Tyvek Covered Bean Bags
Leather or fabric-covered lead shot beanbags can be expensive. Washed Tyvek bags filled with polypropylene pellets can be used to construct a lighter-weight, less expensive, versatile alternative in any shape and size. Circular beanbags can be particularly useful during photography as supports that don’t distract from the object.
National Museum of the American Indian
Research Branch Move Project Team
Photo Credits: Angela Yvarra McGrew & T. Ashley McGrew
Using washed Tyvek makes the surface of these beanbags extremely soft where they are in contact with artifacts. Plastic pellets can be purchased cheaply in bulk allowing for the easy creation of bean bags in a wide variety of shapes and sizes.
Materials, Tools & Supplies
- Softwrap® Tyvek® sheet (washed)
- Resin pellets (i.e. polypropylene or polyethylene)
- Polyethylene bag
- Sewing machine or impulse heat sealer
1. Wash your thin soft-wrap Tyvek in the washing machine on a cold cycle (no detergent necessary), then dry on a no- or low-heat setting. This makes the Tyvek extremely soft and pliable.
2. Decide what size and shape bean bag you want, then cut your Tyvek allowing some extra for a seam allowance.
3. With the slick side facing in, sew or heat seal 3 of the 4 sides together, then turn inside out. The slick side will then be the side facing out.
4a. If using a sewing machine for the bean bag sleeve, fill the bag ½ to 2/3 full and sew the 4th side closed.
4b. If using a heat sealer for the sleeve, use a polyethylene liner bag for the pellets and heat seal the liner bag closed. Heat seal seams on Tyvek are less strong then sewn seams so the inner bag helps ensure that a rip will not result in loose beads. Poking a couple of small holes in the plastic bag to let the air out enables the bag to be more flexible.
5. Put the pellet bag into the Tyvek sleeve and heat-seal, machine or hand sew the open end closed.
Arenstein, R. P., C. Brady, N. Carroll, J. French, E. Kaplan, A. Y. McGrew, A. McGrew, S. Merritt, L. Williamson. 2003. NMAI Living: Moving a la Martha. Tips from the National Museum of the American Indian collections move . Objects Specialty Group Postprints. 10. American Institute for Conservation 31st Annual Meeting. Arlington. Washington DC: AIC. 92–106.
Arenstein, R. P., N. Carroll, J. French, E. Kaplan, A. Y. McGrew, A. McGrew, L. Williamson. 2003. NMAI good tips: applications and bulking of cyclododecane, and mass production of supports . Objects Specialty Group Postprints. 10. American Institute for Conservation 31st Annual Meeting. Arlington. Washington DC: AIC. 176–187.