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Working with Tyvek

Ideas & inspiration for using Tyvek

About Tyvek

Tykek is a technical textile made out of polyethylene. There are different weights of Tyvek and depending on the weight it feels like something between lightweight card and fabric. Despite its paper like feel it's a tough, durable material originally designed by Dupont for use in the construction industry where it is used as a high performance breathable membrane in buildings. ​

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As well as being used in buildings as a breathable membrane it is also used for a range of products from banners, packaging, protective clothing, and even for footwear and fashion garments. Its natural antimicrobial properties also make it suitable for use in sterile packaging and in medical environments. 

Tyvek is a thermoforming properties which means it can be shaped using heat. It can also be laser cut, sublimation printed and stitched (experimentation is needed with heat sources to get the correct temperature). 

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Dryad is an example of a supplier that sells Tyvek. It is also sold under the brand name of Koloron. For larger projects Tyvek can be bought in bulk from building construction suppliers and for small projects look out for envelopes and packaging in your post as Tyvek is regularly used for these products where strength is needed. Don’t forget to make sure you get the right type as it comes in a version that is more like card or heavy paper as well as a softer version that is more like fabric.

Tyvek Wallet

This wallet is made out of Tyvek and has an interesting net and set of folds that means it can hold together without any stitching and with just 2 blobs of glue. 

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This is an example of the net used to create the wallet and the stages of folding it so that it is secure

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Use the instructions in this video to make a different style of Tyvek wallet. 

#InspiredBy: King John School, Essex

Julia Beeney, textiles teacher at the King John School in Essex, introduced Tyvek to students to demonstrate the increasingly blurred lines between materials and their uses and classifications, as it’s both a thermoforming polymer as well as a textiles material.

Students began by researching Tyvek and experimenting with its low melting point, something that is often used a lot in art textiles work. Tyvek can be sandwiched between baking parchment and heat applied e.g. with an iron, heat gun or heat press and this results in the material shrinking. By carefully controlling the heat different surface effects can be produced. The material surface can also be stitched and then heat applied to create other effects. 

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Students also experimented with sublimation printing Tyvek but its low melting point was a problem as both the heat press and iron melted the material. Deborah Ryder, from Canon Slade School in Bolton, gave tips and advice on temperatures & timings, suggesting students experiment with temperatures around 150°C for between 40 seconds and a minute depending on the strength of colour required. Deborah also recommended the use of a Teflon sheet on top of the print. Using this advice students were able to print successfully and found 130°C for a minute gave them the best print. Above you can see some of the experiments students did with temperatures and timings and the different depths of colour that was produced. 

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Other Ideas

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