A while back, my husband Peter handed me a stack of his Tyvek race numbers, just a small collection accumulated over his cycling career, and asked if I would turn them into a quilt.
"A quilt? Really?"
"Why not? It'd be cool."
I should tell you that Peter loves this type of challenge. No doubt he would do very well in the Unconvential Materials Challenges on Project Runway. In his eyes, these Tyvek race numbers, all worn-in and well-washed, are perfect for a quilt. In my eyes? I tend to get a little squirmy at the thought of an Unconventional Materials Challenge. There's plenty of traditional materials I like just fine, thanks.
Plus, why would anyone want to cozy up on a cold winter night with a Tyvek quilt?
Alright. So, I left the stack of numbers in my studio while I thought about exactly how to tackle this project. I thought maybe they would make a nice blanket to use at the track, to claim a spot on the infield, sit on between races. He could roll it up and keep in his car (it would need some ties).
Its a small quilt (roughly 40" x 45"), but perfect for several cyclist-sized bums. I had thought I would use the back of the numbers in some spots, but Peter didn't like that idea. I pieced the numbers in strips first, turning and flipping some of the numbers, then pieced those strips together. I think I can call it a quilt because it is, in fact, quilted. I loosely outline-stitched/quilted some of the numbers using free-motion quilting and my Bernina Stitch Regulator. (I adore my BSR.) These were intentionally very loose and hand-drawn like. You believe me, right?
I also free motioned a bike on one corner. When the quilt is rolled up and tied, the bike is on top. The backing (and the ties) is a blue/black shirting weight chambray I had on hand, which I prewashed. I used Warm and Natural cotton batting. The binding is Kona cotton in a red that I also had.
Sewing with Tyvek is interesting. On one hand its just like fabric- it's sewable, ironable, etc. On the other hand, it is slippery stuff and doesn't like pinholes. I do not know what official rules there are for sewing with Tyvek, but I thought I'd share what worked for me on this project.
- Heavyweight denim or leather needles work well (100/16, 110/18, or 90/14).
- Change your needles often. I would start to hear the tell-tale sound of a teensy bit more effort being needed to push the needle through all the layers and stopped to change the needle immediately. I think this quilt used 6 needles.
- Use bulldog or binder clips instead of pins to hold things together whenver it made sense, otherwise, I pinned as inconspicuously as possible. As an example, when I layed out the quilt layers to make the quilt sandwich, I only pinned right at the seams. That seemed to help hide the pinholes a little, but be ready to commit if you're going to pin somewhere, the hole will stay.
- Tyvek can take pressing and a little steam, but only on low heat.
- I was able to draw the design of the bike directly onto the Tyvek with my favorite pen for this purpose, the FriXion pen. Once I'd stitched the bike, a quick blast of a bit of steam from the iron on a low heat setting and the pen marks disappear. (I have heard rumor that these marks may return later on, but so far I've never had that happen.)
- Baste the quilt around the edges on all 4 sides before binding. It helps everything stay in place a little bit more.
- I pieced the Tyvek numbers with a generous 1/4" seam, and the seam allowance was pressed to one side.
I finished this project and gave it to him just in time for our 18th wedding anniversary. This guy is so worth it, I'd happily stitch Tyvek all day long for him.