Call Us Today! 1.310.639.6000

Monthly Archives: September 2015

29 09, 2015

Killer Shows Don’t Come From Catalogs!

By |September 29th, 2015|Authors, Company, Products|1 Comment

At Sew What? Inc., we have always approached the entertainment industry’s textile needs as being unique and custom. As yet we haven’t found a “one size fits all” solution that really works for ‘every’ unique textile design need.  So you won’t be seeing glossy covered catalogs coming out of our offices any time soon.

Rather than a catalog – we like to think that we offer “a cornucopia of products and some mad sewing skills”……. all to be picked when ripe and added to the textile recipe as taste so desires. At Sew What? we consider what we do to be TEXTILE ARTS at its finest.  And thanks to a team of diversely skilled and extremely creative staff, we are able to keep a broad variety of product lines available for our concert and event designer clients to choose from.

DIGITAL PRINTING is done in house – on our own Vutek UV Curable printer. DIGITAL scenic BACKDROPS and  MURALS can be printed on a wide variety of  background materials. Our printing team brings to the table years of experience in image and file manipulation, as well as thousands of yards of experience in grand format direct-to-textile printing. We have road-worthy substrates on hand to create durable backdrops, and only offer those materials that will pass the (ever more) stringent Flame Retardancy requirements at venues across the country (and sometimes even internationally). Straight up backdrops – or more complex mixed media fabric collages – are all within our capabilities.  Printing team – sewing team – sales team – quality control team. Reminds me of an old cartoon I used to watch – “Wonder Twins ………Activate!”  The skills of many bring out the best in our products.


Straight up TRADITIONAL THEATRICAL DRAPERY SEWING is of course our “plato principal” (main course) here at Sew What? Inc. We typically run 3 teams at the sewing tables – each a team of 5 people.

Pinning, seaming, pleating and finishing are all team-oriented tasks that turn rolls of raw cloth into gorgeous main stage drapery and theatrical masking drapes.

Theaters across the country have drapes with our “yellow sewing labels” stitched to them as part of their house drapery kits. I recently visited a venue that had a sewing label in their drape that was not only hand written by me – but was dated 1996! That was our very first year in business – and so pleased to see our product holding up so well 18 years later.


MIXED MEDIA and APPLIQUE backdrops are of course all the rage – and this is really where our staff gets to shine. …….  We have been going crazy lately filling up UNIQUE BACKDROP IMAGE GALLERIES on Flickr.  Have you seen them? If not, I encourage you to check out these inspiration images if you are in the market for a unique backdrop.  Be prepared to see textiles, LED lighting, UV painting, digital printing, pattern making, textural and dimensional elements along with the occasional “bling” all collide!  Backdrop madness, I tell you.  And we just love it!


We are many – but many make for light work, AND bigger parties! If you are ever in the neighborhood, why not drop us a line and come for a 10 cent tour of What?-Ville?  You just never know what you might see coming off the sewing tables or thru the print rollers…..

23 09, 2015

SW Tailgate Party Is One For The Books!

By |September 23rd, 2015|Company, Rent What Team, Sew What Team|0 Comments

Here at Sew What?/Rent What? Inc., we’ve been working very hard all summer long. After all, we have the most amazing clients in the world and want to be able to offer them the highest quality products, in the *quick* time frames they sometimes need them in. But that doesn’t mean we don’t like to let loose once in a while, and blow off some steam!

tailgate casual pic 2

We recently enjoyed our Second Annual Potluck BBQ and Tailgate Party, right here at our Rancho Dominguez warehouse. As it was a hot summer day (we’ve been having a lot of those lately!), the party was set up outside in the parking lot under our very own rental Pop-Up Dressing Room tents (minus the side walls and accessories), which worked out perfectly! And not only is everyone here extremely talented and skilled in their prospective fields, but they are also mean chefs in the kitchen, and took very seriously the “call to action” to bring their favorite potluck dishes.

tailgate casual pic 1

Megan and Adam Duckett, company owners, provided a wonderful variety of ice cold drinks, and the main dishes with all of their fixin’s, too. These included hot dogs, hamburgers, kielbasas, and even black bean and veggie burgers, all which were grilled to perfection by our very own Carol Noe. Then the rest of the Whatters brought the most sinfully delicious side dishes, the likes of which we’ve never seen before. The buffet tables featured a huge variety of food, including pasta and potato salads, hot wings, ceviche, homemade dips, and of course, beans and chili (plus a whole lot more)! And don’t even get me started on the homemade desserts—peanut butter rice crispy treats, bread pudding cakes with caramel sauce, fresh fruit of all kinds, pastries, cookies, donuts, and so much more that I can’t even list them all! With some rockin’ tunes playing on the stereo, we ate and laughed the lunch hour away with the help of our great friends (and next door neighbors) from Lowy Enterprises.

sew what chair

To top it off, Megan surprised everyone with the most incredible gifts, too, in appreciation for the entire staff’s extra efforts this summer. Everyone got their own brand new—never seen before—custom Sew What tanks/t-shirts as well as custom Sew What beach chairs with a Rent What keychain/bottle opener attached. It’s always a blast to be able to hang out with the Whatters Family outside of the regular work environment, and adding these unique gifts showing management’s appreciation really made the day that much more special and fun!



Thanks from all of us to Megan and Adam for such a great event!

22 09, 2015

Understanding the Differences Between Cycloramas, Scrims, and Backdrops

By |September 22nd, 2015|Education, Products|0 Comments

Because the terms “cyclorama,” “scrim,” and “backdrop” are often used interchangeably, it can get confusing to understand what each term really refers to.  To help clarify, I thought I’d give a quick rundown on the differences between these pieces.


A Cyclorama (or “cyc”) refers to a white or natural seamless flat muslin panel.  It is always the piece that is hung furthest upstage (aka at the very back of the stage) and is usually used for sky effects (often through frontlit projection).


Scrim is made from a very specific type of netting called Sharkstooth Scrim.  Depending on lighting techniques used, its appearance varies from opaque to translucent.  It is nearly always seamless and can be hung in various locations on stage.

A Painter’s Backdrop is a white or natural flat muslin panel (seamed or seamless) that is used in various locations onstage to help create the scene.  Often the scene is painted on (hence the name) – either by the stage crew or by a professional scenic painter.  Other times, the scene is projected onto the painter’s backdrop.  Alternatively, to create a similar effect, a digitally printed backdrop can be used rather than a painter’s backdrop.

And “backdrop”?  Well, it is just a generic term for something (usually a drape of some sort) that is behind something else – such as behind the orchestra at the Philharmonic or behind the President during a press conference.  It could be muslin, it could be velour, it could be another material.  It could be flat, it could be pleated, it could be a white or black or a solid color or painted or digitally printed.  Pretty much, the sky’s the limit.

Hope this helps.  And keep in mind, if you aren’t sure of what to call something – not to worry.  You can always call us and describe what you need – we can help you out.

15 09, 2015

Thinking About Standard Stage Sizes and Drapery Needs

By |September 15th, 2015|Education, Products|2 Comments

What are standard stage / drape sizes? Is there such a thing? How many drapes are needed? Is there any commonality across multiple venues? How do these touring shows select their drape sizes???

I realized today that I field a great number of queries regarding “standard” stage sizes – specifically – are there any?

Well, of course every theater and venue is different – and every production has different sight-line needs. BUT – I guess that I feel comfortable making a few generalizations that probably will help those looking to determine what might be “standard” as opposed to not.

Firstly – most stage scenes create an opening that is “landscape” in its alignment – meaning that typically the stage opening will be wider than it is tall…..

Secondly – the height of the stage is typically around 50-55% of the width of the stage…

So – here are some basic parameters….. I hope that this is helpful to those that are in the learning or planning stages.


SMALL THEATRES with traditional proscenium 24’h x 40’w “ish”

FULL SIZE THEATRE with traditional proscenium 30’h x 60’w “ish”

  • One US backdrop
  • One US Cyc
  • One US bi-parting masking drape
  • One Mid Stage bi-parting masking drape to split stage for opening act
  • Four sets of legs
  • Four borders
  • One downstage main drape  – to travel, lift, kabuki drop or “sniff” away.

INDOOR ARENA setting – typically a truss structure for concert touring purposes

  • One arena masking package usually 35’h x 120’w used to create separation within an arena from backstage and FOH
  • One US backdrop
  • One US Cyc
  • One Mid Stage bi-parting masking drape to split stage for opening act
  • Four sets of legs
  • Four borders
  • One equipment “coverlet” package to mask out tech and musical equipment prior to the show or during the opening act.
  • Two pop up portable dressing rooms
  • One downstage main drape – lift, kabuki drop or “sniff” away.

OUTDOOR ARENA SCAFFOLDING PACKAGE for outdoor shows which include speaker stack wings and a roof skin 30’h x 60’w “ish” with 2 @ 24’w “speaker stack wings” (totaling 108’w)

  • One US backdrop or Cyc usually Vinyl or “outdoor blow through” Mesh
  • One Mid Stage kabuki drape to split stage for opening act
  • Four sets of legs
  • One equipment “coverlet” package to mask out tech and musical equipment prior to the show or during the opening act.
  • Four pop up portable dressing rooms
  • One downstage main drape – lift, kabuki drop or “sniff” away.
  • One vinyl stage skirt for FOH and or runway
  • Two vinyl mesh wing speaker stack covers typically 2 sides front and off stage
  • One logo or graphic vinyl mesh header to mask trussing and roof skin attachments.

Of course there are no rules – use as many or as few drapes as are needed to create the look and feel. Shows that are heavy on hard staging will usually have less drapery elements. The opposite often also applies. Shows that are trying to travel lightly with fewer trucks tend to go for softgoods over hard staging. US tours that are trucking from show to show can have many, many semi-trailers worth of gear. Easily 18 trucks for a big show…. or more for an arena show!

14 09, 2015

Tips on Cleaning and Maintaining Stage Curtains

By |September 14th, 2015|Education|0 Comments

Occasionally, we get requests for information on how to clean and maintain drapery.  There are a number of factors to consider, including the fiber content of the drapery fabric, whether it is a napped fabric (such as a velour) or smooth faced fabric (such as Poly Muslin or satin), and whether it is topically treated for flame retardant or is permanently flame retardant.


Dust accumulation and repeated dry cleaning can damage drapery.  Periodic maintenance can extend the life of your drapery. We recommend performing certain maintenance steps twice each year.  For all drapery, carefully inspect the drapery for any holes and tears; have these repaired immediately to prevent further damage.  For traditional drapery with a napped or brushed surface, we recommend brushing the drape with a soft bristled brush to remove any accumulated dust.  If the drape is pleated, make sure to brush inside the folds of the pleats to remove any dust that has accumulated with those folds.  For Austrian Curtains, make sure to brush out any dust that has accumulated within the “smiles.” First brush down the back of the drape, starting on the left side and moving toward the right.  For napped fabrics (such as cotton velours and napped synthetic velours), brush the face of the fabric twice, by first brushing against the nap and then brushing with the nap.  For brushed surface fabrics, such as Encore Velour and Commando Cloth, or smooth faced fabric, such as Poly Muslin or satin, a single brush down the face of the fabric is sufficient.


Cotton Velours as well as any other fabrics that have been topically treated for flame retardancy must be professionally dry cleaned.  Request the use of 100% pure solvent dry cleaning solution to help protect the flame retardant chemical treatment.  Keep in mind that, even with this type of dry cleaning, the flame retardancy chemical will dissipate over time and repeated cleaning, so have your drapery tested periodically for flame retardancy and re-treated by a professional as needed.  Spot cleaning with a commercial dry cleaning solution may be done as needed for large or noticeable stains.  However, this should be done as a last resort as spot cleaning can result in a noticeable difference between the portion that was spot-cleaned and the remainder of the drapery.

Synthetic fabrics that are permanently flame retardant (such as Encore Velour, Banjo Cloth, and Poly Muslin) can be professionally dry cleaned or laundered.  For laundering, very small drapes (such as pipe and drape panels) can be laundered at home, while larger, heavier drapes must be professionally laundered.  Keep in mind that laundering may cause slight shrinkage. When dry cleaning, request the use of fluorocarbon solvents under easy care conditions.  If laundering, wash lights and dark separately.  Hand wash or machine wash on the “Delicate” cycle, using cold water and a mild detergent such as Woolite® and do not use bleach.  If machine washing, do not overload the washer.  Hang dry or tumble dry at low heat.  If machine drying, load the dryer no more than one third full. Once the drapes are dry, immediately hang or roll the drapery to minimize wrinkling.  Spot cleaning can be done using a commercial dry cleaning solution or spot cleaning stick or pen products such as Tide To Go®.  Typically, commercial dry cleaning solution is more effective on heavier weight and/or brushed surface fabrics such as Encore Velour and Super-Vel, whereas stick or pen stain may be used on a smooth fabric such as Poly Muslin.  However, as with cotton fabrics, spot cleaning should be done as a last resort as it may result in a noticeable difference between the area that was spot-cleaned and the remainder of the drapery.



If your drapes will be stored for later use, do not store in plastic.  Instead, store in a Sew What? drapery bag or in a canvas bag or hamper.  To minimize wrinkling, fold along the width and then roll along the length of the fabric.  Store in a dry, well-ventilated area.  When ready to use, if possible, hang the drapes several days before needed to allow any wrinkles to “hang out.”  If necessary, the day before a performance, you can lightly mist the back of the drapery with warm filtered water to help any remaining wrinkles “hang out.”  For smaller drapes, you can mist the back of the drape with warm filtered water and lightly press with a warm iron.  When ready to store the drapes again, make sure that they are dry prior to folding / rolling and storing.