stuff and things

26 March 2012

Design Wall Monday: Rust, on Purpose ...

We recently repaired the area outside our front door so the rain doesn't seep in. I think the original architect was going for that California Indoors/ Outdoors look -- so no step into the front door area. Anyways, I noticed that the craftsman had left a coil of rusted wire in our garage. "Don't throw that away," I told Andy. A few weeks later, I was paging through a back issue of Cloth, Paper, Scissors when I spotted an article on rusting fabric and paper, by Lesley Riley [No. 15, Nov. 2007, p.66]. Bingo!
Rusty wire and hand-dyed fabric get a squirt of vinegar water, then a wrap in thick plastic.
Rust is rust, but it works faster when the fabric and metal are bathed in a half-and-half water and vinegar solution. [You may see instructions for using bleach plus vinegar: Don't do this. The combo exposes you to deadly gasses. You can use bleach (yuk), or white vinegar (preferred), but not both at once.]

Once it's all wet down, you need to wrap the mess in plastic to keep it moist longer. Don't wrap too tightly: Rust needs oxygen to do its oxidation thing.
I flipped fabric and rusting agent around for three days or so. This is definitely a "background process." Wear rubber gloves to keep your fingertips from staining.
Eh, voila! Once I was pleased with the rust's effects, I soaked my fabric in 3 Tbs. non-iodized salt per one gallon of warm water, stirring the warm solution well to dissolve the salt, and soaking it overnight. Then I rinsed it under the tap, wrung it out, and washed it in a "very warm" machine along with some old towels to give it company. After a dryer cycle on "normal," here we go:
Finished at last. At left, one of my golden yellow hand-dyes overlaid with rust; at right, a length of white PFD (Prepared For Dyeing) fabric, lightly rusted.
As you can see, my studio assistant Lotus gives it a two thumbs (?) up! Have a great week creating in your own way.


Liberty said...

I love the results!

One Minnesota Quilter said...

The result of the rust on the fabric is very nice - I really like it. Will it wash out over time or is it permanent?

Tina Rathbone said...

Liberty, thanks for your complimentary comment.

Judy, yours is an interesting question that has led me to much research lately. It seems that, like the Neil Young album title says, "Rust Never Sleeps." So, after "setting" the rusted fabric with salt, the rusting process stops for a time, but not forever. The Lesley Riley article mentions having to spritz a baking soda solution on your art quilt every year. In going through the Masters art quilt book, I noticed that Charlotte Yde used rusted fabrics in many art quilts and presumably sold them. I tried to email her but it bounced. Next, I'll post a rust question to the Dyer's List mailing list I'm on. I'll let you know of my findings in a future blog post. Thanks for your comment!

Sandy said...

I use rust dyed pieces in my work. In my opinion, I am using them to evoke the feeling of decay and decomposition anyway, so I don't fret about what happens to them. I rather feel that if you want to be that precious about preserving fabric, don't rust it!

also, I would rinse it with the baking soda to stop the rust action, rather than the salt. If you have lived anywhere near the sea or where they use it on roads in the winter, you know the effect of salt on metal. In fact, I add salt sometimes to enhance the rusting process - for instance if I am rusting something in dry cold weather rather than hot humid.

you also get interesting looks if you soak the fabric in strong tea before and sometimes after- it is the tannin. It gives more of a lowering stormcloud grey colour.
you can take your piece and stitch shibori-like and dip in indigo to get some amazing pieces!

By the way, you need to look into the sorts of needle to use to stitch into it as well. the fibres have become metalic themselves. Some spots may look less rusty, but may be harder to stitch than the darker spots - it is a bit unpredictable. I use a jeans or other larger size needle with a large eye. The metal in the fibres can shred some embroidery threads. do experiment! It is worth it.

Sorry this got long!
Sandy in the UK

Ann Katzen said...

Hi Tina, I saw your question about rust on the Dyer's List and thought I'd answer here instead.

Yes, rust will probably continue to slowly eat at your fabric until there's nothing left. Evidence of that is apparent in some silk organza I rusted about 12 years ago. I've read that treating the cloth with baking soda, etc., isn't really effective. For more info go to Kimberly Baxter Packwood's The Natural Surface site.

Rusted cloth is best not used for clothing but there's no reason not to use it for art projects. It's that wabi-sabi thing.

Tina Rathbone said...

Ann and Sandy, thank you for your thoughtful and informed comments. I'm so grateful for the Dyer's List, too.

I will soak again in a baking soda solution, Sandy, and then not worry about it. I just won't sell the quilt (not that they're exactly knocking down my door!). Wabi Sabi, here I come, Ann!
Thanks again, everybody.