Summer seems to have finally ended here in sunny SoCal – and now out come the sweaters and the scarves. Which brings me to thinking about the environmental effects that seasonal changes have on many of the fabrics that we cut and sew (and sell) right here at Sew What? Inc.
Generally speaking, the trend over the last few years has been to shift over to polyester textiles, especially Avora and Trevira polyesters – mostly for their extreme durability in terms of being flame resistant – often times for the life of the fabric. Because flame retardancy is added during the manufacture of the fibers themselves (rather than through a topical treatment of the fabrics), the fibers (and the resulting fabrics) are considered inherently and permanently flame retardant. The flame retardancy will not be removed through washing or dry-cleaning. Needless to say, these technological changes in fiber content and the resulting fabrics has been industry changing for the entertainment softgoods market.
But there is yet another benefit to staying within the polyester based fabric lines – and that is their resistance to climate changes. Unlike a cotton or a cotton mix – you won’t get shrinking with moisture. Traditional cotton velour will shrink as much as an inch and a half every 10 feet (which can be significant on a 40 foot high drape). Cottons are topically treated with chemicals to ensure their flame resistance – and did you know that those chemicals will “frost” if exposed to high moisture? You have likely seen some old school drapes that has what look like water marks on them. That’s where the chemical treatment has been exposed to water or high moister and the chemical has effervesced.
Polyester velours, such as Encore Velour – offer the buyer both flame resistance and weather resistance. NOT that I am suggesting you hang them out in the rain. That would not be wise as they are not UV resistant! But the fact that you can have poly drapes in a venue where there are heavy shifts in moisture or temperature – (such as when water cooled air conditioners are employed) or if you have dehumidifiers in use just “some” of the time.
I also like the polyesters, such as poly muslin, for their color fastness. We have in rentals some drapes that have been well washed – and have worked hard – and the color is still good and solid. For black drapes where you don’t want a “fade to grey” the poly based products again win hands down.
I’m a fan of 100% cotton for specific uses – the cotton velours are more gorgeous and the absence of any man-made fiber means that they aren’t reflective. This can be a lighting designers dream! Love to see traditional cottons used in traditional theatrical environments – with both controlled climates and controlled lighting conditions.
The 100% poly products bring it home for venues and locations that are high traffic – high wear – and even high humidity. Gymnasium retrofits, cafeterias, touring productions going into a variety of venues, house of worship environments with lots of drapery changeovers. And of course concerts – rock and roll means the drapes work hard. The polyester textiles will do so much better in the long run. More durable and more likely to successfully pass flame testing and a variety of venues over an extended period of time.