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Monthly Archives: November 2016

29 11, 2016

Kabuki Drops and Solenoid Systems

By |November 29th, 2016|Education, Products|2 Comments

The drama of the kabuki reveal is one of the most exciting bits of concert stage magic. By combining soft goods (a stage backdrop fitted with specific top finishes) with hardware (a solenoid system), you gain the ability to hide and then reveal your vision to the audience.


The Kabuki Drop

What it is: A Kabuki Backdrop can be just about any type of backdrop – plain or digitally printed, small or large.  The primary factor that distinguishes a Kabuki Backdrop from a regular backdrop is the presence of D-rings on the top edge (either sewn on or attached via Velcro).

How it works: The kabuki effect works on a simple principle – the use of electrically-powered magnetic systems called solenoids.  A solenoid resembles a small box with a pin sticking out.  A series of small solenoid boxes are attached in a daisy-chain row on a truss.  At one end, this chain of solenoids is plugged into electricity and attached to a controller switch.  The Kabuki Backdrop is hung on the solenoid pins via the D-rings. When the time comes, the crew pushes a switch.  The switch causes the pins to retract and, as a result, the pins release the D-rings.  The Kabuki Backdrop then falls.

The two types of kabuki: A single kabuki utilizes one set of solenoids.  The backdrop starts out hanging in full view of the audience, blocking the view of whatever lies behind it on the stage.  When the solenoids are fired, the kabuki backdrop drops to the floor, revealing the scene behind. A double kabuki utilizes two sets of solenoids, as well as a fabric “diaper.”  The diaper suspends the kabuki drape high above the stage, using two sets of solenoids.  When the first set of solenoids is fired, the bottom of the backdrop drops to the stage floor, revealing the backdrop to the audience.  When the second set of solenoids is fired, the kabuki drape (and the diaper) drops to the stage floor.

Single Drop Solenoid System

For a single drop system, one set of solenoid heads is needed.  The number of heads required is based on the width of the kabuki drape to be hung as well as the specific solenoid system used, but typically 1 head is required for every 4′ to 5′ of drapery width.  So, in the diagram below, 10 heads are used for a 40′ wide drape.


The solenoid heads are attached together with a short XLR cable (in this case, a 5′ cable) between each head.  At one end, a long XLR cable (in this case, 100′) is attached to the solenoid head.  That long cable goes down to the stage floor to be connected to a power supply box, which is then connected via an Edison cable to a power outlet off-stage.

A manual remote box is also attached to the power supply.  On the remote is the “button” that, when pushed, retracts the pins on the solenoid heads.  When the button is pushed, the backdrop drops to the stage floor.

Double Drop Solenoid System

For a double drop system, two sets of solenoid heads (or twice the number as on a single drop) are needed.  In this case, for a 40′ wide Kabuki Drape, 2 sets of 10 heads each (20 heads in total) are used.


Generally, the two sets of solenoid heads are hung in separate rows on the same truss – one set on the front of the truss and the other set on the back of the truss.  On each set, the solenoid heads are daisy-chained together but are not connected to the other set.  This is because the two sets will be operated separately – one set for the first drop and one set for the second drop.

For the same reason, the two sets of solenoid heads are connected to the power supply box by separate long XLR cables.  These XLR cables plug into separate slots on the power supply.  A 2-way remote box is then connected to the power supply.  The two release buttons on the 2-way remote box correspond to the XLR slots on the power supply, meaning that the push of one of the buttons will send the release signal to one set of solenoid heads and the push of the other button sends the release signal to the other set of solenoids.

Typically, the D-rings on the top of the kabuki drape are hung on the back set of solenoids, while the D-rings on the bottom of the attached diaper are hung on the front set of solenoids. Initially, the drape is suspended in the air just under the truss, enveloped in the diaper like a sling.

The front set of solenoids is fired first, dropping the bottom of the diaper and allowing the backdrop to unfurl and be revealed to the audience.  When the back set is fired, the backdrop drops to the stage floor.

28 11, 2016

The Holiday Season Is Already Upon Us!

By |November 28th, 2016|Products|1 Comment

‘Tis the season around Sew What?/Rent What? Inc. to start getting geared up for a fantastic and magical holiday season again. I know— with the temperatures being in the 80s and 90s across much of the nation (and especially here in sunny So. Cal.) it’s hard to believe that we are already at that festive time of year again, but we are. And we couldn’t be more excited!


Looking for something that you can hang up for your event right out of the box or hamper? Check out our versatile, decadent, and STUNNING flame retardant Austrian Draperies and Zip-Walls, Poly Muslin Backdrops, Pewter Textura Swags, Rich and Velvety Velours, and everything in between in our eclectic Rental Drapery Collections. We are sure to have the perfect drapes to help set the stage for all of your holiday-themed shindigs!


Have something more specific in mind for your upcoming special concerts, holiday parties, NYE bashes, yearly trade shows, or church productions? Let our team of custom drapery EXPERTS help create sensational soft goods for your very special holiday events. We know that our incredible sewing team can custom-build your own one-of-a-kind theatrical draperies from your own unique vision!


Or consider mixing and layering custom built draperies with some coordinating rental draperies, to help create a completely dazzling look without breaking your bank. Either way, contact a sales rep today so that we can be sure to have exactly what you’re looking for in plenty of time for all of your intimate or larger-than-life holiday soirees!


21 11, 2016

Flame Retardant Fabric Options for Theater and Event Drapery

By |November 21st, 2016|Education, Fabrics|2 Comments

You may not realize it, but there is a wide range of flame retardant fabrics available to meet a variety of needs. Whether you are looking for a Grand Drape for a theatre, specialty drape for a special event, or a backdrop for a music tour, there is a fabric out there for you.  Today, I thought I’d tell you a little bit about the different categories of theatrical and special event fabrics.


Velvets / Velours are used primarily for theatrical drapery, especially Grand Drapes.  Certain velours (especially Encore Velour) are also used for masking drapery.

Duvetyne / Commando Cloth. These brushed finish fabrics are generally used for black economy masking drapery and stage skirting.   Colored Commando Cloth is also used for economy theatrical and exhibit drapery.

Scenic FabricsThese woven fabrics are typically used for backdrops and cycloramas.  Scenic fabrics also work well for projection surfaces.

Scrim, Leno and BobbinetteThese net-like fabrics are used in conjunction with specialty stage lighting for projection and special effects.

Sheers, Satins and Silks.  These lightweight, shimmery fabrics are frequently used for special event drapery as well as for Austrian Drapes, Swags and other specialty drapery for music tours.

Stretch Fabrics are often made into shapes such as triangles and stars, which are then stretched to a taut surface, suitable for projection or lighting.  Tension Fabric Shapes are a favorite stage design choice for Houses of Worship.

Masking, Blackout and Lining. These opaque fabrics can mask off areas of the stage from sight, as well as block out some or all light.  Depending on the level of opacity needed, as well as the style of drapery chosen, these may be used on their own or as a lining to a different fabric.

Event and Display Fabrics are lightweight fabrics most often used as exhibit booth drapery. Most are permanently flame retardant and easy care.

Printable Fabrics are used to create digitally printed scenic backdrops via a grand format digital printer.  Fabric, mesh and vinyl printable fabrics are available, with fabric used most frequently indoors and mesh and vinyl used most frequently for outdoor shows.

Outdoor Fabrics are durable coated polyesters and PVC products (vinyl and mesh) which stand up well to the elements, allowing for use at outdoor shows.

For a downloadable whitepaper answering questions on fabric choice, see our whitepaper, “Making the Best Fabric Choice for Stage Draperies

15 11, 2016

Rental Drapes Can Easily Create Fresh And Fabulous Looks For Your Stage

By |November 15th, 2016|Products, Projects|1 Comment

Sometimes our amazing clients have their bands going on tour all over the world, and want durable, beautiful, and versatile drapery for their stage design, without having to also worry about storing custom built goods in between show sets. The perfect solution is using our incredibly diverse selection of gorgeous flame retardant rental stage draperies that are ready to go, right out of the hamper!


Recently we had Steven Douglas, the Lighting and Show Designer for The Killers, come to us wanting a sensational backdrop for a special show on their tour. It needed to be something that could play with the stage lighting so that they could change the mood and feel of the design for different parts of the concert. But it also had to be something that was truly spectacular and dramatic in its own right. He and our senior sales rep Shane Nelsen decided that the perfect drapes for them would be from our Timeless and Traditional Drapery Collection—our 30’h x 60’w Black Chrome Illusion Austrian backdrop, with a couple 30’h x 10’w Crimson Encore Legs and a 40’w Crimson Encore Border to help frame the stage for this exciting band.


Mixing and matching drapes with different fabrics, colors, textures and substrates can really make your stage design pop, which is exactly what it did for this show. Photographed beautifully by band photographer Rob Loud, we were thrilled to see how stunning their stage design turned out. We highly recommend that you contact a sales rep today to see that using some captivating drapes from our rental inventory, or even just adding some accent pieces to stage drapery you might already own, is an excellent way to create a fresh and alluring stage design for each and every one of your shows or special events!


7 11, 2016

Check Us Out on Instagram!

By |November 7th, 2016|Company, News, Products, Projects|1 Comment

Did you know that Sew What? Inc is on INSTAGRAM? Our handle is @sewwhat.rentwhat

Jump on over for lots of photographic inspiration and be sure to follow our photo feed! Here’s a direct link to our Instagram page!

Custom sewing. It’s our passion, our bread and butter. It’s how we got started and what we live for. Our custom-sewn drapery products have graced the stages of many of the biggest names in music and theater, dressed some of the top fashion show runways, and brought color and drama to major trade show exhibits here and abroad.


We serve these main market areas: Theatrical Drapery Manufacturing, Touring Draperies for Concerts, and Custom Sewn Products for Special Events & Trade Show Exhibits. The portfolios below display many examples of our work and may offer you some ideas on what’s possible with custom drapery.

Sewing Portfolios:
Theatre, Stage, and Backdrop Portfolio
Special Events Portfolio
Rock and Roll Portfolio


Questions about your project? Call us at (310) 639-6000 or contact us online with questions or for a free quote. If you can dream it, we can sew it!