Welcome to my first ever Second Thursday tutorial, where I will create a new tutorial each second Thursday of the month. I hope it is helpful to some of you. Once it goes live, you will find it on my Tutorials Page under Rusted Tea Dyeing.
Some of you remember this photo from T this past Tuesday. Something I didn't mention then, but will now, is I wrapped one of the tea bags around the handle of the container, thus keeping most of it out of the water. The other 11 tea bags were completely submerged in hot water. In case you missed the post, you can find it here.
As I pointed out in the T post, green tea has tannins, large quantities, in fact. Tannins in green tea bind to iron, something
I thought might be helpful when rust dyeing fabric.
As with all my tutorials, I'll begin with the supplies I used (from back left clockwise):
Pink plastic bag (used to cover the table and self-healing mat)
Empty plastic bag
Distilled vinegar 5% (I got this FREE at my local Household Hazardous Waste Swap and
Shop, but any vinegar will work)
Bag of rusty chain
Container of pre-rusted bits (that I didn't use in the end)
Three pieces of dry cotton fabric, torn to size from old bed sheets
Container of day old tea and tea bags
Gloves to protect my hands from rust that could get under my skin
Rusty bits to choose from
With one glove on, I added eight intact still wet tea bags to the dry top fabric.
With both gloves on, I laid the extremely heavy rusty chain over the fabric and around the tea bags.
I covered the tea and chain fabric with the other half and hid the chain under the fold. Then I tried to roll it up, but realized that wasn't going to work. I had to rethink the action, so
I dug out my rusty cookie sheet I keep tightly wrapped in plastic and proceeded to try to move the chain and tea covered fabric to the cookie sheet.
Of course it didn't work, so I had to reassemble everything once the fabric was spread out on the cookie sheet. Yes, that chain is every bit as heavy and cumbersome as it looks.
I laid the excess chain on top of the fabric that wasn't exposed to tea bags and poured a small amount of vinegar over the fabric.
Luckily, I have quite a few pink plastic bags, so I placed the cookie sheet and its contents in the bag. I also added a tiny bit more vinegar. Then I wrapped the bag, but I had to remove one of my gloves because my grip isn't as good as yours probably is.
I used the final four (sounds like college basketball playoffs to me) tea bags on the second piece of fabric. Note the tea bag at the back right is the one that was not completely submerged in water. I'll be curious to see if it makes a difference in the dyeing/rusting process.
I added a few rusty pieces and
rolled the fabric up. I also tucked in the ends, but didn't take a photo of it. I then placed it in a plastic bag and added a bit of vinegar.
With no tea bags left, I took some rusty bits with shapes I liked,
added some rust filings
and rolled the dry fabric up around the rusted pieces.
I saturated the fabric with vinegar once it was inside the bag. Then I tied it to keep the moisture inside.
It was now safe to remove my gloves and wash my hands. Since I was wearing long sleeves, I also removed my clothes and washed them in my washer after I showered. You can never be too careful around rust, because it can get in the pores of your skin, or cuts on your hands. And whatever you do, please don't put your gloved hand anywhere near your face or eyes. I was hopeful I didn't need the heat from the sun, which normally activates the rust process. I've never rusted fabric or paper in the winter before, so this was a new experience.
If you decide to try this technique, all you need are some rusty pieces, fabric, vinegar, and protective gloves. And PATIENCE, of course. In lieu of rusty pieces, you can substitute steel wool pads, found at most hardware and home improvement stores.
In a day or six, depending upon how hot the sun is (or how warm the studio is) where you live,
put on disposable gloves and open your bag to see if the rust has bloomed.
Now is the time YOU are most vulnerable to rust on your skin, so please keep those gloves on.
Realizing the science behind rust made this teabag study even more enjoyable and enlightening. Not to overstate the science, but I should explain how these tea bags turned this black color. Remember that green tea contains huge amounts of tannins, which in turn, bind to iron. Rust is iron oxide, and for you chemists out there, it is the chemical Fe2O3, because iron (found in the green tea tannins) was combined with oxygen and water (or rather liquid from the tea leaves). All I had to do was wait for corrosion to begin. I had hoped this reaction would occur, but wasn't quite sure until I was able to test my theory. I admit I never expected this black to emerge, though.
Of course, I simply wasn't prepared for what I found when I opened the bag with the chain link and tea bags.
Even before it had been washed and cleaned,
this fabric was out of this world.
I confess that rust gets my heart pumping a bit faster, although it's not because the rust has attacked the hemoglobin in my blood, which is why I wear gloves, but because I see such beauty in it. It was now time to rinse the rust out and stop the chemical process.
I did that by soaking and rinsing the fabric in baking soda. I apologize, I forgot to show a photo of baking soda, but it's the stuff you use in baking, to keep your refrigerator smelling good, and has about a hundred other uses. You get it at the grocery store and you can probably find it at dollar stores, too. I soaked and rinsed three times, then hand washed the fabric in my liquid laundry detergent. It was now safe to remove the protective gloves, touch, and dry the fabric.
I admit, I was less than impressed with the fabric that held the metal filings and lovely shapes. I think it probably could have lived in the bag a bit longer, since there was no green tea to quickly activate the rust and there was no sun to heat the bag.
This is the fabric that contained the four tea bags, one of which had not been completely submerged. I believe you can tell which one was less effective than the others.
Here is another view of both these fabrics side by side. It's really obvious which one had tea bags added, and which one didn't. But I'm stalling, because I wanted to keep you in suspense.
Here is the piece that stole my heart. Not only did the chain produce lovely effects, what surprised me was how the tea bag "rust" migrated to the portion of the fabric I placed over the top of the chain.
Although this is NOT a good photo because I tried to hold the camera above my head and shoot down onto the fabric, you can still see the patterns that emerged on the side directly exposed to the rusty chain and tea bags.
Another not especially good photo since I was standing on tip toes and shooting from overhead, this is the portion that had the chain laid over the top of it.
I admit this turned out even better than I anticipated and showed what can be done using green tea bags. So if you don't care for green tea, this is a good way to rust your fabric using those tea bags you won't ever use for drinking.
I realize this was an extremely long tutorial, which included the science behind rust and how the tea bags interacted with it, but I hope you enjoyed it and learned a bit about it, too. I have never tried rusting fabric in winter before, preferring to do this outside, where the bag and the rusty parts can stay until the rust cycle is complete. However, I needed a quick way to rust fabric and was extremely pleased with what I got.
Thank you again for sticking through to the end. I hope you found my first Second Thursday Tutorial informative. I look forward to finding something for next month's tutorial. Again, I appreciate your incredibly generous comments and joining me here where art can take many experimental forms.
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