Technique of the Week #28 – Custom Rust Dyeing

Project Hours: 72 hours
Design and Materials: 2 hours
Execution: 70 hours

Before you look at the number of hours this took, be advised a lot of it is WAITING.  If you are not good at waiting, well, this may not be a project for you.

Everyone and their sister is rust dyeing lately.  It’s pretty easy to do, and you can find lots of instructions by putting “rust dyeing” into Google, so I’ll let you do that, because that’s what I did.  However, I did not just want to wrap fabric around the nearest rusty object and hope it came out nicely, I wanted to rust custom shapes.  However that meant finding a steel object and cutting it to my shape and letting it rust so I could use it to dye.  This is a conundrum.
My dear husband’s hobby and mine intertwined, because he uses some sheet steel in his Miniature painting hobby. The stuff he uses had a label that interested me greatly: Quick Rust™ Steel. This thin steel can be cut with scissors, and then you follow the package instructions to rust it.   Using the internet rust dyeing instructions, I had a rusted composition that was rusted, and then dyeing within 24 hours.  There’s lots that can be done with this using this product as your rusting base!  No more random shapes, shibori method fabrics. Do these shapes look familiar? The templates I used were from a weekly quilt project in 2008.

What people say about sewing through rusted fabric is true.  It’s really difficult.  I had a heavy weight needle and it barely wanted to punch through.  In fact, I thought my machine was acting up, when it was just the thickness the material becomes with rusting.  I switched to lightweight sharps, and still my thread broke, frayed, the needle refused to punch the fabric, etc.  I even picked out all of the existing stitches to put in a lighter loft batting to hopefully take the batting out of the equation.  I offer this as advice to you if you try it.