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.