Monday, 27 October 2014


I recently was away in Lancashire on a textile retreat - I was just there doing my own thing, others were taking classes, namely a class on rust. Now rust on fabric has never really inspired me - although I have used it in the past to represent rusty nails in a barn door on a piece - but seeing the results of those on the course tempted me to have a go. One of the reasons I had not been too impressed previously was the time it took to see the results. Things have moved on a bit.......

Anyways, having a few hours to spare, I found lots of scraps of silk, cotton, organza etc and decided to try my own version of rusting........ ( the class had mainly used tea (tannic acid) to rust their pieces and also some red wine.)

I tried the following acids:

  • black tea
  • Citric acid
  • Cream of tartar(tartaric acid)
  • white vinegar
  • red wine
  • rhubarb juice (has some oxalic acid in it)
The basic method was to wrap the rusty bit in the wetted fabric with thread and leave to activate the rust, then leave them to dry- nothing scientific about my approach just had time to 'play' for a couple of hours.

A couple of days later it was clear that things had happened see photos below - all had rusted to some degree - the most disappointing was the red wine that just left a greyish hue and a few specs.

Some of the different pieces that were rusted  laid out together.

I particularly liked the effect of rusty nails on silk organza using lemon juice as the activator, see below

With some rusty tools you can see the imprint of the mark as with the file below, whilst it has worked I think I prefer the more random effects achieved with more nondescript items and wire wool.

I do need to label the pieces so I know which acid reacted on which piece! I do know that the large piece below was wire wool on cotton treated with tartaric acid ( cream of tartar dissolved on warm water)

Having played with the rust - it was fun to see what the results were but it is not something I will pursue; however I have lots of pieces to play with and stitch - I will post how I get on!

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