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Monthly Archives: July 2009

30 07, 2009

Fun & Challenging Projects – Part 1

By |July 30th, 2009|Projects|1 Comment

One of the things I love about working at Sew What are all of the fun and interesting projects that we work on.  I’ve shown you photos of many of our more traditional drapes, such as Austrians, but I thought it would be enjoyable to start a continuing series on some of the more unusual projects we have done over the years.  So, here is the first one:

World’s Largest Beach Towel

Back  in the summer of 2006, we were asked by a customer, “Hey. I know you make terrific custom stage curtains, but what about making a huge beach towel?”  Specifically, he wanted us to make a beach towel measuring 131 feet x 78 feet, in contention for the Guinness World Records™ award for World’s Largest Beach Towel.  Though we had never made such a thing, we said “Of course!” and set about it.  Here is what it took:

  • Finding a source for 1,200 yards of true cotton terry towel cloth, all in a single dye lot
  • Sewing together 1,200 yards of fabric into a single item –  just manuevering it around our sewing shop was a challenge.
  • Handpainting the logo design onto the towel according to the artwork proof provided by the customer

Pretty amazing, isn’t it?  It is one I will always remember.


Oh, and did I mention that that it required a large wheeled forklift to get it onto the beach in Hermosa, California?

28 07, 2009

The Future of Scrim

By |July 28th, 2009|Fabrics|1 Comment

You may not realize it, but if you have gone to the theatre, you have probably experienced the magic of sharkstooth scrim (the material used to make scrims).  A scrim is a commonly used piece of stage curtain magic. Due to the scrim fabric’s unique capabilities, when lit correctly from the front, a scrim appears opaque. When the front light is turned off, however, and objects behind the scrim are lit, the fabric appears transparent.   So, from the audience’s perspective, it appears as if the stage is completely empty and then suddenly, like magic, the scene behind the scrim gradually appears into view.

In addition, sharkstooth scrim fabric, with its rectangular weave, is dense enough to provide a dye-painting surface and still become transparent when back-lit, therefore making it an extremely versatile piece of stage scenery.

My concern is, how long will sharkstooth scrim remain available?  Scrims are typically sewn as seamless, so that there are no seams in the fabric to interfere with the “trick of the light.”  The most common way to utilize sharkstooth scrim is to sew it “railroaded,” meaning that the width of the fabric becomes the height of the finished scrim (allowing for top and bottom finishes). As a result, in order to make a scrim that is, for example, 30′ high by 50′ wide, you would use about 17 yards of 31′ wide Sharkstooth Scrim.

The problem is, very specialized wide looms are required to weave Sharkstooth Scrim, especially the wider widths such as 31′ and 35′.  Most of the looms are in Europe and are 100 or more years old.  From what I understand, these looms aren’t being made any more, and the mills can’t even buy parts.  I have heard of mills buying old (sometimes broken) looms just to cannibalize them for parts for the looms they already have.

I worry – what happens when all of the looms stop working and there are no more broken looms from which to get parts?  Will there come a point in which we have to say goodbye to the magic of scrim because the fabric just can’t be made anymore?

I have heard of new producers of sharkstooth scrim, in Asia.  Perhaps they are making new looms?  I would love to find out if this is true, because it really saddens me to think that we might one day lose this terrific fabric.

24 07, 2009

Textile mills moving to Mexico? Here’s an alternative

By |July 24th, 2009|Fabrics, News|2 Comments

As you can imagine, the primary raw material that we use in our business is fabric.  We buy velours to make custom stage curtains.  We buy sharkstooth scrim to make theatrical scrims.  We buy printable fabric to make custom band backdrops.  All of these fabrics originate at the textile mill.

In general, those mills are located in the US or, in the case of certain specialty fabrics, in Europe (primarily the UK and Germany).  However, I have been hearing more and more about US textile mills opening new manufacturing locations in Mexico (especially since the adoption of NAFTA), with the primary workforce of these locations made up of local workers (though supervised by U.S. managers).  What does this mean for the future of the textile industry in the US?  I found an interesting article offering an alternative – Texas.

I have never been one of those people who is adamant on buying American goods, but I do worry about the future of the US textile industry and how it will affect companies like Sew What?

22 07, 2009

Five Common Misconceptions on Flame Retardancy

By |July 22nd, 2009|News|0 Comments

1) I don’t need to have my drapes checked for flame retardancy.  It’s not my problem.

When drapes are being used in any public space, whether it be a theatre, a school, a restaurant, or any other “public gathering place,”  it is the responsibility of the owner or user of the drapes to take appropriate steps to ensure that the public is safe while frequenting the space.  This includes ensuring that the drapery meets requirements for flame retardancy.  Otherwise, the best case scenario is a Fire Marshal may require you to remove the drapes.  The worst case scenario is that there could be a fire…

2) A flame certificate is good forever.

A Certificate of Flame Retardancy is typically only good for one year.  After that year, it is the responsibility of the owner/user of the drapes to confirm that the drapes remain flame retardant.

3) I am just using the drapes once, so they don’t need to be flame retardant.

Whether drapes are being used for a long-term permanent installation or just for a one-time, single-day event, they always must be certified as flame retardant.  You never know when a fire could break out.

4) IFR (Inherently Flame Retardant) means that the fabric will be flame retardant forever, no matter what.

Not necessarily.  While a fabric that has been certified as “inherently flame retardant” or “permanently flame retardant” or “durably flame retardant” is intended to remain flame retardant for the life of the fabric, environmental conditions can affect that “permanent” flame retardancy.  For example, a drape that has been hanging for a long time without maintenance may accumulate a heavy layer of dust on the drape.  You may not realize this, but dust is full of all kinds of flammable matter – so although the fabric (technically) is permanently flame retardant, the drape may become flammable.

5) No retesting is needed, especially not for IFR fabrics.

I recommend (and many Fire Marshals require) annual re-testing of all FR fabrics (including IFR/PFR/DFR) to ensure that the drapes remain flame retardant.  A certified testing company should always be used, and assuming that the drapery passes the test, a Certificate of Conformance (similar to a Certificate of Flame Retardancy) should be provided by the testing company.

Questions on Fire Retardancy? See our whitepaper, “Five Common Misconceptions About Flame Retardancy”.

21 07, 2009

Interesting website

By |July 21st, 2009|News|0 Comments

I discovered an interesting website today called TheatreCrafts.  There is a ton of information on subjects related to the theatre, including everything from scenic and lighting and rigging to props and makeup and even stage management.  The glossary of technical theatre terms is particulary great – you have the option to search in 4 different ways: word search, browse by letter, random word finder, and category.  Really fun and interesting to review.

One warning – this is a website from the UK, so some of the terms are different than those used in the US (for example, what we call Sharkstooth Scrim in the US is called Sharkstooth Gauze in the UK).  But, for the most part, the terms are interchangeable, and often the site does reference alternate terms (such as the scrim reference above).