Rust Dye: How to Dye Fabric with Rusty Objects
Use Rusty Metal to Dye Fabric
It's happened to me before. I've set something metal on cloth and it dried leaving a rust stain. This is never a good thing when you don't plan to add rust to your clothes.
But if you like the patina of rust, you can rust dye fabric on purpose to very pleasing effect. I'll show you how to dye fabric using rusty objects. It's easier than you might think.
If you're like me and think the color of rust is lovely, this easy dyeing method will have you dyeing fabric with brown designs in no time at all.
The photo shows a rust man, if you use your imagination! To make this rust pattern, I used metal pieces set on the fabric to resemble a man. The metal included washers, nails, nuts, springs, a small saw blade, and other miscellaneous junk. A photo of the metal used is shown below, which shows a much clearer rust man. The rusted fabric shows how some pieces just work better than others.
Photo credit for all photos of how to do rust dyeing: Peggy Hazelwood
Rust Man Pieces - What It Looked Like First
This photo shows the rusty metal pieces I used to make the rust man shown above. The nuts and wire on the left were meant to be flowers, but they didn't "take" very well. You just never know and that's a lot of the fun of dyeing fabric with rust.
Gather Rusty Metal Objects (aka Junk)
The first step of rust dyeing is to find rusty metal junk. This can include old washers, nails, screws, keys,
bottle caps, nuts, bolts, springs, pieces of screen,
flat metal pieces like saw blades,
and just about anything else.
Make sure it's already rusty. These pieces
transfer the most rust on your fabric.
Rusty Objects for Rust Dyeing - Make Sure the Metal is Already Rusty
Use Long-Handled Magnets to Find Rusty Objects - Attracts Any Metal Containing Iron
I love my long-handled magnet. I found everything shown in the photo above with my magnet (and so much more junk!). To find really old rusty stuff, be sure to visit older parts of town with dirt alleys and vacant lots. You'll be surprised at all the junk, er, treasures you'll find!
Rusty Junk Yields Fun Designs
Supplies: Vinegar and Water and a Spray Bottle
You'll need a spray bottle (used is fine, just be sure to clean it well and rinse before use).
Add 1 part vinegar and 1 part water to your bottle. Shake to mix and you're ready for
the next step of fabric dyeing with rust.
Recycle a Spray Bottle - or Buy a Spray Bottle for the Vinegar and Water Mixture
To do rust dyeing, you'll just need a few supplies. You probably already have most of them around the house.
First, you'll need vinegar, water, and a spray bottle. I used a glass cleaner bottle that was almost empty. I just cleaned the bathroom mirrors and sinks and then it was empty! I washed out the bottle and sprayer.
To the clean bottle, I added 1 part water to 1 part vinegar. I used 1 cup of each, added it to the bottle, and shook it up. I was ready to go. Use a clean used spray bottle or a new one.
Supplies: White Cotton Fabric
The picture shown below is a white cotton dish towel that I used for my first rust dyeing projects.
I suggest you practice on an old piece of fabric.
It can be white or colored. Rust will tone down bright colors, so that can be an interesting look, too!
Cotton accepts dye well, but feel free to experiment!
Fabric for Rust Dyeing - White Cotton Works Well
For my first fabric rust dyeing projects, I used an old white cotton dish towel that was already distressed. It had a few little holes and has been mended more than once, plus it's stained. But I wanted to experiment so thought this was the perfect fabric for my first try at rust dye.
Choose Old Metal Pans
I used a couple of recycled aluminum pie pans for this project. I figured whatever I used might actually get rusted and aluminum wouldn't so these seemed to be a good choice. I use them exclusively for my rust dye projects now.
Line each pan with a piece of the fabric. Spray the fabric with the vinegar/water mixture until the fabric is soaked.
Rusty Metal Objects - Random Designs
This is the fun part! Arrange the rusty metal pieces in a random (or organized) design. I decided to just fill up the fabric for this rust dyeing project. Some of these pieces worked better than others.
NOTE: This photo is how the metal was arranged to create the fabric shown below.
Notice how many of the pieces didn't "take" and some didn't show up entirely. That's the rustic beauty of rust dyeing. No two pieces of rust dyed fabric will ever be the same.
Random Patterns of Rust Dyeing
Rusty Found Objects - "Dyeing" to Do Their Thing
How To Rust Dye Fabric
After arranging the rusty metal objects on top
of the wet (vinegar/water) fabric, spray the metal
and fabric again with the vinegar/water.
Place inside a plastic bag. I used grocery bags.
Close the bags and weigh down the metal
as best you can so the metal pieces press into
the cloth. I used heavy pans full of water (photo below).
Leave a few hours or overnight.
The longer you wait, the darker the rust will appear.
More Instructions for Rust Dyeing
Remove the metal pieces and rinse
them off to use again, if you want, and let them air dry.
Next, rinse the cloth you dyed in plenty of water
(a dishpan works great) with 1/4 cup
of salt added. Swish the fabric around.
The salt water will neutralize the rust so it
will stop rusting the fabric and so it "sets."
Wash the fabric if needed, and dry it. Iron or not.
Weigh the Metal Down - Use Heavy Objects to Press the Metal into the Cloth
Learn More About Rust Dyeing
- Prairie Fibers -- Rust Dyeing
Rust dyeing is a surface design method that adds dimension to your fabrics and fibers. I use the technique predominately on cotton or silk fabrics. Natural fibers take the rust colors better than synthetic fibers.
- Hobby Farms -- Rust Dyeing
Rust need not be a nuisance. Learn how to rust dye to create unique designs on fabric using rusty objects.
- rust dyeing | Art Journal---A Creative Journey
Posts about rust dyeing written by kathy.
Supplies for Making Rust Dye Projects - In Case You Don't Have These Items Around the House
You might already have all of these craft supplies, but in case you don't here are some to get you started doing rust dyeing projects. It's so much fun!
Roll the Fabric
To get a more thorough rust coverage on your fabric, instead of laying the fabric flat, layer rusty junk in the folds of fabric. Then roll the fabric into a lump to let the layers pick up rustiness from other layers.
Spray the fabric well with the water and vinegar mixture to ensure good rust coverage.
Use Rust Dyed Fabric in Your Projects
Use the fabric with the rusty patina in your altered art, quilting, collage, or any craft or sewing project.
NOTE: The rust weakens the fabric so it is advised to use the rust-dyed cloth in projects that won't be washed often.
Things to Make with Rust-Dyed Fabric - Use It for Any of Your Craft or Sewing ProjectsClick thumbnail to view full-size
Rust Dyed Fabric
Just an FYI:
This author, Peggy Hazelwood, participates in Amazon, eBay, All Posters, and other affiliate advertising programs. When you click an advertising link on this page and make a purchase, I receive a small percent of the sale. Thank you for reading this far!