Rusting my Little Heart Out

Lately I’ve been rusting fabric for a series I’m working on.
I like to use old linen table cloths or napkins, as well as my dear supply of vintage seed and feed bags.
But any natural fiber fabric will do, such as cotton or linen. I have had success with synthetic fibers, at least once in the past.
I have quite a stash of rusted metal objects to use.  Starting out, the metal doesn’t have to be rusted.  Don’t worry — it will get that way!  And it can be used over and over, until, eventually, it disintegrates completely. Galvanized metal doesn’t work, which, frankly, rules out most nails and washers. Copper doesn’t rust, but imparts an interesting greenish hue to the fabric. Try different things.
Here is my clean, dry fabric I’m getting ready to use.
cloth start
Next I get some salt water ready. I don’t have an exact ratio to give you — I just pour some into warm water and dissolve it. Just use the everyday salt.  You don’t need sea salt or Kosher salt or anything expensive like that. You can use a plastic bowl, pan, or whatever you have handy.
pouring salt
Next wet your cloth.  You don’t have to soak it for long, just make sure it’s completely wet.
wet the cloth
Once it’s wet, take the cloth pieces out, and wring out excess, dripping water, but leave them pretty wet.
Arrange metal pieces on the cloth, layering it as you go. The rust will show through both sides of the cloth.
arrange pieces
I use gloves when handling the salt water and metal pieces. My dry skin thanks me for that precaution! Some folks are able to control images with rusting, but not me. I arrange and layer pretty randomly. I do try to get as much of the cloth in contact with some metal as I can.
Once the metal is arranged and the cloth layered and bundled up, put it all in a big plastic bag and batch it. Close the bag tightly so the cloth doesn’t dry out.
Check it after 24 hours, and then as necessary, until it is done — in your opinion! That’s all that counts.
Here is a piece of cloth that has been batched, rinsed, and run through the washer to remove any little bits of metal that may have adhered, then dried and ironed — ready to use.
finished cloth
And here is a detail of a current art quilt I’m working on, using rusted fabric.
working on a piece
Cheers, and happy rusting!