Wednesday, May 12, 2010


I bet you thought the object was to get rust stains out of fabric. Not true. Today artists want to put the rust stains onto fabric. Rusting fabric is a surface technique that fiber artists use to make beautiful wallhangings and other art objects. Julia Voake recently demonstrated her technique for rusting fabrics at the Lakeshore Fiber Arts Group. Above she shows us a wall hanging she made by using various pieces of fabrics that she rusted and made into a college.

This is a close up of that piece. Julia has such a definite style and when I look at her works of art the words "class" and "sophistication" come to mind.
Rusting is not difficult. Achieving these spontaneous patterns is fun. Julia demonstrated how she gets a variety of rust patterns by showing us various items that she had wrapped in muslin. One was a large old lead pipe. She came to the meeting with several buckets full of metal pieces that she had picked up at garage sales, welding shops, or scrap metal places. “You can’t go to a hardware store today and find things that will rust,” she says. She suggests that you scout old barn sales for rusty nails, chains, pipes, anything that will rust.
A Little Story: She told us a story about the first time she and some friends went shopping in an Iron and Steel factory. She said that when the men saw her walking into their shop they give her a funny look, like, what are you doing here. When she told them that she and her friends were artists and that they needed metal that would rust for a project they were working on, the men were eager to help and started showing them odd shapes of metal they might like. Some of the pieces were even starting to rust.
Julia warns that some metals are covered with oil to keep the rust at bay and that you should scrub that oil off with soap, water and a stiff brush. She said that an old disk break makes a perfect circle when it is wrapped in muslin, sprayed with vinegar water and put in a warm place to rust.

  • Julia says that moisture and oxygen are the key elements when it comes to creating rust and showed us various pieces that she had rusted which allowed us to see the variety of colors and layers and patterns that can be achieved. Did you know that natural materials will rust better than synthetics? Did you know that you can rust fabric, paper and trims? When Julia showed us the lead pipe that she had wrapped in fabric then scrunched and tied, she pointed out that she used cotton thread (like the thread you use to crochet dishcloths) to tie the fabric to the pipe because she wanted it to rust too.

  • Experiment with various fabrics. You can rust patterned and colored fabrics. Look for old T-shirts, tablecloths, napkins, scraps from your sewing room and have fun seeing the different batik-like patterns that you can get.

  • If you wrap your project in plastic, she warns against sealing the plastic. Remember what she said: Moisture and oxygen are the key elements. You need the air to circulate. If the project dries out, just spray it with a 50/50 solution of water and white vinegar.

  • Did you know that your fabric will continue to rust over time? Julia recommends that you mist your project periodically over the years with a solution of baking soda and water to neutralize the fibers and slow the rusting.

I’ve previously posted this picture, but wanted to show you again. It is another one of Julia’s works of rusted art. She is a true artist! Her demonstration has given me a completely new outlook on rusting fabric. This is something I want to try. (It just occurred to me: I think I have an old clothesline pole in my back yard that would be perfect for this. Think the neighbors will complain?) Thanks Julia for sharing with us and giving us inspiration.

At Second Street has a great tutorial for an on-the-go activity book. Not only will it keep the children busy, it is easy to take with you wherever you go. It is fun, entertaining, inexpensive and compact! This is a wonderful idea for those little ones (and will keep them from touching things they should not). I have to make several of these.

Until next time,



Allie said...

She really is an artist - love her work! But oh the rust has me itching to get out the bleach bottle, lol, not sure I could do that on purpose!

SewCalGal said...

Very insightful. Looks fun. Thanks for sharing.


Wilma NC said...

That is very cool. I like the look.

Micki said...

She does beautiful work! It is such a unique project!

Heather Reid said...

Thank you for posting Julia's projects - I'm so sad I missed this meeting!! Thank you for sharing - I have been intrigued by her rusting projects and might start with just a bit of rusty metal enclosed in my DisCo bundle! Thanks for sharing the photos.

Quilting Teachers at the shop.

Quilting Teachers at the shop.
Chris, Marilyn, Jill, Lee Anne, Sue, Vickie

Quilts For Wheels

Quilts For Wheels
Many thanks and much appreciation goes to the women who work diligently each month to make quilts for those in wheel chairs. Kudos go to: Yvonne, Mary T., Fran, Joan, Mary Ellen, Barb, Lee Ann, Nancy, Mary.

Quilting for Kids With Cancer

Quilting for Kids With Cancer
Generosity has no bounds. Above are the women in the Quilts For Kids group at the Attic Window Quilt Shop. Left to right, Henrietta, Phyllis, Nancy, Carol, Karen. These women donate their time, fabric, money once a month to make quilts for kids who have cancer.