Tyvek Accordion Lantern

Tyvek Accordion Lantern

25 Days of Paper 2015, Day 8

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Technically, Tyvek® isn’t paper, but it folds really well, is super strong and water resistant. It’s that stuff they use in construction, protective apparel and packaging (no wonder I like it – it has qualities of paper and cloth). It comes in white (and black) and I use watered-down acrylic paints to pigment my sheets, brushing the paint on with a foam sponge and wiping off the excess. The staining picks up the texture in the Tyvek®, which creates a lovely pattern. I bought this Tyvek from Material Concepts.

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For this project you will need: 

  • Tyvek (the white fibrous sheet in your paper pack)
  • Acrylic paint (or other coloring medium, optional)
  • Cutting Mat
  • Craft knife
  • Ruler
  • Bone folder
  • Battery operated tea light (I ordered mine from 100candles.com – they even have colored lights)
  • Double sided tape, glue or velcro

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Step 1: Staining the Tyvek®: I stained my Tyvek with one color of acrylic paint on each side. It’s simple (if you have paint – the Tyvek actually looks nice without paint, too). Add a small amount of water to thin the paint so that it rubs on easily with a sponge. Wipe the excess moisture off while rubbing the pigment into the sheet with a paper towel or the sponge. I recommend doing a small test first to see how your medium handles. Also have a piece of scrap paper underneath when staining, so that you can stain the edges.

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Step 2: Cut & Fold in Half: Cut a piece of Tyvek to 8-1/2″ x 3″. If you know how to fold an accordion, you can skip to step seven. Fold the strip of Tyvek in half as pictured, creating a mountain fold (as opposed to a valley).

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Step 3: Fold in Quarters: Place the folded sheet on your work surface and first fold one end towards the center fold, then flip the piece over and fold the other end into that center fold as well.

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Step 4: Reverse Folds: Unfold the entire sheet and reverse the valley folds so that all of the folds are mountains, as shown. 

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Step 5: Fold in Eighths: Start at the left-most fold and fold it to meet the left edge of the sheet. Bring each mountain fold over to that same edge, until all sections are the same size.

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Step 6: Fold in Sixteenths: Repeat steps 4 and 5 – reverse all folds and then accordion fold into 16 sections. Phew, you’re done!

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Step 7: Remove Section: Cutting off one of the small panels (you’ll have 15 remaining) seems to make the star pattern on the top of the lantern look better. 

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Step 8: Apply Adhesive: Attach a strip of double sided tape or glue to one of the end sections of the accordion, remove protective strip and adhere the other end to it.

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I made several variations: cut the ends; gather one end; add tessellations; use velcro dots instead of tape. You can also punch holes through the double accordions for another effect.

Share your ideas in the comments box below or over in the 25 Days of Paper FB group.

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About the 25 Days of Paper 2015: It’s a great time to celebrate paper, and I’m delighted to share my ideas for using this amazing material with you. Throughout December, I’ll be posting a paper tutorial on even days, and every odd day will bring news about paper artists, stores, distributors and more! Receive updates via e-mail by adding your address in the upper right hand corner of this page. Enjoy the season, and feel free to leave a comment below and check out what people are making in the 25 Days of Paper FB Group!

6 Comments

  1. carol walker says:

    Really interesting technique of staining the paper, love the look of it.

  2. Kate says:

    I’m lovin it all…..thanks Helen !

  3. Tom says:

    Thank you for the Sunday Paper and all the other great news about paper. You seem to be the only real current source for paper.
    I have never tried Trvek but have heard from so many the variety of uses for it. I was wondering is it might be used for tympan on my letterpress? I have used a variety of papers for the tympan paper but would like to have something that I can use all the time.
    Question — I have been asked to do a show and tell at the Boise Art Museum the last of this month. The current exhibit is on origami. The person who contacted me mentioned the Elephant Hide paper is the King or Queen paper for origami. I had never heard of it. I checked all my papermaking books plus Pulp and Paper Dictionary and came up with nothing. The company that makes it in Germany seem to be very secretive with the process and material used. I was wondering if it might be a type of Trevek. I would like to have a bit more information about this “paper” so I can at least be familiar with it.
    If anyone would know about Elephant Hide paper, you would. Would appreciate your take on this.
    Thanks Helen
    Tom Bennick

    • Helen says:

      Hi Tom, Elephant Hide is stiff and smooth, but I don’t believe it is like Tyvek. You might try calling Talas in NYC to see if they know. They are a high ending bookbinding supply company, and they carry elephant hide. Thanks for reading my blog, and good luck with your talk! – Helen

  4. Clare Colby says:

    Thank you Helen for your lovely emails, this Tyvek post is great – I still love the sound of the words “polyethylene spun bonded fibres” …
    I won an award in the mid 1980’s for my “paper” toy’s made from Tyvek. It makes me smile when I see it used as a damp barrier for British roof construction.
    It can be very successful when sewn – especially if you screw it up well first, the material softens and relaxes.
    I have just realised my fascination with paper as a material has spanned three decades … I still love it !!!
    Best Wishes Clare.

    • Helen says:

      Hi Clare, do you have any pics of your paper toys? I’d love to see. I sew paper all the time, but hadn’t thought of Tyvek. Now you’ve given me the idea of “screwing up” the paper, staining it and then sewing it into a form. All good wishes – Helen

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