Call Us Today! 1.310.639.6000

Yearly Archives: 2015

10 12, 2015

Gold Satin Austrian Fits Gold Rush Theme Perfectly

By |December 10th, 2015|Products, Projects|1 Comment

We love it when a design plan comes together for our clients, and especially when we get to be a part of it! Recently one of our amazing clients, Legacy Production Group, needed to create a design motif for a huge yearly meeting with a rather specific theme—“The Gold Rush.” Led by the creative mind of designer (and Legacy Production Group president) Tom Gorman, they knew they needed a backdrop that would be instrumental with helping give the mood and feel for this theme, but also still be versatile enough to be used for other parts of the event, too.

TT_Gold Satin Austrian, Legacy Production Group 3

He decided on using our gorgeous and decadent 30’h x 60’w Gold Satin Austrian drape from our Timeless and Traditional Drapery Collection, to really help give a golden, shimmery look to the “Gold Rush” aspect of the event. However, for the other parts of the event, they were able to create completely fresh and unique looks by simply changing the decorations around the ballroom, and adding in some dramatic theatrical font lighting to the drape. What a difference it made to the golden drape! You can clearly see below that the satin fabric is a PERFECT example of a substrate that reflects lighting beautifully, so you aren’t necessarily “stuck” with the color of the fabric itself. The design can be unlimited with its overall look by simply adding in some colorful lights!

TT_Gold Satin Austrian, Legacy Production Group 1

We love it when we are able to help our clients with their creative visions, and Tom and his team did an extraordinary job with designing not one, but several, great looks for this special event.

TT_Gold Satin Austrian, Legacy Production Group 2

7 12, 2015

Pipe and Drape: When to Buy, When to Rent

By |December 7th, 2015|Products|2 Comments

A question we get a lot here is, “When is it better to rent, and when is it better to buy a Pipe and Drape System?” Of course there are always a lot of great reasons for each option, but today I’d like to focus on three primary factors to consider when you are evaluating whether to buy or to rent.

Lun Gui_4

Digitally printed booth drapery sets a booth apart, and can be used with standard purchased or rented hardware

For those who want the same pipe and drape set up for multiple events, it makes sense to buy the exact pieces needed for that set up.  But if you want the ability to adjust the setup (maybe have a smaller booth for one event and a larger booth for another event, or one color of drapes for this month’s event and a different color for next month’s event), renting offers you greater flexibility to choose different options without investing in new pieces each time.


If you do several trade shows per year, and typically have the same booth set up each time, then it makes sense to go ahead and purchase your hardware. Renting the same items over and over again can add up quickly.  On the other hand, if you only do 1 or 2 trade shows a year, it is likely more cost effective to rent the hardware.

PD_Booth Set-up w-yellow

For something unique, consider renting the hardware and purchasing custom drapery

Renting is perfect for larger one-off events in which you need a lot of pipe and drape but don’t expect to need that quantity in the future. On the other hand, if you hold large events frequently each year, and repeat the event year after year (such as if you put on a large trade show three times a year, for multiple years, and use 300 booths), you may want to invest in purchasing the pipe and drape upfront rather than renting it over and over.


Hardware and drapery for a single booth doesn’t take up much space, and therefore can be easily stored by almost anyone.  However, when deciding whether it works better for you to buy or to rent a large quantity of pipe and drape, consider whether you have the space to store the items in between events. Large quantities of Pipe and drape can take up a lot of room, so if your storage space is limited, you may be better off renting it as needed.

PD_Blue Pipe and Drape

Rental pipe and drape is perfect for a short term event, as in this music performance

One other thing to keep in mind – it is not always an either / or situation.  You can also choose to combine buying and renting!  Perhaps buy the hardware, but rent different drapery for each event.  Or rent the hardware while purchasing custom drapery (perhaps a digitally printed backdrop or other custom drape)!

3 12, 2015

Hands On

By |December 3rd, 2015|Authors, Company, Sew What Team|3 Comments

Last weekend when enjoying tamales at the local Mexican restaurant, I spoke with other table guests about the hours of preparation, not to mention the skills required, to prepare and serve this delicious traditional dish.  In this very consumer centric society where everything is fast fast fast – now now now – and “I needed it yesterday,” it is almost that we are encouraged to “hide” the work that goes into what we do. Be it cooking a dish – or creating a backdrop. The appreciation isn’t in how long it took to create the product, but rather in whether or not it arrived on time. It seems that almost ALL the focus is simply on the end product and the moment of delivery.

I would like a dollar for every call that comes in to us here at Sew What? / Rent What? on a Friday at 3pm; and then the astonishment that ensues when we have to break the bad news that we can’t have a 40×40 sewn up before close of business that very same day.  I have even been asked – “can you get them to sew faster?” Answer.  NO!

But perhaps we are encouraging this type of mindset by not sharing all the layers of preparation and the man hours required to create our giant textile masterpieces. And so – here’s a nice little short video that Tom Underhill created for us.  It shows off the amazing and skilled sewing team doing what they do best.  Crafting and creating these often massive stage drapery set pieces.

I do hope you will enjoy a little of the “hands on” side of our company.  Please – may we introduce to you the sewing room?!

1 12, 2015

Austrian, Brail, and Contour Curtains

By |December 1st, 2015|Education, Products|2 Comments

Relatively frequently, we get requests from customers stating that they want “an Austrian Curtain” but when we dig a little deeper to learn more about their design vision, we realize that what they really want is a Brail Curtain or a Contour Curtain.  It is not that these customers don’t know the look they are after – they definitely do! – but instead that they assume that any drape that uses a lift system is called an Austrian.  The fact is, however, that although Austrian, Brail, and Contour Curtains operate in a very similar fashion and provide similar visual effects, these three drapery styles do have distinct differences, both visually and in the method of construction.

Austrian and Brail Curtains are generally used as Front Curtains (aka Main or Act Curtains), when theatre personnel would like to fly the Main Curtain but have little or no loft space.

When a traditional backdrop or curtain is flown into the loft, an amount of loft space in excess of the height of the curtain (plus the batten or whatever it is hung on) is required.  For example, a curtain that is 20 feet high might require at least 21 or 22 feet of loft space, or even more, depending on the sight line of the audience.  In the case of an Austrian or Brail, however, the drape gathers upon itself as it opens, requiring little space in the loft – when in the full open (raised) position, it can easily be hidden behind a proscenium or border, taking up very little loft space.

Through the use of a series of lift lines on the back of the curtain, the Austrian or Brail is raised and lowered, with the bottom of the curtain drawing up against itself as it makes its way to the top.  Equal amounts of lift are given to all of the lift lines, so that the entire curtain raises and lowers in a smooth, fast, and even fashion.

SS_Lady Gaga 2

This photo illustrates the characteristic evenly spaced swags of an Austrian Curtain.

What is the difference between an Austrian and a Brail?  Both use the same lift line system, and both raise and lower in the same manner.  The difference is in the fullness and how the drape appears in the lowered (closed) position.  When in the down position, a Brail Curtain resembles a regular curtain with vertical fullness (appearing similar to a pleated traveler curtain).  An Austrian, however, has additional horizontal fullness created by gathering the fabric along the vertical seams, creating a series of swags even when the drape is in the lowered position.

This video illustrates how an Austrian Curtain raises and lowers.

Typical fabric choices include theatrical satin and silky chiffon.  Austrian and Brail Curtains required motorized rigging systems to allow the lift lines to be raised and lowered simultaneously in a quick and smooth fashion.  However, if the appearance of an Austrian Curtain, with its lovely “smiles” of fullness, is desired, but the Austrian is intended to remain in the down position, a non-operable Austrian Curtain can be made.  This Austrian can be rigged directly to a batten, and as such, a specialized motorized rigging system is not required.

A Contour Curtain is made as a single panel with great fullness, usually about 200% of the curtain width.  While the Contour Curtain has lift lines, similar to an Austrian or Brail, in the case of the Contour Curtain, each lift line is independently operated.  The curtain is raised and lowered by a series of draw lines attached to the bottom edge of the curtain and running through rings on the back to pulleys attached on the batten above the curtain.  As each of the lift lines act independently, by varying the lift on the individual lines, the curtain takes on many different contours.  One of the most common ways of utilizing a Contour Curtain is to provide lift the center lines enough to provide an opening.  This allows a performer to make a dramatic entrance, framed by a gorgeous scalloped curtain.

Monsters of Folk at the Greek

This photo of a Contour Curtain (shown with Monsters of Folk) illustrates how the different lift lines operate independently.

The type of track or rigging required will vary depending on the size of the Contour Curtain, the number of lift lines, and whether a motorized application is preferred.  As with a non-operable Austrian Curtain, a Contour Curtain can also be used as a stationery decorative set piece; in that case, since it would not need to open or close, it can be hung from a batten with fixed lift lines.

24 11, 2015

Explaining the Differences between Muslin and Canvas

By |November 24th, 2015|Education, Fabrics|1 Comment

We get frequent requests for custom backdrops and cycloramas, sometimes to be used in their plain fabric state, and sometimes to be hand-painted onsite for end use as scenic backdrops. With those requests, we find that occasionally there is a confusion regarding the differences between cotton canvas and cotton theatrical muslin.

Cotton canvas is a sturdy woven fabric used for a variety of home and commercial purposes. There are two types of canvas – plain and duck cloth. Plain canvas, which has a looser weave, is used in applications needing greater flexibility, such as shoes and backpacks. The tighter-weaved duck canvas (also called duck cloth or scenery canvas) is more commonly used stretched over frames (for paintings, other art pieces, and theatre scenery pieces) and for items such as tarps and tents, and is available in both flame retardant and non-flame retardant options.

As duck cloth accepts dye very well, lighter weight versions are manufactured in a variety of colors for use in retail displays and special event décor. Canvas, whether in the plain or duck weave, is not suitable for theatrical backdrops or cycloramas.

Cotton muslin has a similar plain weave to cotton canvas, but typically has a smoother, softer hand. Lighter weight versions are used for a variety of applications, including apparel, whereas heavy-weight theatrical muslin is traditionally used for backdrops and cycloramas.

Heavy weight theatrical muslin (also known as scenic muslin) is used extensively in theatres, film and television studios, photography studios, and live music performances, primarily in the form of custom made stage backdrops and cycloramas. As it is available in a standard version in widths up to 126 inches and in an extra wide version in widths up to 39 feet, scenic muslin allows for the creation of seamless panels as large as 38’ h x 180’ wide. If seamed, there is even greater flexibility in size.


Scenic backdrop for Little Big Town, hand-painted onto heavy weight theatrical muslin. Photo Courtesy Bobby Simmons

All widths of heavy weight theatrical muslin are available in a natural color (the undyed color of the fabric), and depending on the width desired may also available in additional colors, including bleached white, black, light blue, dark blue, light grey and dark grey (not all colors are available in all widths). Theatrical muslin is sold as both flame retardant and non flame retardant.


The same scenic backdrop for Little Big Town. Under UV lighting, the under-painting is displayed. Photo Courtesy Bobby Simmons.