Friday, May 17, 2013

What's a little rust?

Did you know that you don't have to use chemical dyes to change or alter the color of fabric and paper? I've been reading a book by India Flint, Eco Colour. She has done years of research in the area of dyes from the plant world and also from bugs. My interest in indigo dyeing brought her to my attention. I now have a nice stash of indigo dyed fabrics... There is something about the dyeing process that has captured my interest and to do it naturally, to me, is especially favorable.

For a long time I have been curious about the eco-dying process using rusted objects. So, this week I went ahead with trying this unique dyeing process which results in a nice rusty orange color.

First I needed to find some rusted items. This is where the story really begins. I asked my husband (last year) to be on the lookout for some rusted things around the house. Nothing turned up--at least nothing that registered as being rusty and that I could use. The search continued up until spring of this year. He was replacing some of our deck boards and upon removing the rusted screws and depositing them in a small bag, I happened to notice that they were a pile of "rusted" screws. Happy dance here!

So, I put those aside and continued my search. Next items to be found were out in the garden in the raised beds. We use u-shaped metal stakes to hold down the drip system hoses. Another aha moment when these stakes were being removed and I noted more rust...  woohoo! I now had enough rusted objects to experiment with.  I used some steel wool as it came out of the package, as I'd heard that you can get interesting results.

I have been reading about the process finding that is involved the use of plain white vinegar, water, plastic sheeting, salt and more water  and finally mild soap. The vinegar, water and sheeting gets the process started. I let them all process the same amount of time, which was about 19 hours. The water and salt is used to soak the dyed fabric following the processing; neutralizing the rusting action. Then the fabric is washed in a mild soap solution to remove extraneous rust and whatnot from the fabric.

I chose about five different fabric--Kona cotton, Osnaburg (indigo dyed), linen (indigo dyed), fine muslin. I also tried some inexpensive water color paper.

Steel wool and rusted screws on fine muslin

Closer look at steel wool and rusted screws on fine muslin

Steel wool and rusted screws on water color paper
The key word here is experimentation. Someone asked if my results could be precise and predictable. My answer was that each time I experiment like this, I also document the materials and objects I use so I can refer to them at a later date. I found that the rust on the water color paper most interesting, although the orange on the indigo produced some great color. (I'm not sure about the "archivability" of the rust on the paper--more study needed here) Next, I will try again on a better grade water color paper with fewer rusted objects, less time processing and maybe by then I will have more rusted objects. I would love to try wrapping fabric around something large.  Hmmmm...