I promised I'd post photos of my latest rusted work, and here they are. The fabric was three yards of heavy silk charmeuse that I was commissioned to rust. The top photo is the satiny side, the crepe side is below.
I found this fabric to be challenging to rust, primarily because of its thickness. Overall it took me about 10 days and three go-rounds of rusting and finishing before I got enough rust on the fabric. It's going to be used for garments and I'm hoping I get to see photos of the finished pieces.
Recently I began hunting around for info on how to properly finish off rusted fabric, because this piece was not a sample and I wanted to make sure it was as user friendly as possible for the client. I hadn't realized rusted fabric might present problems when sewing, until I attempted to use some moderately rusted muslin as the background fabric for my Fiberactions "Initiative" quilt (to be revealed on January 15). There was enough rust on the surface of the cotton that I shredded every kind of thread I tried to use and dulled a few needles. For the quilt, I ended up cutting off everything I'd machine appliqued onto the rusted fabric, and putting it on a new background fabric -- which was fortuitous because the quilt turned out much better than it would have on the rusted fabric. But I did realize that I needed to learn a few things about finishing rusted fabric if I wanted to sew with it.
I found quite a bit of information online, including Kimberly Baxter-Packwood's Natural Surfaces Zine, with a lot of advice for treating heavily rusted fabric as well as tips for sewing on it. Combining info from various sources, what I did to finish this silk was to soak the fabric for a half hour in a half-sinkful of warm water with 1/4 cup salt and 1/4 cup baking soda. The salt stopped the rusting process and the baking soda removed much of the tiny bits of metal on the surface of the fabric. Then I washed the fabric in hot water with about 1/4 cup synthrapol and another 1/3 cup baking soda. The final soda was added to the wash to remove the rust and vinegar smells from the fabric.
The fabric turned out beautifully, and I'm hoping it's a pleasure to work with!