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Yearly Archives: 2016

12 12, 2016

Throwback Monday – Sonic Youth Project

By |December 12th, 2016|Projects|1 Comment

It doesn’t need to be a Thursday to have a throwback project day!

Often we are asked about how to achieve a fully “scaleable” stage design with drapery and textile products. This brings me to present a throwback project that was a Dan Hadley design which utilized free standing elements that were skinned with cloth and could be used in any quantity and in any position on stage depending on the venue.  Perfect solution for a small to medium sized theatre tour.

Check out these unique textile “Cut Drop Light Boxes” which we crafted for Dan Hadley’s Sonic Youth Tour design.


The fabrics used on this project were Cotton Sharkstooth Scrim and flame retardant Natural Seamless Muslin

In this extremely unique design, fast fold dimensional frames were clad with custom fabric covers. These freestanding sculptures were combined with internal lighting fixtures to create lightbox-style staging elements that could be positioned as needed at each venue. These pieces served more than just one function. When lit from within, the opaque lining materials captured the light and allowed light to escape from the organic images only. The cotton sharkstooth scrim was used to line the cutouts, so that a fully functional lightbox was created when the internal lighting was employed.


When the structures were front lit – one discovered that they were sculpturally designed shapes with painted exterior scenic treatments and authentically “vintage” burnt edges. The art/sculpture elements were extremely unique, offering a different look and feel for every show. With the  aged and dramatic finishing the overall effect was “deconstructed urban architecture.” Certainly a favorite stage design for us when reflecting on its unique appeal.

The light boxes were framed and had easy-on easy-off enclosures which we designed around the lighting and framing parameters.

You can see more of our Rock’n Roll project portfolio by visiting this link:

Questions? We welcome any questions that you have about stage draperies and their uses – general or specific to your need. Our motto is “There are no silly questions.” We are happy to assist. Just email us, contact us online, or call us at (310) 639-6000.

7 12, 2016

A Lot To Be Thankful For!

By |December 7th, 2016|Company, Rent What Team, Sew What Team|1 Comment

We have a LOT to be thankful for around here at Sew What?/Rent What? Inc., and Thanksgiving is the perfect time of year for us to take a moment, sit back, feast on yummy food, and really appreciate our wonderful little Whatters family! This is exactly what we did a few days before Thanksgiving this year with our annual Thanksgiving Potluck Lunch Extravaganza. Everyone brings their own favorite holiday dish – main course, side dishes, desserts, and everything in between – to share with the entire company, and it is always a HUGE hit!

From homemade tamales and chicken mole, to pasta and ribs, to salads and rolls, to every kind of desert you can think of (including our Purchasing Agent Kim’s insane “slutty brownies,” consisting of layers of chocolate chip cookie, Oreos, brownies, and more decadence on top), we really had a taste of heaven right here in our own warehouse. We were in a complete food coma afterwards, but it also gave us all the energy needed to finish all that needed to be completed before the long holiday weekend.

With our gorgeous Stardrop LED drape setting the scene, and a fantastic Mariachi band playing in the background, it was so lovely being able to sit together and spend some time catching up on each other’s families and hobbies, and enjoy some of the silliness that the holidays seem to bring out in everyone. Having our Production Manager Araceli and Project Lead Roberto singing along with the band, these two really helped energize everyone else to get up and dance. I don’t know how we managed to do so with all that delicious food weighing us down, but it was the perfect way to end the festivities with a burst of swirling and twirling activity!

We look forward to this celebration every year, and I gotta say, every year it does NOT disappoint! We truly do have a lot to be thankful for—a amazing company and staff that we can be truly proud of, really incredible clients, an exciting industry that is never dull, and being able to help bring smiles to shows, concerts, and special events all over the country. Bring on the holidays—we’re more ready than ever!



6 12, 2016

That not all sewing is equal…

By |December 6th, 2016|Authors, Company, Projects|1 Comment

That not all sewing is equal – and knowing how to sew doesn’t mean you can sew everything.

Over the years I admit to having taken on sewing projects that, on the surface seemed completely feasible – but then once I got further into the task at hand it became apparent while I knew well enough how to sew, that I couldn’t in fact “sew that.”

Fun to look back and reflect on the challenges that I conquered – and those that are now just stitch-in-time memories.

Well, there were those Power Ranger costumes back in the very early ‘90s.’ An entire set of three in fact for a family that was really feeling the Halloween spirit.  These were the formative years in terms of sewing.  91-92-93.  Everything was new.  Nothing had been tried before. All fabrics were approached is if they were equal. This required that I seek out stretch fabrics in bright costume colors and then with the aid of a store bought costume pattern I had to figure out how to “resize” to fit all.  No – one size does not fit all.  And adding an inch here – well let’s just say I did not get all the inches in all the right places.  I made my Halloween deadline – and I think I also made about .40c per hour by the time all was said and done.  But I did learn some stretch fabric sewing skills, as well as some pattern theory lessons. I concluded that “clothes weren’t really my thing” and moved quickly onto coffins. (This is where the company name comes from – as upon request to line some coffins I asked … “You want me to sew what??????”.


Jump forward a year – these coffins took a different type of approach.  Sewing, yes.  Fabric, yes. Foam and padding, yes. Staples, ouch yes. Glue, indeed very messy.  And voila – there I was, now an upholsterer! Not so many curves here – straight lines, pinch pleats, padding and figuring out how to get it to all stay in place in a durable way.  Not so durable that a body would go in there….. no, these were for Halloween Candy and Novelty displays.  I sat in, on, under and on many occasion, was heard dropping some choice words as the challenge of using glue and staples proved to be messier and harder that I had thought it might be.  Heavy velvets and dupioni silks, woven brocades and pattern matching to boot.  10 coffins, $100 dollars apiece, less supplies.  Good news, it wasn’t a loss so at the very least I was finally moving in the right direction.  Each coffin taking an 8 hour day I was happy to step away feeling like I had some confidence in these heavier household materials than I had with the garment materials just a year earlier.


Word spread (slowly) that I could sew.  Soon it was some stage skirting for riser decks, followed by some window drapes, and a set of baby crib bumpers and duvet to boot.   Some big mistakes were made in this learning time phase – such as trying my hand (again) at some garments and also making residential style window dressings – let me tell you THAT was a bad move.

After we incorporated the business, we grew in the direction of the sewing skills that I had which I was most likely “not” to make mistakes on.  All the while trying our hand where risk permitted at some new and unique items.  Table Linens, Party Chair Covers, Cloth Napkins, Barricade Covers, Costumes for Cruise Ships, Residential Window Coverings, Load Bearing Truck Tarps, Antimicrobial Shower Curtains in ridiculous volumes……… are all items that we have tried our hand at and graciously stepped away from after learning our lesson….  “not our sewing skills”.


So, after 20 years I did recently circle back and decide to try my hand at making some garments, and it has been fun to see that while it still isn’t my strong point, that I have come a long way in all these years and those sewing lessons learned allowed me to at the very least make some items that I am prepared to wear in public. Proudly I present some leather biker pants a la rock star style…. I loved it that I was able to wear something that I made when performing this past summer at the Redondo Beach Lobster Festival.


At any rate – Custom Backdrops, Cycs, Scrims, Main Stage Theater Drapes, Borders, Teasers, Legs and Tormentors, Masking Curtains ……….  That is a sewing list that that will induce the “Sew This!”

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!