Tyvek and It’s Many Uses

Posted by LindaM | May 3, 2010

TyvekI was asked recently by a new art quilter “What is tyvek?” I guess for those of us who have worked with art quilts for any length of time, it’s easy to forget that there are new art quilters joining our ranks at any given time and I’m sure some of these newbies are scratching their heads over some of the products and techniques that are used for art quilting.

Weird and wonderful
Tyvek falls into one of those weird and wonderful “happy accident” categories where someone discovered that heating tyvek causes it to distort, wrinkle and rearrange itself into amazing shapes and textures – the perfect invitation for art quilters to begin exploring and experimenting with it.

It looks familiar
You have probably seen tyvek all over the place and never even realized it. Those white waterproof envelopes you throw away? … tyvek. That white insulation they use on new houses … tyvek. For other interesting uses for tyvek, visit the Materials Concept blog and be surprised.

Types
Tyvek comes in two different types;

  • a soft structure tyvek which is a soft fabric and is my personal favorite. The soft structure has a slightly textured surface.
  • and a hard structure tyvek which is much stiffer. The hard structure has a smooth surface.

Both types produce different results when heated.

Can it be sewn?
Of course! Tyvek can be needled easily by machine, but you will probably need to use a thimble when sewing by hand as the material can become quite thick and dense in places once it’s been heated which makes it a little difficult to get a hand needle through.

How do you use it?
For tyvek to contort you need to heat it. You can use a hot air gun (keep your fingers out of the way because it gets really hot) or you can iron it. It only takes a short burst of heat to see results, so begin gently.

But it’s white!
When you buy tyvek it’s white so it needs to be painted before you heat it and Lumiere metallic paints are my personal choice of paint and I think a favorite for lots of others. The paint seems to take on wonderful appearance once it’s been heated and you can see some the effects on these sample photos.

Heated with a hot air tool: underside and upperside

TyvekTyvek

Heated with an iron: underside and upperside

TyvekTyvek

Here are some things you can do with it …

Beads (my favorites). I like to wrap the tyvek around some fabric before I heat it …

Tyvek

Tyvek

Tyvek

and backgrounds …

Tyvek

Tyvek

If you’re looking for tyvek to give it a try, you can find some here (no affiliation) …

Joggles.com
Friends Fabric Art

And if you try it out, send me some photos and I’ll post them online so everyone can see.

Still got questions? Leave a comment.

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6 Comments

  1. I love the Tyvek pieces that you have done. As an art quilter, I am always looking for new techniques, and when I saw the photos, I flipped. I will have to buy your DVD.
    Lynne

    Reply
    • Thanks Lynne, I’m sure you’ll enjoy the dvd :)

      Reply
  2. I just vistied Materials Concept blog and from there to others OMG!! there is a whole world of Tyvek lovers and uses Can we use the Tyvek ground sheets etc that are mentioned ??? do you know of any Tyvek reclable things i may be able to use ??
    will you have soem at the Bris arts and crafts show ??
    so many things to learn
    cheers
    kt n critters xxxx

    Reply
    • Hi Kate, yes you can recycle the tyvek that you find around the place, and you can also find it pre-packaged and online at Joggles
      http://www.joggles.com
      Sadly I won’t be at the Brisbane arts and craft show because I now live in Central Florida, but I’m sure you’ll enjoy the show if you’re planning to go there :)

      Reply
  3. Linda-
    I’m really intrigued by the possibilities of Tyvek, but I’m wondering if it’s safe to heat it. Any chance it’s off-gassing something nasty when heated?

    Reply
    • Anything you burn will have an emission of some sort so you should always work in a well ventilated area. I don’t believe emissions from tyvek are dangerous however if you’re concerned you should contact the manufacturer.

      Reply

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