Notions-Drye Goods Studio Diary

Thanks for checking in. I am a fiber artist. My current emphasis is on eco printing and other wildcraft with a touch of up-cycling thrown in. You can also catch up with me on Facebook at Drye Goods Studio.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Rust Dyeing

I spend an awful lot of time micromanaging rust. Since I got a question through the blog about pretreating with steel wool I thought I would do a post about it. This is a way to get iron particles onto the fabric as a pre-mordant. Remember, rust is poisonous so wear gloves and keep the dust down to a minimum. You can use any old rusty object, I have a big pile of rusted nails, but I have seen some really cool things done with all sorts of rusted objects. In the case of steel wool, it starts out fresh from the package. Start by preparing a space for the fabric to layout flat. It will need to sit for 6-8 hours. Lay out enough plastic sheeting to spread the silk out on it flat and then have enough plastic to fold over the top to hold the moisture in.

Wet out your silk in water with a splash of vinegar in it.

After laying out the fabric flat, tear the steel wool pad apart and spread it evenly over the fabric. I use #3 grade as the finer stuff makes a mess.

You can also use rusty objects, these are nails strewn about over crinkled fabric, but you could smooth everything out and lay them in nice little rows as well, depending on your disposition.

After laying everything out, spray with more vinegar and water, 1 part vinegar to 2 parts water is fine. Cover everything up with the plastic and come back in six to eight hours. 
When you come to pick up the fabric you will need to remove the steel wool or rusty objects and rinse the fabric in salted water. Use plain salt (no iodine). I put a scant quarter cup in a couple of gallons of hot water and stir to dissolve. Put the rusted fabric in and let it sit for a half hour or so. Then rinse it well in clear water and it is ready to eco print. If you were using nails or other objects they will need to "re-bloom" or develop rust again before use. So give them a spritz of vinegar or set them outside over night. The steel wool is pretty much toast at this point and should be thrown away, you can stick some in a jar with water and vinegar to make rusty water mordant if you wish but for the most part it will sit there and turn to dust, which you shouldn't breath in. Steel wool is cheap, start new every time. While I do reuse the plastic sheeting, I wouldn't get carried away with that either, once it really seems to have a lot of rust on it I throw it away, again, rust dust in the lungs is not good.

For anyone keeping track, this fabric has now received a pre-mordant of vinegar, rust and salt. Remember, you can never really "un-mordant" a piece of fabric, no matter how much you rinse, tiny bits of what was applied are forever attached to the fiber. You can apply adjuncts however, but that is for another post. I used silk as that is what I work with, but there is no reason why you couldn't do this to any natural fiber.

The other thing to remember is that this procedure is not archival. Considering that iron has been used historically in natural dyeing, and there are examples the world over of tapestries and clothing that have survived for hundreds of years, I don't let this keep me up at night. I am careful to not let the objects set too long and in the case of applying acids and salt to silk, the less the better. It is a case where you can have too much of a good thing-less is more and all of that.

This is from the nails over crinkled silk.

This is an example of an eco print over the steel wool rusted silk crepe de chine. Click on the picture to enlarge and you can see the bits of rust here and there. In some cases the rust turns black when it is in contact with some plant materials.

This is an example of the rusty nails over crinkled or folded silk and then eco printed.

I had thought originally I would talk about doing this to paper as well, but this post got too long. Since I will be getting a class together on paper later in August, I will take pictures of what I do when I prep for the class. Almost needless to say, it is much simpler on paper, no post rinsing, so you could probably figure it out-but stay tuned for pictures in a few weeks. Sign up to receive the posts via email and "Poof!" there it will be waiting for you in your inbox!

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