Monday, November 2, 2009

Make- it Mondays: Oxidation Printing

From Buenahelena!

I can't believe it is already November! All around leaves are falling off trees and the landscape turns to reds, rusts and browns. Perfect timing for oxidation or "rust" printing. This surface design technique can be done on any protein fiber, but silk yields the best results. Rust or iron oxide has long been known for its beautiful range of rich colors, chemical stability and light fastness. Colors achieved from rust printing range from pale oranges to deep purples. These prints create a chemical change in the structure of the fiber like a dye, meaning they are permanent!

1. Start with your ingredients: 1 gallon of white distilled vinegar, silk (or wool or soy), a collection of rusty object and plastic bags.

2. Dip your pieces of silk in the vinegar so they are saturated. (Some use straight vinegar, while others recommend a 50/50 water to vinegar ratio.I did a 25/75 myself and had great results.) Wrap the wet silk around a rusty object and wrap it up tightly in a plastic bag.

3. Let the rusty object oxidize and soak into the silk for approximately 72 hours. Experiment with shorter and longer times for different color ranges.

4. Unwrap your object and rinse. To really set the colors in, rinse with some baking soda as well.

I love doing small samples for piecework, but you could also try this on a silk scarf or blouse or even to stretch over canvas. This type of printing is full of surprises and happy accidents. Most importantly it conveys the subtle beauty of decay, which is what many of us love about fall. Try it out for a fun Thanksgiving project!


  1. This is wonderful! I've never seen this done. I learned something new! I can't wait to try this! This will make great additions to my paper and cloth sewn ATCs. Very cool!!! Thank you!