Rust dyeing produces rich, warm colors and unexpected patterns on fabric and yarn. It is simple, easy and requires no special equipment. Participants in this Jumpstart dyed both cotton fabric and cotton yarn using the following procedure.
Soak fabric and yarn in vinegar (no water) until thoroughly wet. Wrap fabric and yarn around a rusty object or objects, pressing the fabric against the rusty surface. You will see a stronger color where the fabric and yarn touch the object, so use a large enough object that the fabric and yarn can touch the object often or use several small objects like nails. Don’t worry about wrinkles or folds in the fabric as these add to the patterning possibilities. In fact, you can scrunch your fabric just a bit on purpose! Wrap all this tightly in plastic wrap or a plastic bag and let cure from 24 hours to several days. The longer it cures, the deeper the color.
Unwrap the plastic wrap and unwrap the fabric and yarn. Do not rinse yet! Instead, soak the fabric and yarn in salty water to stop the rusting process. Use 1 tablespoon salt in 1 gallon of water. Rinse the fabric and yarn thoroughly, then wash in a mild detergent and dry.