Printing with rust

A while since I've printed with rusty items. I soaked several pieces of cotton in tea, then enjoyed arranging rusting items onto the cotton, trying to make sure there was plenty of contact between fabric and rust.

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I found these very old bed springs on one of my walks recently, looking forward to seeing the pattern they make.

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I love using my dear Dad's old tools!

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Just 12 hours later, and in some places the rust is printing beautifully. I love the subtle greyish blues. 

Keeping the fabric and rust damp, sprinkling cold tea on every few hours.

When I started experimenting printing with rust onto fabric, about 10 years ago, I used vinegar, which I'd read is used to speed up the rusting process. The rust print is a much stronger orange when vinegar is used as a wetting agent.

I learnt over a year ago from Alice Fox that vinegar produces an orange red/rust – ferric oxide. Ferric oxide is corrosive and toxic. Tea and other plant materials produce ferrous oxide, which is a lot less toxic, more stable and more gentle, producing some lovely black/grey tones. Tannins in tea react with the iron.

So I now avoid using vinegar and rust, enjoying the gentle tones given by the reaction of rust on fabric wetted with tea.