Rust dyeing

Rust dyeing never really appealed to me, but I had to try it simply to be sure that it wasn’t a necessity for my fabric stash! I checked out the technique on the internet and it couldn’t be simpler. Take a hunk of rusty metal, add vinegar, water, fabric and optional salt, let it sit for a few days and you are done! Of course there are options and variations and all the rust lovers have their favorite combinations, but it’s a little bit of fabric and some rusty metal. What have you got to lose?

Mostly I have seen examples of muslin or white fabric with the rust stains, so that’s NOT what I used! I grabbed a few pieces of previously dyed fabric that I didn’t care too much for, some light and some dark, along with a piece of commercial light blue fabric. Threw them in a tub with vinegar and some salt and water and got them pretty wet.

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Found some cool pieces of rusty metal…

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and wrapped the fabrics around them. I put the lightest pieces of fabric closest to the metal and just kept wrapping the rest, NOT neatly, around the metal until I had two nice bundles. I put them in plastic bags and left them out on the deck for several days.

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It was a sunny spot and I have no idea if that was good or bad or didn’t matter, but this is how they turned out. Rinse with salt water, which is supposed to stop the rusting process and then wash with soap.

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Both of these fat quarters were a pinkish-purple color without much life. I like them much better now.

This piece was quite dark and kind of chaotic. After the rusting, it seems very grounded now, almost earthy.

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It may get another rust bath before it’s done, though. That’s the cool thing about this–if you don’t get enough rust, you can always do it again!

The commercial blue picked up a lot of color and now looks wonderfully green. Almost like copper that has weathered.

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Here’s info for you…those very dark rusty areas had flakes of rust on them when it came time to wash the fabrics. As I was ironing the pieces, I really felt like there was still rust in the fabric. I intend to wash them out again, very thoroughly, before I use them.

This next piece was about a yard and the lightest in color. I wrapped it closest to the metal and you can almost see the shape and design of the metal in a few spots.

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There is also quite a bit of fabric that got no rust, so I believe that this piece will also get another rust bath. I prefer very random rust marks and will try not to get that regular, rectangle shape that I’m seeing here.

All in all, I enjoyed the simplicity of this process and the results I got. I think it will be easy to use these fabrics as the rust color gives them that ‘earthy’ feeling that seems to go with everything.

I always encourage you to try things for yourself. The larger your technique toolbox is, the more adventurous you can be in your quilting life. Experiment and have fun!



6 thoughts on “Rust dyeing

    • I think that using the previouisly dyed fabrics adds a layer of interest that the rust on plain fabric can never have. Bolder–but then, I’ve never been a subtle girl!


  1. Really like the look of the “new” fabrics. I’ve only seen pieces done with small objects used for rusting. It gave a wonderful look.


  2. You can get the same look by mixing purple and yellow dyes. It makes a coppery brown. And if you use it in your snow dyeing process, you get a beautiful marbled look. Looks just like rusting.


    • I might have to try that, since I’m dyeing fabric today! However, as a general rule, it’s a lot easier for me to find rust than haul out all the dye stuff!


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