Rust dyed fabrics

Here are several photos of the rust dyed fabric I did in the roasting tin which I had left on the floor in my studio to catch the drips from the leaking ceiling.

This is the main piece – a large piece of silk dupion which I tried unsuccessfully to rust round a washing line pole last year (probably because it promptly went cold and froze!).

rust dyed fabric

This is the top of it.

rest of rust dyed fabric

And the bottom of it.

detail of rust dyed fabric

This is a small detail of the above piece.  This impression was made by one of the sweetcorn tins which DS1 had thrown out of his bedroom window!  A very effective print.

rust dyed silk

And another detail. 

rust dyed silk shirt  

This is an old silk shirt.

detail of silk shirt rust dyed

A detail of the sleeve portion. 

rust dyed fabric

I don’t know what sort of fabric this is – it is a sort of knitted fabric – maybe rayon?  Or silk even…  That piece in the middle which is a slightly different shade is actually part of the rusting – not a different bit sewn on as it looks.

dark rust dyed fabric 

This piece, which is silk crepe de chine, went very grey-brown with rust-brown highlights.  It is so fine you can see the outline of the chair through it where the sun is shining!

12 Replies to “Rust dyed fabrics”

  1. Liz, Love the effect the rust has made on the fabric. Would you be able to detail exactly how this works ???

  2. Thanks, Zoe! Well… it just does, because rust loves sticking to fabric!! But I helped it along by adding vinegar and water (50:50) and just wrapped it around the rusty objects or laid them on top of them and left them for a few days. I also started off by putting plastic over the top to stop it drying out but I took this off after a day or two because there was plenty of water around. You can also soak fabric in rusty water to get it more like immersion dyeing but I haven’t really done this. I like the ‘printing’ effects. I also wrapped some fabric round a huge rusty spanner once and ruched it up a bit like shibori dyeing and that was very effective.

    I have found silk to be best at taking the colour, although cotton is good too. I have also overdyed them with more rusty things to deepen the colour and I got black unexpectedly once, I think because iron acts as a mordant for other dyes.

  3. Hi Liz,

    My first attempt at rust dying was demin fabric ( which was very successful). I am now afraid if I wash it, the rust will wash out. Is there a certain way to wash the fabric to remove the vineger smell and not remove the rust at the same time?


  4. Hi Liz –

    I’m a member of In Good Company LLC – there are 4 of us and we have had our business for 12 years. We hand dye fabric, wool, silk ribbon and hold workshops and classes. We are in the process of teaching others to rust fabric, and it’s been a blast experimenting with all different kinds of fabric. It’s serendipity, isn’t it? Love your site.

  5. Audrey, I think the rust would stay in – have you ever tried to get rid of an unintentional rust stain?! I have – without success! The vinegar smell might eventually evaporate – or you could just rinse it in water gently if you were unsure. All these pieces in the photos have been through a 40 degree washing machine load with washing liquid and look at them!! True, some of the surface rust would wash off, but you wouldn’t want that hanging around on your fabric anyway. Kimberly of says to spray or soak it in a baking soda solution at least once a year to stop it continuing to rust and prolong the life of the fabric, by the way. I’d love to see a photo of your rusted denim fabric. Have you got a blog?

    Thanks, Sue – it is wonderfully unexpected how this sort of dyeing turns out, isn’t it?

  6. hi guys .. i have been trying to get rust onto denim but all in vain.. havent been sucessful.. could someone please help me how i can get that…i would be very appreciative of ur reply … thankx a lot

    the photos above are lovely.. it soo charismatic, vibrant and yet orthodox.. i really like them…

  7. I just happened on your rust pix, and love them. Oddly enough, just this morning I brought in off the patio a big piece of unbleached muslin which I wrapped around a chunk of, I think, a catalytic converter, anyway, a big piece of rusty metal I found on the road. left it out for a couple of weeks, spraying now and then to keep it damp in this drought. I unwrapped and rewrapped a couple of times, to spread the good image around, and it’s now i the dryer awaiting my taking it out to press and admire.

    It’s going to be either a framed piece in itself, stretched, or cut into parts for a collaged fabric work. I love rust! and I have little fear that it will ever come off accidentally, as you point out.

    Thanks so much for your pix. I have none of my rust piece yet.

  8. Hi, Liz!

    I was researching information on rust printing on fabric and found your wonderful photos. Thank you for sharing them. I’ve never done it before and appreciate all the information. I just got some great rusty odds & ends from an antique store. The proprietor gave them to me for free when I told him what I wanted to do with them. I can’t wait to get started!

    I have a question, though. How do you keep the fabric from mildewing/molding while the rust is processing? I live on the Texas Gulf Coast and it’s always a problem here.

    Thank you for all your help!


  9. Hello all your girls in the US

    I have just returned from Colorado and was interested vinegar seems the prefered rusting system . I am in damp old england and whilst most ‘serious’ rusters use vinegar I have simply wrappeed objects in fabric and left them soaking in plain water or salt water and even buried the fabric in the garden for a few months to get ggo results. I have never heard of salt as a neutraliser it seesm counter intuitive when you see all our rusting piers and rails near the sea…so perhaps I have something new to learn.

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