Saturday, March 11, 2023

Playing with Rust Printing

Rust-printed cloth and sashimi stitching

The hardest part of rust printing is building a stash of rust pieces. The rest of the process is pure experimentation and joy. In fact, collecting rust can be a joyous process in itself. My personal stash of rust has been assembled over the past forty years during walks through industrial districts and combing for junk while strolling along railroad tracks.  

The Process

Rust pieces

There are a number of slight variations on the rust-printing process you can find through googling. After experimenting, I found the simplest to be best:

• Prepare a 50/50 mix of white vinegar and water in a spray bottle.

• Lay down a protective layer of plastic (I used cut-up recycled plastic bags), and reserve an equal amount of plastic to use as a top layer to keep the whole thing moist while the rusting magic goes on. Arrange a layer of cloth or paper. Spray all of this generously with your vinegar mix.

Rust between cloth soaked in vinegar and water

• Arrange your rust pieces on the cloth or paper. This gives you an illusion of control, but don't kid yourself – the best part of rust printing is that the results are always a surprise. Spray everything again with your vinegar mix.

Rust doing its magic

• Put down a top protective layer of plastic, and weight the whole thing down with stacks of books (you are going for maximum contact between the irregularly shaped rust and the material being dyed). It has occurred to me that the ideal way to weight things down would be malleable bags of sand, but I haven't tried that yet.

• At the end of the process, simply wash your dyed cloth thoroughly in a basin of soap and water.

Rust-Dyeing Cloth

Here you can see the results of rust-dyeing the index-card-size strips of cloth shown above. Note that those process photos are showing a technique using a piece of cloth both below and on top of the rust pieces. It is a handy way to double your output, but for all other projects below I stuck with one layer and the protective sheet of plastic, which always goes on top no matter how many layers you have.

This project involves creating another of the pieces I have started calling "spirit cloths," for lack of a better explanation. Making them has become a compulsion.

Freshly dyed cloth panels

Panels sashiko-stitched together to become spirit cloth


Since I was already using index cards as templates for cutting out pieces for the spirit cloth, I figured I may as well experiment with directly printing on the cards themselves. The results were so evocative that I turned to my archives of vintage books containing copyright free images to create a few vaguely cosmic collages.

"Space cowboy"

"Playing with the matter of the universe"
(or: How were you picturing a higher power?)

"Galactic communication"

Rust-Dyed Clothing

And finally (for now) we have rust-dyeing on up-cycled thrift store clothing. This is a standard man's business shirt, with the collar removed (carefully pick out original stitching, remove collar, restitch closed). The trick here was to do it in sections and to use weights to hold the shirt in place so the whole mess didn't go sliding off the table. I restricted the dyeing to the bottom edge of the shirt. That dye creeping up the front placket was an unexpected, but not unwelcome accident.

Shirt front

Shirt front detail

Shirt back

Shirt back detail

Hopefully this will inspire you to do some experimenting of your own, and to wander down gritty alleyways and old barns looking for rust. Your house will stink of vinegar, but who gives a damn?

Thursday, December 22, 2022

The Transcultural Traveling Scarf

Does it get any better than floating polkadots?

This piece incorporates bits and pieces of textiles found, foraged and gifted over time. The base is part of a thin muslin sari from India. The polkadots are made from cloth scraps from West Africa, Guatemala, and both London and Oakland thrift finds.

The technique used to create polkadots involves making multiple circular shapes out of card stock. A scrap of fabric is then rough cut to extend about 1/2" beyond the card-stock template. The cloth is then ironed over the template to create a neat polkadot. The template is removed before stitching the polkadot down, and can be used again.

Creating polkadots

Ironing down the edges

Finished polkadot backside

The polkadots were attached by pick-stitching around each edge, working from the back of the scarf.

"Invisible" pick-stitching from back

As this is being written, the scarf is winging its way to London  - and from there to who knows where.

Ready to hit the road

Saturday, December 3, 2022

Pimp Your TV: The Flatscreen Version


Mixed assemblage: "Waiting"

When my clunky, decades-old tube TV finally bit the dust and I reluctantly replaced it with a flatscreen version, it took exactly 13 days before I simply couldn't stand having a soulless hunk of technology in my environment. Clearly it was time for Pimp Your TV #4.

Vintage typewriter keys, wood detail from antique Chinese lantern

Tiny model railroad figures painted copper

Magnetized test tube vases for growing herbs

The happy result

Recycling the Old TV

What to do with the clunky old tube tv? It has been through a lot of iterations during the Pimp Your TV series over the years.

The musical extravaganza version

The pink flamingo version

"Forbidden TV" version

After so many years of service throwing it out seemed unthinkable. As a temporary solution, I have turned it into a hallway nightlight, with plans to scribble artwork with a black felt tip marker across the screen at some point down the line.

Hallway installation: daytime view

Nighttime view

About Those Magnetized Test Tubes

The magnetized test tubes used in this version of Pimp Your TV have become one of my household standards, and I can't enthuse enough about their usefulness and versatility.

Magnetized test tubes

Simply glue small magnets to test tubes. Note that it is critical to use two magnets placed a distance apart on the test tube. Using one magnet will result in your test tube full of water spinning on its axis at the slightest vibration or breath of air, dumping its contents all over your decor. I use clear auto marine sealant (Dow Corning) to attach the magnets. Once you are armed with magnetized test tubes, the sky's the limit!

Below, magnetized test tubes take a basic metal desk lamp from ho-hum to boy howdy.

Growing rosemary and basil


You will find you start eyeing your environment for likely metal surfaces, like the metal brackets holding these window shelves in place.

Metal shelf bracket placement

And of course, there is always the refrigerator.

Here's hoping this has provided some inspiration on how to entertain yourself during the dark days of winter. Grab some glue, sort through your junk stash, and go hog wild pimping your own decor.

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Advent 2022: Ode to the Backwards Feet People

A Celebration of Feet!

The Formula

2 party garments from the thrift store; lots of tulle and beaded fabric from past projects; lots of custom artwork converted into tags and iron-on panels; and lots and lots and lots of foot-related goodies.

The Grand Plan

The Next Frontier in Advent Couture

Here are the completed advent designer gowns - the smaller, glittery one for an 11-year-old, the ridiculously long black jersey jumpsuit for a 13-year-old. An add-on beaded stretch of fabric has been converted into the sash of a tulle apron. Each day, as the appropriate numbered foot tag is found and the tulle unfurled, the garment slowly evolves and takes shape. Along the way the gowns dispense novelty socks, toe rings, ankle bracelets, toenail polish, custom t-shirts, and theme-related iron-on patches.


Foot-themed elements include the numbered foot tags for the days of December...

A tag for each day

Lots of iron-on additions

The Gowns

Gown A

Gown A breast panel

A bit of ribbon added to the back helps the gown adjust to body size.

Gown A back

A tag on each gown at the back of the sash offers post-Christmas deconstruction tips.

Deconstruction tag

Gown B

Breast panel B

Gown B back

Close-up of Gown B goodies

The Backwards Feet People

While deep-diving into the theme of feet, I googled "feet myths and legends," and to my amazement stumbled upon the backwards feet people — a pervasive legend found in disparate places around the globe very much like the stories of a great flood. A secondary goal for this year's calendar became a commitment to spread the word about these mysterious, elusive creatures. The following text accompanies the bundle containing the first of two backwards feet people t-shirts contained in each gown.

Click to enlarge

The legend inspired designs for t-shirts (purchased from the thrift store and embellished using iron-on images).

The backwards feet running girl

Running girl design

Backwards feet logo t-shirt

Backwards feet logo

The Instructions

The recipients received the following information sheet at the top of the package containing the gowns.

Operating instructions

Thus concludes the tale of the 2022 advent calendar. Hopefully it brings you inspiration and joy, which you are encouraged to pass right along to others.

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