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Monthly Archives: October 2009

6 10, 2009

Call for a Federal law on flame retardancy

By |October 6th, 2009|Flame Retardancy|0 Comments

In my years here at Sew What? Inc., I have become the resident flame retardancy “expert.”  While I readily admit that I don’t know it all, I do seek to constantly educate myself on the subject and to seek out others who can teach me .  But the more I learn, the more frustrated I become at the differing requirements throughout the United States.

In my opinion, the greatest single problem with the question of flame retardancy of stage curtains and other hanging drapery in the United States is that there is no real Federal law governing this subject.  Yes, there is a national standard (NFPA 701), but the fact is that NFPA 701 is not a law.  It wasn’t even developed by a Federal, State or local government agency.  It was developed by the National Fire Protection Association, a non-profit organization.

Now, I have the greatest respect for the National Fire Protection Association.  They are a terrific organization dedicating to minimizing the devastation that fire can have on life and property.  My issue is that it seems that we as a nation have abdicated responsibility in the area for FR standards to the NFPA. 

Yes, some states have taken on the challenge.  California, for example, has developed their own standards and regulations for flame retardancy – Title 19.  But in a way, this is really the problem – the fact that regulations vary state to state and even city to city.  Many states simply regulate that drapery must be flame retardant according to the NFPA 701 standard, but some states (such as California) have their own different standard.  Then you add to the mix the fact that certain cities (such as New York City) have their own regulations (which often differ from those of the state).  For example, the State of New York simply requires that drapery meet the NFPA 701 standard.  New York City, however, has a different more specific standard. 

So, what does a band do that will be performing at 20 different venues throughout the country?  Tour management has to make sure that all the set drapery meets the FR requirements of all the show locations.  So, if the band is playing in California and Boston and New York City and various other places throught the country, the band has to do the following:

1) Get a Certificate of Flame Retardancy from the drapery vendor showing the drapery meets both Title 19 (California) and NFPA 701 (various states) standards

2) Send a sample of each fabric, along with a use application, to the Boston Fire Department for approval

3) Get a special New York City Certificate of Flame Retardancy, signed by a certified NYC tester as well as notarized.

4) Depending on other other show locations, there could be even more – these are just the most common.

Doesn’t this just seem ridiculous?  Why can’t there be a single standard, backed up by a single Federal law or regulation, that would apply to all cities and states throughout the country? 

So my call is this – let’s come up with a single standard, regulate it on a Federal level, and get rid of all these differing state and local laws and regulations.  Sounds like a no-brainer to me!

2 10, 2009

Check out this Metal Mesh photo!

By |October 2nd, 2009|Products, Projects|5 Comments

Yes, I know that I have posted about Metal Mesh Drapes on several occasions – obviously I love the beauty and versatility of this material.  But this photo just amazed me – it is from the Decemberists show in June.


Doesn’t this look like an Impressionist painting?  And the amazing thing is, it is all done with specialized lighting techniques.  The drape itself is Silver Metal Mesh, similar to those in the Industrial Textures Series available in the rental inventory of Rent What? Inc., but with the right lighting – WOW!

Want to see more on the Decemberists project?  Check out our Rock and Roll Portfolio.

1 10, 2009

A Cabaret comes to life through drapery

By |October 1st, 2009|News, Products, Projects|3 Comments

A couple of weeks ago, we made a set of custom stage curtains that I thought were so beautiful and innovative that I just had to post about them.  I have seen a lot of gorgeous drapery over the years at Sew What? but these drapes really are something special –  a modern-day re-creation of gorgeous stage drapes reminiscent of a cabaret from 100 years ago!

Once the fabric for the drapes was chosen (IFR Crimson 15oz Synthetic Velour), it was time to decide how to incorporate the decorative images that were essential to recreating the mood of an old-style cabaret.  We considered hand-painting the images onto the drape (this would have been the obvious choice as recently as a year or two ago).  Instead, the design team thought “outside the box” and said, “Why not digitally print the image directly onto the fabric?”

John Rios of Grafix Jam was able to create the imagery in a digital vector file, which our printing staff used to print directly onto the fabric.  This was not an easy process – printing onto colored fabric presents a unique set of challenges – but our design team managed the task brilliantly, printing an under layer of white ink and then overlaying the colored image, to get just the right image color.

Our sewing staff then took on the challenge, sewing together the drapes and adding rich gold bullion fringe and trims.

The finished drapery, consisting of two main drapes at 30′ h x 31′ w, with a matching 8′ h x 60′ 6″ w border, turned out to be absolutely gorgeous – we are so proud to have made this on behalf of our sister company Rent What? Inc. and to know that, as part of their rental inventory, these drapes will be featured in concerts across the country.