Glacial rust.

Sometimes things go horribly wrong but in such an intriguing way that you have to share it. That was my experience with this whole rust endeavour.

I set out to dye cloth to use as part of my pieced train bridge quilt, but ended up changing my mind. Since I chose to paint instead of piece the quilt, I had no more immediate use for the cloth I had dyed with rust. At any rate it turned out quite lovely and will be used in the future. Especially fond of this thin piece of grey cotton shirting. It would make a nice summer top or bag interior.
It was all a little more yellow than I had anticipated. Maybe it was the acidity. Love the big red blotches on the linen (left). The canvas was pretty dark khaki already and didn’t change much (right)

The little chunk of silk organza (on the right) took the colour really well. Strangely, this little sample of charcoal polyester (on the left) was actually discharged by the rust. Definitely going to have to try that one with a bigger swatch.

Now I was left with a bunch of very very rusty-red vinegar that I had been using for dyeing.

I got to thinking that maybe I could use it as fabric paint. I tried painting it on there as was but it just washed right out. So I thought maybe I could reduce it on the stove and thicken it up…

Success! (I thought). It darkened right up and got far thicker than I expected. It was literally as slow as cold molasses in January.

While I was congratulating myself on making this beautiful rust paint, I turned away for maybe 30 seconds to clean my pot. When I turned back, something curious was happening…
The liquid was crusting over at an alarming rate! In less than a minute it was a rock solid crystal.

Neato, huh? Not what I was going for by a long shot but much more interesting. Metals naturally form into crystals so it was probably the iron’s fault. I assume I oversaturated the solution through heating, and then the metal crystallized out as it cooled.  Apparently though, pure vinegar is called “glacial acetic acid” because it forms ice-like crystals just below room temperature. Hard to say, since there was no liquid left in the bowl, I guess it all crystallized. Any thoughts?

Trying to think up some use for this weird substance. I tried crushing it into the textile medium but it broke off in shards rather than forming a powder so it just got adhered to the surface of the cloth. Maybe in future I could try boiling the textile medium with the rusty vinegar, and not for nearly so long.
I love experiments. They seldom go as you plan but that’s what they’re for. And now I have this strange crystal recipe to put in my memory banks and pull out for some future project.

Relinquishing grip.

I miraculously forgot about my rust buckets for a couple of days. Guess I was too busy worrying about the piece overall. When I came back to it today the chain bucket looked like this:

For some reason it only dyed in the areas that were out of the liquid, where the rusty vinegar had wicked up into the cloth. I’m hoping those parts were just exposed to more oxygen. I dumped the liquid into the other bucket (which had done nothing) and with a little luck the iron on the cloth will oxidize.

What a pretty colour though! A much stronger red than anticipated.

While that was working away, I was stressing big time. Today I was cutting up my bridge pattern. Gradually then suddenly I was overcome with bleary-eyed frustration. And no, it had nothing to do with the act of cutting. I couldn’t decide whether to piece the fabric bits together with sewing machine or appliqué them onto one big sheet by hand. Piecing would be more difficult in keeping the bits lined up while hand-stitching would take more time.

I have been consumed by this question for several days, with no headway. Might seem silly, but it’s not like I could progress further without answering that question. Of a sudden I realized I couldn’t choose because neither seemed doable by Friday.

I am never a fan of quitting, but sometimes you need to accept your own limitations and move in a slightly different direction. Once I allowed myself to think of different choices, one came along very quickly, like it was waiting in the rafters. So I put away the cloth I had dyed for the occasion and moved on.

I am going to paint the train bridge image onto one single piece of linen with gouache, then quilt and stitch it afterwards. I won’t have to worry about piecing at all and can focus on  colour and finishing. This flash of inspiration has me excited about this project all over again. Me and gouache are best friends, and so I am a very happy camper.

I gleefully dug out my paints and started sampling. The top row here has half and half Sonja’s textile medium and Holbein gouache, with varying amounts of water. The second row is simply gouache and water. The third was a photo transfer using blending pen (more about this later) with gouache/textile medium painted over.

I stuck them in the wash with regular detergent to see if the textile medium would soften up (it had developped a displeasing sort of acrylic look). It did a bit, but still too cakey on the heavy areas. Interestingly, the gouache alone weathered the wash just fine. Little bit came off, but nothing like you would expect.

I don’t intend this piece to be washed after it is sold, it will be stapled to MDF and hung on someone’s wall. I was just a little worried about running unwashed paint through my sewing machine. In light of this development with the unmixed gouache, I think I’m just going to use it straight.

Today will be a play day, with lots and lots of painting.

Praying to the rust fairy.

Today I discovered that ferrous sulphate is nowhere to be found in Fredericton. Garden stores, hardware stores, grocery stores, pharmacies; all came up empty. My only hit was in the “online only” section of Home Depot website. No time to be ordering away, the bridge piece needs finishing in the next week.

So for experiment #1 I settled for a big ol’ piece of chain, which unfortunately is galvanized. I put in the fabric, weighed it down with the chain, and poured in about 2 L of vinegar.

It immediately began to fizz. I suspect it is the zinc coating coming off. At any rate, I took it out to the shed for safety’s sake. Who knows what all is toxic these days. Don’t want to be breathing anything in.

When I was at the pharmacy I looked for iron sulphate but found only iron bisglycinate. I bought a bottle anyhow.

So for experiment #2, I followed the instructions here but with the whole bottle of iron supplement. It really seemed to have no effect at all (fabric was already cream-tinted). However you are supposed to let it dry before washing out so maybe if will oxidize overnight.

For Experiment #3, I grabbed the bucket of iron tablets/4 L of water that I had used above and threw in about a cup of vinegar. I put some fabric in, weighed it down with a wine bottle, and put it in the shed.

This was maybe an hour after Experiment #1 got started, and check out the foaming action now! Neato!

It looks like most of the shiny coating has come off the chain, so hopefully the next step is rust. Or it could all go horribly wrong and I’ll have to suck it up and use synthetics.

Cross your fingers for me!

The makings of rust.

You lovely folk have helped me to choose the Train Bridge photograph for my auction textile. I was so impressed by voter turn-out, thanks a ton! I’ve re-coloured it a little, and given it symmetry. While I enjoyed the bluish twilight tinge, it took away the rust colour that I love.

I’ve printed it off in sections to 32×16, which I will now stick to cardboard. Then I’ll x-acto out each little piece of bridge to use as pattern for cutting the cloth.

I was going to use fabric I had around the house, but looking at the lovely colour variation in the wood and metal I realized it should really be hand-dyed. Fabricville was having a great sale yesterday so I slipped out and bought a collection of dyeable neutrals. Cotton, linen, canvas, muslin. Natural materials feel so nice on the skin.

Since my favourite thing about that bridge is its rusty rusty surface, I’ve been thinking I’d try to dye its rafters with actual rust. Been checking out some different tutorials. This one looks real promising if I can find the ferrous sulfate. Her shibori is beautiful, I love the blue/grey iron variant:

Artstitches: Rust Solution Dyeing Tutorial.

Today I went to the college for a little while. I was talking to the co-ordinator for the Nature Trust exhibit we are having in October. They’ve decided the title will be Nature of Art/Art of Nature. And apparently it will be held at the New Brunswick Museum in Saint John (that’s a big deal!!) and then coming here to Fredericton. I’ve been getting ideas in my sleep for this project, something along the lines of a multi-tiered puzzle (could I be more vague?).

We can pay to use our school’s amenities during the summer, how cool is that? I took pictures of my 3D work from this year in the little photo studio, so I’ll be able to take you on a walk-through of some of my final projects in the coming days.

Alright, I’m off to spend the day in the sun and the evening in a pile of cloth!