic Soda
  • Gloves (I use washing up gloves as rusting stains your hands permanently)

How it works:

Make up 3 baths:

First Bath - 50 tea bags diluted with 2 kettles of boiling water (enough to fill tray to just over half way)

Secon Bath - 250grams of Sulphate of Iron dissolved in 5 litres of hot (not boiling) water.

Third Bath - 3 1/2 teaspoons of Caustic soda, dissolved in 2 litres of water. (Note: add the caustic soda crystals to the water. This avoids splashing of the crystals. Use a mask when handling dry caustic soda, once it's dissolved you won't need a mask)

This is where the fun starts. Simply dip your fabrics into each of the baths from 1 - 2 - 3 and let it dry. It's that simple. (Remember to wear gloves as this process will stain your hands - and it's not a good look)

You can squeeze the liquid out between dips or leave it saturated - each will give different effects.

You can change the order of the dipping, to get different colour effects - (1 - 2 -3 will give more orange/red/brown, and 3 - 2 - 1 will give more blue/grays)

Try tieing the fabric, over-dye coloured fabrics, use pegs to clamp sections together....

What next:

Rusting works best if your fabric is allowed to dry slowly. Ironing your fabric (but NOT with your good iron) also helps the colours to 'stay'. The longer you leave your fabric before washing, the better the colour (a week or more is good)

Once your fabric is dry/set simply wash it out using your regular detergent. I put mine through the washing machine (including the silks). This softens them up and removes all residue.

Now you can create and play with your new range of fabrics.


Anonymous said...

Hi Sophie:
Love to see what you are doing with fabrics but wonder what the long term effects might be? I'm thinking of rust in Victorian fabrics due to chemicals therein and seeing ongoing damage in pieces we are finding today. I wondered if the treated rust fabric was used in wall hangings for instance, if over a period of time the rust might be drawn into the wall surface. Just a thought but I am curious about long term wear.
Nonetheless the overall appearance of this fabric would be excellent for historically themed pieces and of course nature themes.

Maureen said...

Thanks for the tutorial.......must nick out and buy some gear before the weekend.
Tell me (me going off on another tangent) what paints do you use if painting fabrics?

arlee said...

MAybe a dumb question--what happens i you don't use the caustic soda? Does that help break down/adher the rust? Are there safer substitutes?

Anonymous said...

Hi Sophie
Just wondering what you did with the dye solutions when you finished. Do you have a good enviro. friendly way of disposing of them?

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much Sophie!!
How long should i dip the fabric in the solution?
I love the effect..!

Shchenya said...

The caustic soda is to react with the ferrous sulphate and precipitate iron oxide (rust}

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