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Monthly Archives: April 2015

29 04, 2015

Truly Seeing an Artist IN the Drapery…… How Concert Drapery Design Brings an Artist’s Personal Touch to the Audience.

By |April 29th, 2015|Clients, Projects|2 Comments

I got to thinking today about what a difference it makes when a designer truly captures the essence of an artist in the fabric choices made and the textile design elements of a stage set.  I don’t mean to point out something simplistic – like pink for girls and blue for boys.  I mean little design details that are much more unsaid and yet perfectly suit and represent the artist.

For Beyonce, the floating fabric mirrored orbs hovering delectably above the stage set and amongst the lights, reminiscent of a diamond or jewel in a wedding ring.

For Mariah Carey, the combination of sheer voiles, powdered femme tones, dyed silk roses and custom crafted butterflies hidden discretely among soft swags.

For Stevie Nicks, the chiffon-esque soft toned drapery and borders, each with hand cut and carefully uniquely carved edges that billowed and flowed under fans much like her dresses, scarves and hair.

Ste Nic_2

For KISS, the heavy black durability and glossy finish of a rip stop kabuki drape – with the heavy metal liquid mirror bling of their logo just jumping out into the audience.  Hard meets glam. Rock meets mirrors and makeup.

For Trans Siberian Orchestra, the soft construction of an Austrian drapery for the main show reveal – and then the warmth and touch of Christmas in the selection of gentle red toned velour. Christmas glamour and electric rock comes to life in the music and the drapery.

For Rod Stewart, a custom cloth to honor his heritage. The Stewart Family Plaid in the round. A piece that brought us great pride upon completion. A sewing challenge of epic proportions!

Rod Ste2_129

The list might go on and on – as there are just SO many examples that we have seen over the years.  How lucky we are to be a part of the textile creations. And to have a hand – however small – in bringing an artist full circle into a show that is who they are.

27 04, 2015

Mixed Media Drape Practically Glows

By |April 27th, 2015|Digital Printing, Projects|2 Comments

On February 24th we received an inquiry through our website to quote a backdrop set consisting of (3) 26’ x 12’ panels – one center panel with a digitally printed image on a black background, along with two solid black side panels.  The client emailed the artwork which Megan Duckett and I took a look at and decided to get the client on the phone to discuss a couple different options.

While brainstorming during the phone conversation, Megan suggested that, along with making the two side panels from IFR Black 22oz Encore, we could also applique the center digitally printed image onto IFR Black 22oz Encore to give the illusion of a floating skeleton (this would have the added benefit of ensuring that that black tones matched for all three pieces).  We also discussed doing some cutouts on the center panel to allow light reflection to show through, as well as some UV paint treatments to make certain areas of the image pop.  The client liked the idea, so we got to work!

3DG_mixed_media_drape_in_progress It takes a couple of people to sew this size of a digitally printed backdrop, especially with tight turnaround time.

In and of itself, the drape is absolutely spectacular and extremely engaging.  Our in-house “be-dazzler” Shane Nelsen hand-painted the digitally printed image with UV paint to highlight certain elements of the artwork.  Now, when under the magic of a UV lamp, this drape practically bursts with electricity onto the viewing eyes of its audience, creating a spectacular vision that will not soon be forgotten.


In this photo, Shane applies UV paint at night under a UV light to make sure he gets it right!

We have so much fun helping our clients’ magnificent ideas become a reality in the most breathtaking ways possible, and doing mixed media and digital printing is a sure-fire way to wow the crowd each and every time.  We received an email from the band’s tour manager saying that the band was really happy with the backdrops, so happy in fact that they ended up also ordering a smaller version of the center panel!


We were so excited to discover this photo on Flickr of the backdrop being used on tour – it looks great!


23 04, 2015

Thinking Beyond Poly

By |April 23rd, 2015|Education, Fabrics, Flame Retardancy|2 Comments

While many of our clients still prefer cotton when choosing fabric for custom stage curtains and backdrops, over the years, the use of polyester fabrics for stage and event drapes and soft goods has become increasingly popular.

But what you may not realize is that, while “polyester” is a standard term, there are a number of different “brand name” polyester fibers, including Avora® and Trevira®.

What differentiates Avora® and Trevira® from “plain old” polyester?  A major difference relates to the molecular structure of the fibers and how that structure affects the flame retardancy of the milled fabric.  With Avora® and Trevira®, an organic compound is added at the molecular stage, during the creation of the fibers themselves, thus making the resulting fabric inherently flame retardant.  By contrast, regular polyester does not undergo that same process, therefore the flame retardancy of polyester fabrics can vary.


This beautiful Grand Drape, constructed for Gridworks for Princess Cruises “Queen Victoria,” is made of IFR 26oz Velour, a Trevira® fabric.  Photo By: George Davidson of Gridworks.

Want to learn more?  Download our printable white paper, Stage Drapery Fabrics – Avora® and Trevira® Polyester

Questions on IFR vs FR Fabrics? See our whitepaper, Does “IFR” Mean it’s More Flame Retardant than “FR”?

Questions on Flame Retardancy Outside the US? See our whitepaper, “Flame Retardancy Regulations Throughout the World

22 04, 2015

From Coffins to Concerts…

By |April 22nd, 2015|Authors, Company, Projects, Rent What Team, Sew What Team|2 Comments

… In a stroke of luck, a macabre turn of fate changed everything and lead to the birth of Sew What? Inc.

I was 20-something when I arrived freshly from my native Australia and found my way into James Ramsey’s “Fright Craft” stagecraft company specializing in amusement park installations and special events.  A stage electrician by way of an apprenticeship, I got to business as I hung lights, drew electrical lines, rigged sets and loved the life of a rockin’ roadie.  I’d have gladly continued down that path…but luck intervened.

The specialty event company got an unusual request: build ten coffins for a Halloween attraction at the world renowned Knott’s Berry Farm amusement park in California.  Although that was a bit afield from their usual business, the company accepted the assignment.  But they had no one to upholster the satin linings into the coffins.  James asked all employees if anyone knew how to sew, and I spoke up without too much confidence, “I do!” (Grandmother was a tailor, Mother a knitter. I was more of a “shopper”, if you know what I mean?…. but the crafting skill set had somehow rubbed off……)

For a week I sat in coffins in a garage-style warehouse; with yards of material, a staple gun and a rented sewing machine, making each casket a prop to die for.


In the process of learning, I thought, this could actually be fun…..  And so in future months, as word spread of my newly discovered talents, I took on other independent projects, starting with sewing drapes and linens for entertainers and party planners, then onto specialty fabric projects for Las Vegas casinos.  With my love of rock and roll, I soon began sewing drapes and backdrops for a few rock concerts.  That brought an end to my work as a stagehand, and Adam and I launched the new company, Sew What? Inc., in 1997.

Since that time, the company has grown into one of the leading providers of custom sewn drapes and fabrics in the concert and theatrical industries, creating spectacular sets for such A-list names as Madonna, Kid Rock, Rod Stewart, Lady Gaga, and even the cover of the iconic 1000th issue of Rolling Stone.  I could not be more thankful for those clients who have trusted and supported us along the way. To think that we are here some 18 going on 19 years later!

Images below: Photo shoot and finished iconic cover of the 1000th edition of Rolling Stone Magazine.


I believe that our formula for success is, and has always been, simple – personal drive, pride of ownership, and a commitment to improvement by employing the most qualified staff possible and embracing cutting edge technology.  The results speak for themselves – the prestigious Dell/NFIB Small Business Excellence Award for business innovation, Inc 500/5000 Award as one of the fastest growing privately held businesses in America, PC Magazine’s SMB 20 Award for technological innovation for small and medium-sized businesses, and the Stevie Award for “Most Innovative Company of the Year – Up to 100 Employees.”

Who knew that sewing a couple of coffins could lead to all this?  Sometimes, the secret to success is just being there when dumb luck happens to fall on your head!

Customized coffin, anyone? Put me on speed dial…………


About Sew What? Inc.
Sew What? Inc., located in Rancho Dominguez, California, is a well-known stage and theatrical drapery manufacturer known for its dramatic theatrical drapes and fabrics used in major rock concerts, top fashion shows and other artistic staged venues. Their drapes have dressed the stages of Sting, Elton John, Madonna, and Rod Stewart to name a few. The company has received numerous awards for innovation, including the Dell/NFIB Small Business Excellence Award, and was featured on the 1000th cover of Rolling Stone. For information, contact Sew What? Inc. at (310) 639-6000, visit us online at or email

About Rent What? Inc.

Committed to providing an ultimate experience in drapery rental products and customer service, Rent What? Inc. is proud to be woman owned and operated. The firm, located in Rancho Dominguez, CA, has set the stage for artists including Beyonce, Nickelback and Demi Lovato. In addition to its large inventory of Inherently Flame Retardant stage drapes, traveler tracks and portable dressing rooms, the company is widely regarded for its basic pricing schedules, innovative damage waiver policy and fast and friendly service. For information, contact Rent What? Inc. at (310) 639-7000 or visit

Join the Sew What? / Rent What? conversation on Linked In.

16 04, 2015

Improving Our Rentals Through Clever Packaging

By |April 16th, 2015|Products|3 Comments

We are always striving to improve, grow, and expand our capabilities here at Sew What? Inc. and Rent What? Inc. and truly enjoy doing so! Recently our Warehouse Manager Rick Garcia worked with our Receiving Coordinator Chris Greenhaw on an effective way to keep our rental Solenoid Kabuki Systems nice and cushioned inside our sturdy Pelican cases while transporting to our clients around the country. With an extremely high replacement cost on these items, we wanted to make sure that they are packaged in such a way that will keep them safe and sound for the sometimes thousands of miles they will travel between our warehouse and our clients venues. But of course we also needed to make sure that they were packaged in such a way that made it as simple as possible for our clients to be able to open up the kits and install them without a tangled up mess waiting for them inside the cases.


Together they developed a fantastic and creative way to pack everything up, using super industrial strength packing foam, and cutting out various squares that specifically fit the unique shapes of our solenoid kabuki heads, cables, power supplies, and remote triggers perfectly—and we (and our clients) couldn’t be happier! We love getting challenges like these because they truly help us grow as a company, and improve the quality of our products and services in a way that might not have happened otherwise.