Fabric for vehicle skin?

Ideas, advice, tips, and tricks regarding the building and creation of mutant vehicles in Black Rock City
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factoid
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Fabric for vehicle skin?

Postby factoid » Mon May 19, 2014 10:52 am

Hey, friends. I'm looking for some advice on a materials choice.

For 2014, we're transforming XyloVan into "The Light Fandango" - sort of a roving ballroom ceiling, complete with chandeliers and billowy, back-lit fabric, seen in the sketch below. (Full DMV app with more sketches here: http://www.xylovan.com/2014/05/burning- ... submitted/)

So, assuming the following:
- I'm not a n00b (11th burn since '96)
- It's my fourth year bringing XyloVan (http://xylovan.com) to the playa
- Its my second year with an approved mutation. (First was Janus - http://www.xylovan.com/janus-build-log/ - photos listed at bottom of the post)
- I just got my DMV invitation - w00t! (http://www.xylovan.com/2014/05/boom-app ... -man-2014/)
- I have some cash set aside for the project but I am not Elon Musk

Basically I'll have a tube-steel superstructure bolted to the van's roof rack, from which will I plan to drape fabric from an oval "crown" of tube steel. I'll be positioning LED strips behind the fabric so that I can radically illuminate it from "within" at night.

With our last mutation, I used canvas dropcloths, which proved to be durable, but totally opaque to wind and light.

Can anyone recommend a good fabric for this skin that will be:
- Fire retardant
- Somewhat translucent (to pass the LED light)
- Somewhat wind-transparent (because playa)
- Visually opaque (to pass the DMV rules)
- Physically durable (because playa)
- Not unreasonably pricy (because)

If wind weren't a problem, I'd go with ripstop nylon.
If fire weren't an issue, I'd go with Lycra.
If money were no object, I'd buy silk.
You see my predicament. ;)

Any ideas?
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::: mack reed, Los Angeles
::: http://xylovan.com
::: http://snapcious.com
::: http://heavylittleobjects.com

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Simon of the Playa
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Re: Fabric for vehicle skin?

Postby Simon of the Playa » Mon May 19, 2014 12:08 pm

there is a "scrim" available that is like a fine mesh that allows air through, is durable and can be projected upon.

it was used at RS for their video wall in 2010. it was expensive if i remember correctly.....perhaps you could find an alternative, such as Netting (tight weave) that would accomplish the desired effect....during the day it would appear either white or semi-translucent, but at night, with the backlighting will pop and hold an image.

i used to work in a fabric store, that would be your best bet to start....check out what they have in "Remnants" to save $.....

they also make a fire retardant for draperies that can be sprayed on with a spray bottle....it's like 35$ a gallon....is somewhat poisonous, so do it outside and let it dry.
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Re: Fabric for vehicle skin?

Postby trilobyte » Mon May 19, 2014 12:33 pm

Check very carefully on scrim fabrics - the cheaper stuff is highly flammable (cheap plastic-based synthetics). I'd look into a stage and production supply joint and see what they have on offer, and order samples of anything that looks like it might even remotely work for you. It may cost a couple bucks to get samples, but that way you can check first-hand to see how it works with lighting, and you can even do your own match test before placing a big order.

Kudos and congrats on the MV acceptance, by the way! The pic looks like fun, I can't wait to see it on the playa!

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Re: Fabric for vehicle skin?

Postby trilobyte » Mon May 19, 2014 12:33 pm

Check very carefully on scrim fabrics - the cheaper stuff is highly flammable (cheap plastic-based synthetics). I'd look into a stage and production supply joint and see what they have on offer, and order samples of anything that looks like it might even remotely work for you. It may cost a couple bucks to get samples, but that way you can check first-hand to see how it works with lighting, and you can even do your own match test before placing a big order.

Kudos and congrats on the MV acceptance, by the way! The pic looks like fun, I can't wait to see it on the playa!

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Re: Fabric for vehicle skin?

Postby factoid » Mon May 19, 2014 6:23 pm

@SimonofthePlaya and @Trilobyte - Thanks very much, folks. I never considered scrim to be affordable enough, but I guess I should get a quote just for comparison's sake, since it pretty much would make the perfect material.

Also wondering if anyone here has experience with the L.A. garment district's fabric stores - Which one would most likely be able to turn up what amounts to many hundreds of yards of "remnants"? Or, at least, who has a good price on volume?
::: mack reed, Los Angeles
::: http://xylovan.com
::: http://snapcious.com
::: http://heavylittleobjects.com

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Token
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Re: Fabric for vehicle skin?

Postby Token » Tue May 20, 2014 9:33 am

I'll second Trillo's link for Rosebrand.

You are local so just go there and check things out. They have a nice showroom and the staff will work with you on a solution.

Also, go mingle with the folks at The Brewery at the next art-walk. They have built a shit-ton of vehicles using the same backlight ideas. The Cheshire Cat, the big ass flowers on the cranes etc. probably lots of wisdom there.

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Re: Fabric for vehicle skin?

Postby factoid » Tue May 20, 2014 9:35 am

As luck would have it, one of our new campmates is a Brewery denizen (Two-Bit Circus) and I'm grabbing lunch with him tomorrow. ;) Will def check out the Rose Brand storefront - thanks!
::: mack reed, Los Angeles
::: http://xylovan.com
::: http://snapcious.com
::: http://heavylittleobjects.com

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Re: Fabric for vehicle skin?

Postby Token » Tue May 20, 2014 4:49 pm

Ha! Small world. I know that fool well. Arduino freak he is.

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Re: Fabric for vehicle skin?

Postby BoyScoutGirl » Tue May 20, 2014 7:48 pm

Forgive me if this is an ignorant suggestion, but couldn't the opacity requirement be solved by using two layers of thinner material, perhaps with the grain running at different angles? Might reduce the windload on individual fabric panels as well.

Though I suppose buying 2x the material would negate any money saved in purchasing something more sheer...
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factoid
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Re: Fabric for vehicle skin?

Postby factoid » Tue May 20, 2014 9:11 pm

It might, but crossing the weave enough to block the view might also block the wind. I'm gonna have to go with Trilobyte's suggestion and get me some samples for testing.

And you're right - doubling it is spendy, so I hope to avoid that. Maybe if I just paint the entire vehicle playa-colored on the bottom half and BlackRock/blue-sky on the top ...
::: mack reed, Los Angeles
::: http://xylovan.com
::: http://snapcious.com
::: http://heavylittleobjects.com

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trilobyte
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Re: Fabric for vehicle skin?

Postby trilobyte » Tue May 20, 2014 9:47 pm

In LA, just go to 9th and Maple and start exploring. You can get a decent selection of stores open on a Saturday, but ideally you want to go during the day Monday-Friday. Give yourself plenty of time. I'd recommend bringing some sketches or printed pics of what you've done and are trying to do, and be prepared to give a short pitch on your project. As you check out countless stores filled with awesomeness, if you go into one that looks like it might have something interesting, engage in conversation with the person who asks you if you need any help. Tell them what you're looking for, and if they seem interested give them your pitch. I've found that if you get them interested and engaged in the product, they'll make more of an effort to help you - including negotiate on the price.

Some people really get into haggling or beating people up on price, but I've never cared for turning it into a battle. As someone who used to be a buyer/negotiator in his day job, I always preferred to make it more of a conversation and negotiation, trying to get to the win-win. So long as you're buying 5+ yards, the general negotiation tips I'd give are to ask the price and then whatever they tell you... it's too high (that price is just their starting point). If you can't do the math in your head, bring a calculator and work out your extended price (price per yard x number of yards), and work up a reasonable counter-offer that would be great for you (your starting point). Don't be afraid to talk about it being a nice fabric, but don't gush too much or they'll think you can't live without it and will buy it at any price. In that conversation, you'll hopefully find a place in the middle you can both agree upon. Don't be afraid to walk away if it's just too much or you're just not feeling it, but I wouldn't make a habit of constantly playing that game (it's very time-consuming, for a start).

When you go to do your fabric shop, it might also help to either have cash on hand (or be able to withdraw it from an ATM). Most of the vendors I've dealt with have been willing to offer a cash discount, on a sizable order it's worth running a few doors down to the nearest ATM.

On the stage fabric front, another advantage they may have that could be helpful for you... wider rolls. Most clothing/upholstery fabric comes on 55-60" rolls, but I've seen curtain/scrim fabrics on offer that were 2x wider (or even a bit more than that).

I hope that helps!

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Re: Fabric for vehicle skin?

Postby trilobyte » Tue May 20, 2014 9:53 pm

One more tip... if you're going swatch-hunting in LA, make sure you're getting business cards with the swatches. You may want to bring some envelopes with you, and put all the swatches from a given store in an envelope with their business card, and repeat the process for all the other places you get swatches. When you get home, lay the swatches out on a table with the biz card, make sure there's good light, and then take a picture of them - or get a piece of card stock and staple the card and the samples you got from them onto the card. I forgot to keep 'em organized, and then wound up on a scavenger hunt the next time I went back to find the place that had the sample I liked... d'oh!

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Re: Fabric for vehicle skin?

Postby missteavee » Fri Sep 08, 2017 1:36 am

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