Aluminet Shade Cloth

AEZ Aluminet Shade Cloth

FAQs, Experiences, Techniques, and lots of Opinions

Click on the thumbnails to enlarge the photos.
Note: this page is dedicated to Aluminet, but much of the information here could apply to any KNITTED shade cloth.
Please comment below if you have information to add.

What is Aluminet? Who makes it?

Aluminet is reflective shade cloth that is knitted with plastic high-density polyethylene strands. It comes in different “percentages of shade provided” (density and color of the HDPE strands): 30-87% shade. Durable, stretchy, versatile. Intended use: greenhouse fabric.

Aluminet comes in reflective plastic on both sides and doubled-sided: reflective one side, colored on the other. Photos below show blue and black double-sided Aluminet.

The ‘shadiest’ Aluminet (Shading: 85-87%) is double-sided black: reflective side goes up, black side down. Here is what Polysack says: “A double layer net used to shade playgrounds, swimming pools and large open areas. Used for home pergolas, garden balconies, permanent and movable shade structures. The net reduces temperatures by up to 8 degrees C and UV radiation by up to 95%, creating a pleasant climate.”

Double-sided Aluminet also comes with blue or green on the colored side.

I want to make a shelter out of Aluminet. Any suggestions?

The best teacher is experience. Get a 20’x 20’ chunk of the stuff months before BM, and experiment with it in your livingroom or back yard. Play with it. Start with something simple.

It’s light, weighing between 0.01 and 0.02 pounds per square foot, and so 1,000 square feet of the material weighs no more than 20 pounds. The shelter’s structure needs to deal with the wind, not the weight.

The fabric is stretchy. Design your structure so that the Aluminet is tight: this will create a nice shape and help to prevent excessive flapping in the wind. You can see some examples of ‘fabric tension structures’ here:

Polysack has Acrobat Reader documents with great drawings and ideas for simple structures icluding windbreaks. and click on the Installation Guides link at the top.

Get some of the snap-on grommets that are made for Aluminet. See Plastic Grommets at greenhouseMEGAstore. They can be taken off and moved around, allowing you to experiment with your creation.

Aluminet can also be purchased in a variety of sizes and shapes, including custom sizes, with the edge reinforced with webbing and brass grommets every foot or so: be sure to order ahead.

Note: Taped edges with grommets all around sounds like a good idea, BUT it costs more, takes more delivery time AND, worst of all, creates a fairly non-stretchy edge whereas the Aluminet is very stretchy. Result is that you will have a bathtub shaped ‘roof’ of Aluminet UNLESS you provide for some sort of tall pole in the middle. Here is a photo of the bathtub effect with a taped edge piece of Aluminet. It’s uplifted in this photo, but the Aluminet would also flop down into our faces! Get a center pole, or otherwise set up your Aluminet to deal with this effect, if you have taped your edges. More photos here

How about sewing Aluminet?

Roger folds and sews nylon fabric ‘tape’ over the cut raw edges of the seams on the Mayor’s tent. This creates good reinforcement of the seam and a finished appearance on the inside of the shelter.

Kerry’s Answer: Using an ordinary sewing machine, I’ve attached strips of Aluminet into a tight-fitting cover for a 26-foot geodesic dome frame, which easily protected us from 35-MPH winds. I used high-quality polyester thread, 1/2-inch flat seams, and a “reinforced stitch” for stretch fabric. (A reinforced stitch is a “two steps forward, one step back” stitch.)

To prepare for each seam, first I pinned the ends of the fabric together where the seam was to start and end. Next I repeatedly stretched the fabric between pins and pinned the halfway point, eventually resulting in pins about every foot. This preparation ensured that the fabric ends would line up when I finished the seam.

One distributor of Aluminet says that they use “an industrial 5-thread serger with polyester thread” to attach pieces. Translation: two pieces of shade fabric are stacked with their right edges aligned, a simple straight stitch joins the pieces, and the fabric to the right of the straight stitch gets an “overlock” stitch to encase and control the fabric edges. But comparing the results of using a high-end serger and using an ordinary sewing machine, I believe that using a serger is more than is needed.

Jill’s Answer: Aluminet is a made from long pieces of twisted mylar-like strips (about one-eighth inch wide) that are sewn into a 7 foot width of fabric by sewing across the twisted pieces of mylar (at 90 deg. to the mylar) with heavy thread about every one-half inch. Wider widths of Aluminet are made by sewing the 7’ wide fabric together to make 14’, 21’, etc.

Aluminet has very little stretch either lengthwise or width-wise, BUT it does have about a 25% stretch across the bias (45 degrees to the mylar thread). Any large structure should start with a small prototype to test how this stretch will affect the finished project. Or if you happen to be a math major, figure the stretch into the design. NOTE: percent of stretch *might* vary with “shadiness” of Aluminet. the 25% stretch was determined on “50% shade”. most playa-dwellers buy “70% shade”.

Here are several PDF web pages with information about how to join Aluminet using the clamp-on grommets, lacing pins, hooks etc. This information is from the manufacturers of Aluminet. Some of these fasteners could be made with coat hangers, and would be easier than sewing.

If you want to cut and sew Aluminet into more complex shapes, you will need to be careful about: 1) the stretchiness of any seams that are on the bias: a typical “straight stitch” made with lightweight sewing thread will break when stretched 2) creating MOOP (small pieces of mylar, etc) on the playa: cut the fabric and test (by pulling on it, flapping in wind, etc) to see if small pieces come off.

One way to deal with both problems is to “bind” any cut edges with bias tape (available at fabric stores or make your own by cutting fabric into strips across the bias). Use a ZIG-ZAG stitch (and good quality thread) to apply the binding tape: this stitch will stretch with the bias tape!

If you don’t have any ‘bias cut’ seams, the easiest way to sew Aluminet is with a lightweight nylon string. Harden the end of the string with a flame to make the end stiff and so it doesn’t ravel. Then take a looping under/over stitch to sew the Aluminet pieces together. This works VERY well and can be done on the playa!