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Monthly Archives: January 2010

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27 01, 2010

Deadening Sound

By |January 27th, 2010|Education, links|1 Comment

While many of our customers revel in loud sound (rock music, anyone?), we also have customers interested in sound absorption.  Now, for heavy duty sound absorption, you really need a professional installation of acoustic products.  There are a variety of products, from acoustic panels to foam products to acoustic insulation.  Commercial recording studios, for example, use a variety of these products (and more), along with specialized building techniques to make sure that sound from outside does not enter the studio (and vice versa).  But there are other instances in which a customer simply wants to minimize the sound transfer a little, perhaps deaden sound a little in confined spaces, and one of the ways to do this is through custom stage curtains.

In some occasions, stage curtains make a lot of sense, both visually and for sound absorption.  For example, a customer may want that “theatrical curtain” appearance but also want to absorb sound.

What are the factors to consider when purchasing custom stage curtains when sound absorption is also needed?  The three main factors are: fabric weight, nap thickness, and curtain fullness (pleating).  The heavier the fabric, the thicker the nap, and the greater amount of fullness (i.e. the greater amount of fabric) that you put in an area, the greater amount of sound that will be absorbed.

For example, I wouldn’t recommend a flat (unpleated) drape in Poly Muslin if the customer is looking for sound absorption.  Poly Muslin has no nap and is relatively lightweight.  It is great for a cyclorama or theatre backdrop, but not for sound absorption.  However, I would recommend a heavy weight velour (such as 25oz Memorable Velour) with 100% fullness.  The combination of the heavy weight and nap of this velour, along with the 100% fullness (with twice as much fabric along the width of the drape than on a flat unpleated drape) allows for greater sound absorbency.  A drape such as this can give you the luxurious look of a theatrical drape along with a pretty good level of sound deadening.

But what if you want to deaden the sound a little, but theatrical drapery doesn’t fit with the look of the space? Well, we recently came upon an interesting product that I thought I’d pass on.  I have never used it myself, but I thought it was fascinating.  It is called PaperForms Acoustic Weave Wallpaper.

Essentially, these are modular 3-D tiles made from recycled paper that you can apply to your walls with wallpaper paste for permanent installation (or with double-sided tape for temporary installations).  You can create a number of different patterns with the tiles (there is a patterns sheet available on the website), and you can even paint them.  Pretty cool – and nice to find a product like this that is do-it-yourself, affordable, and an interesting contemporary design.

25 01, 2010

FR Regulations in Australia

By |January 25th, 2010|Education, Flame Retardancy|0 Comments

Recently I came upon some information sent to me a few years ago by Greg Hooper of FireShield Australia.  I had asked him if he could give me the the scoop on flame retardancy regulations in Australia.  I am obviously quite familiar with FR regulations in the United States, and I also have a smattering of knowledge regarding European requirements, but I knew almost nothing about Australian requirements. 

Flame retardancy of hanging fabric (drapes and curtains) is covered by two standards of the Australian Building Code.  Standard AS 1530.3 covers curtains and drapes that are actually hung (such as on curtain track or a pipe batten).  If a curtain or drape is attached to the wall (such as stapled to the wall), it is considered a wall fixture and would be covered by ISO 9705.

Regardless of whether a curtain or drape is certified flame retardant in another country (such as the United States), in order to be used in Australia, it must be tested to the Australian standard by a laboratory that has been accredited by the National Association of Testing Authorities of Australia (NATA).  There are  a couple of ways that this can be done.  The first option is to contract directly with a testing laboratory (such as AWTA) for testing.  This will cost around $650 US ($720 AUS) per fabric.  A total of 10 samples, each 24″ x 18″, are required.  The average turnaround is two weeks, with results faxed and mailed to the customer.

The second option is to contract with a flameproofing company in Australia.  If it is a type of fabric that they have previously treated and had tested, the flameproofing company may already have lab test results on file; otherwise they will treat the sample(s) and arrange for lab testing.  The cost using a flameproofing company will vary, depending on services rendered, but obviously, if the flameproofing company has to send the samples to a testing lab, the cost will include the lab test fees plus the fees from the flameproofing company.  The process may also be a little different if the fabric is inherently / permanently flame retardant; if a chemical flame retardant treatment has not been used, I am not sure if a flameproofing company (which specializes in topical treatment) can assist or if you would need to go directly to the lab for testing.

Certainly some things to think about if you are taking the tour to Australia…

22 01, 2010

Window drapes??

By |January 22nd, 2010|Authors, Education|1 Comment

You sew, don’t you?  So why can’t you fill my order for some window drapes?

If I had a dollar for every explanation that I have offered new callers who were in the market for economical house drapes, I’d be cruising the Med right now.  It seems logical enough.  Indeed, we do know how to sew, we sell fabrics, and we make curtains and draperies.  But there are so many differences between residential-style draperies and those which we produce for the concert stage and theatre.  Here are just a few of those differences:

Types of Fabrics:  We are very limited in our fabric range compared to that of a retail fabric store.  Our materials must all be of very durable fibers, must come at least 54″ wide, must be available in large runs and have little or no dye lot inconsistency.  Many of the materials milled for our purposes are made in very commercial and utilitarian color lines.  There aren’t a lot of choices in cotton velour colors, for example – just three blues in total, 4 red tones, and one very ugly god.  Good luck finding carpet to match.

Flame Retardancy:  We typically deal in materials which are flame retardant – or treated to be such.  The laws in the United States require that we put only positively tested FR materials into public spaces such as theatres and concert halls.  In fact, the same requirements apply to all public spaces with drapery style textiles!  Many of our materials have lots of chemical flame retardancy applied to them.  Don’t know about you – but I would not want those chemicals hanging at my windows or on my bedspread or upholstered onto my sofa.

Cutting and Finishing Tolerances:  Our drapes are all hand cut and typically very big.  We once made a 1200 lb drape – it took a forklift to get it out of the building.  As you would imagine, the sizing tolerances are loose in pieces that big!  Even in a standard theatrical drape, acceptable industry tolerance would be within an inch to an inch and a half.  Of course, that would never work in a home kitchen window.  In comparison, residential tolerances would be within 1/4 to a half inch.

Sewing Machines: We use walking foot upholstery machines to create our durable and economical stage draperies and backdrops.  No blind hems, no invisible seams.  When it comes to thread, we use heavy spun nylon that is as thick as fishing line, and we stitch right through the face of the fabric!  No – just because it seems less expensive does not make it look any better in your dining room.  Trust me.

Pleating Styles:  We box pleat.  And knife pleat.  We even shirr occasionally.  But no – French pleating, triple pinch pleating, and other such fancy top finishes aren’t our forte.

So – where should you go for home drapes?  For off the shelf drapes in a variey of very nice materials and fashion colors, I personally think Restoration Hardware has the best selection.  The prices are fair for the very elegant textiles that they offer.  The sewing quality of their pre-made panels is also very good.  If you want something custom – try a local residential drapery and upholstery provider.  Ask for references first and be prepared to pay a 50% deposit (at minimum).  Let them measure and, if at all possible, let them install, too – it will be worth it to have the pieces hung and installed “just so.”  Hey – it is your HOME.

Happy house hunting!

20 01, 2010

Focus On: Velour vs. Velvet

By |January 20th, 2010|Education, Fabrics|2 Comments

Rather frequently, we are asked the difference between velvet and velour.  On that note, I thought I’d offer an explanation.

Velvet usually refers to an apparel (lighter) weight fabric.  It is a woven napped (cut pile) fabric that historically was made from silk, but today can be made from a variety of fibers, usually cotton or synthetic fibers (such as polyester or nylon).  Some velvets are used for theatrical drapery, most notably Crushed Velvet.  Apparel velvet is typically not flame retardant, but velvets intended for theatrical use often are treated for flame retardancy.

Theatrical velour (sometimes referred to as theatrical velvet), also a napped (cut pile) woven fabric, has a similar feel and appearance to velvet, but it is typically of a heavier weight, usually ranging from 16oz up to 32oz per linear yard.  Cotton velour has been the standard in theatrical drapery for many years, but recently synthetic velours are being used more frequently, due to the inherent flame retardancy and greater durability of the synthetic fabric.

Knit velour, typically made from cotton, is often used in apparel (remember that velour lounging suit you had in the ’70s).  At first glance, knit velour may appear similiar to velvet or theatrical velour, as it has a soft nap feel.  However, it is actually quite different.  As a knit fabric (rather than a woven fabric), it is soft but has a great deal of stretch, making it comfortable to wear but not generally appropriate for use in theatrical drapery.

As a side note, the word “velour” is originally a French word translating to  “velvet” in English.  No wonder it is confusing here in the U.S.!

18 01, 2010

January Anniversaries

By |January 18th, 2010|Company, Sew What Team|0 Comments

January seems to be the time for new beginnings.  The holidays are over and the new year has begun.  I guess one of the “new beginnings” at Sew What? includes hiring employees. 

After the slow anniversary month of December, I am happy to report that we have THREE anniversaries in January.

Shane, Account Manager / Creative Director – 5 years

Veronica, Sewing Machine Operator – 4 years

Vicente, Assistant Cutter – 3 years

Happy Anniversary to all!  We are so glad to have you as part of the team.