Rust Dyeing

I keep hearing things about rust dyeing and decided a couple of weeks ago that I’d like to try it. I found lots of blogs, webpages, etc. about it with a google search. I tried to synthesize everything I read to begin to experiment. I was limited to using what was in my house at the moment. I don’t currently have any cool rusty items in my house (although I will be keeping my eyes open at garage sales this summer!), but I did have steel wool, white cotton fabric and copper wire (well, after pulling apart some old romex cable from the basement…).

I started out by unwinding a steel wool pad and wrapping it around a couple of glass bottles:

Next, I wrapped fabric and copper wire around the bottles. Here’s a picture of one of the bottles:

After wrapping, I stuck both bottles in a bucket and poured a little water over them. I put them outside, where it rained almost every day for the next week, keeping them nice and damp without any help from me. At the end of the week, I rinsed out the fabric and hung it outside to dry. There were still a few little bits of steel wool stuck to the fabric. I don’t know if there is some trick to avoiding this. Anyway, my husband had the idea of running a magnet over the fabric, which seemed to get off the last bits of steel wool. I washed out the fabric with a bit of synthropal, which is what I use to wash out all of my dye projects.

Here are my final results:

Piece 1

Piece 2

Detail of piece 2

I love the way these turned out. I don’t think these photos really show the richness of the color. I’m looking forward to experimenting with this a lot more. I think my next experiment will be over-dyeing some of this to see how that works.



  1. Liz Plummer said,

    June 4, 2008 at 1:14 pm

    Wow, I love the patterning on these!

  2. Alice MacDonald said,

    June 6, 2008 at 6:57 pm

    Hi, I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed reading everything in your archives. I really enjoyed your site. I especially loved reading about your new puppy.
    Keep up the good work.

  3. michelle said,

    October 27, 2009 at 7:08 pm

    your site is awesome!! is there any way to get the information on how you did the ups outfits?

    • hinzkj said,

      October 30, 2009 at 8:43 am

      Thanks, Michelle! The UPS outfits were made using a 50’s style pattern from simplicity- #3847. I made the shirts exactly from the pattern, but ended up drafting my own skirt pattern from a hybrid of circle skirt instructions on the internet. For the logos, I used an image and printed it in the two sizes I needed onto inkjet printer heat transfer paper. I pressed those onto white fabric and then cut them out and stitched them to the skirt and top.

  4. October 21, 2010 at 6:48 am

    Who knew there’d come a day when you Wanted rust “stains”?! I Love this.

  5. Rose said,

    April 18, 2014 at 5:48 pm

    Great results and thanks for showing images and describing your process… as you probably found there are so many images but not a lot of detailed explanation :) I used an old rusty couch spring the other day on a bit of pre eco printed silk… I wet it first wrapped the silk and then poured neat vinegar over and left in the drizzle for 24 hours, the results were stunning.. I must start posting my results

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