Since my spring class ideas went down the tube thanks to COVID-19 social distancing, I decided to do a mini lesson in how to use a rusty object as a mordant. This is the way I do it. Where I got the idea was an article in a magazine on "rust dyeing". So, I followed those instructions and then did eco printing on top of it. There are probably other ways to accomplish the same thing, but this is the method I use and this is for silk.
1. Thoroughly wash the fabric first. This is referred to as scouring in dye world. For fine weave silks this it is basically just washing the fabric out in some sort of detergent or shampoo in warm (not hot) water. I usually fill a basin with warm water, dissolve the shampoo in it, put the fabric in and let it soak until the water cools off or I suddenly remember that I left said basin in the laundry room days ago. Then I rinse it out. If the rinse water looks cloudy I may do the whole procedure again. On raw silk I will wash, soak, rinse several times as it is a much thicker fabric and it takes more effort to get out any silk starch. If you are upcycling silk clothing you will want to let the item have a long soak, and may wash it again just to make sure you are getting out as much of whatever laundry agents were used on it. You will never remove it all, but the more the better.
2. Fill a basin with water and a generous splash of white vinegar. Let it soak until thoroughly wetted out. With something like crepe de chine this is almost instantaneous, with something like raw silk it may take an hour or more. As you can see from the picture below, even after scouring the raw silk will still bead water, so it is important to let that water and vinegar get all the way into the fiber.
3. While you are waiting lay some plastic sheeting out on a flat surface that won't be disturbed for up to 24 hours. You will need enough to lay the fabric you have out and then fold the other half of the plastic over it.
4. Once the fabric is really wet lay it out on the plastic in such a way that you have the excess sheeting to fold over it to keep it wet. Place your rusty objects, in this case rusted nails, onto the fabric. You can be random, you can make patterns, whatever. Remember that you may not get the entire object to print, so be open minded.
5. Using a spray bottle with 2 parts water and one part vinegar, spray the rusty nails until soaked. Cover with the remainder of the plastic sheet. You can keep using this plastic sheeting until it seems to get kind of "dusty" and then you should throw it away and start over. Rust dust is not good for the lungs.
6. Let set. As far as how long, this can depend on how warm it is in the place it is setting. The warmer it is the faster the rust drools off onto the fabric. So, for instance, in the winter I may leave things sit in the barn loft for about 24 hours, but in the summer I very often lay them out first thing in the morning and then make a note to myself to go check late afternoon, very often six hours will do it. Remember that rust is destructive to fabric (as is iron ferrous powder mordant, BTW) so you don't want to get carried away with this, you could end up with holes in the fabric!
7. When you go to pick it up, it should look something like this. Set your nails in a container to get rusty all over again.
8. Dissolve about a tablespoon of plain salt (per yard of fabric) in some hot water and then add tepid water to fill the basin. Let the fabric soak in that solution until the water cools off. Then lightly rinse out. You can now eco print immediately or let it dry and store it for later use.
9. This is how my little sample turned out. I am still waiting for spring to arrive, so I used some Red Maple (Acer Rubrum) leaves that I had pressed and saved. Not the most exciting colors in the world, so there is also a detail picture of a scarf using the same technique.
|This is the sample after opening, I haven't peeled the leaves off yet.|
|This is after final washing and ironing. Notice that everywhere the rust came into contact with plant material it turned black.|
So there you have it. Remember that I put new things in my Etsy shop almost every day, so check back often. I hope you are safe and well.