Interlude- Rust dyeing

From all the printing I've been experimenting with, Rust printing (rust dyeing) is one of my favourites - as I love the organic & suprising nature to the results.

Here's my first samples. Dyed with a vinegar / water solution on cotton, using a chain, hinge, picture hooks, screws, keys and wire.


I also did samples of using both (all left for 2 days) to see the difference in results - although I forgot to use white vinegar, so the samples came out vinegar orange. The vinegar came out a strong colour, than the salt - although smells much more!
  • vinegar & water (50:50) solution
  • salt (1 tbsp salt:1 pt water) solution
  • both cotton and silk
  • DSCF6638.JPG

Notes: Spary / don't soak too much & make sure fabric gets air.

Further information

Book: Fabric Art Workshop
A RUST PRINT is a type of monoprint that uses rust (Iron Oxide) to make a mark on fabric. Items are placed on (or wrapped around) fabric, then the metal is encouraged to rust by exposing it to a moist environment of water, salt, or acid (vinegar). The five variables that affect the final look of these prints are; Metal, Moisture, Fabric, Pressure and Time.

Natural fabrics (cotton & silk) work best. Wash the dyed fabric in a washing machine with a capful of Synthrapol (a detergent that holds excess dye molecules in suspension) before using it.

This guy makes beautiful rust prints (clamped under pressure in a press to get a more even result)


  1. I so love your rust dyeing, it's really lovely, I must find the time to get around to trying this. I've been reading India Flint and I'm crazy about all the 'natural' methods of dyeing :)

  2. Thank you - I love the way the patterns are completely unexpected.

    I've just read one of India's books too. I've currently got some fabric brewing (not sure the technical term) - one ecoprint (leaf prints) that needs a few weeks and one in the compost - that's been in there a few months, and I'll take out February time (if I can wait that long!) They are my first attempts, so not sure what to expect.

    Have you done any natural prints?

  3. Hi Sarah, I am just trying some rust dyeing and thought I would google 'rust dyeing' and wonderful, there you are. I too am an OCA Student doing the Textiles degree, I've really only just started and still with 'The Creative Approach', I suspect you are way ahead? My fabrics are at this moment in a solution of Iron Mordant, Bleach, Vinegar and water with rusty objects folded and wrapped and placed upon the fabrics. I left the rusty objects in the solution overnight, and this morning put the fabric in etc. But I have a feeling I am doing something wrong and maybe the fabric does not need to be immersed in the solution? I love the marks you have achieved with you rust dyeing. Rosie

  4. Hi Rosie.

    I'm just finished assignment 3 ... so not far ahead of you! Do you have a blog .... I love to follow everyone else's blogs - so inspiring!

    I've never read any books (although have had my eye on these for ages! about it, but from experience the best rust prints come out when the fabric is completely touching the rusty objects. I also found that its good to keep the fabric damp, but not completely immersed in the solution ... maybe it needs air?

    Have fun. Sarah

  5. Joe Alden Gibson11 April 2012 at 23:00

    Hi Sarah I have tried doing my own rust prints after reading your blog, I have a question about your advice on using syranthrapol, this is going to sound stupid but do you mean use it on the fabric before or after rust dyeing it ?

  6. Hi Joe,

    I've never used syranthrapol, I just use water and vinegar (I've found the distilled vinegar is best, as it's white and doesn't colour the fabric).