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28 03, 2017

Flame Retardant vs Flame Proof

By |March 28th, 2017|Education, Fabrics, Products|1 Comment

With the focus of our business being on stage curtains for the music touring business, ensuring that the drapery we provide meets flame retardancy standards is a key issue for us and for our clients. However, we do find that some of our clients don’t fully understand the standards and ask for their drapes to be “flame proof.”

The reality is that no fabric is “flame proof.” Any fabric will burn in a fire. However, the goal of flame retardancy standards is to minimize that fire danger.

A fabric designated as flame retardant would be better described as “flame resistant” rather than “flame proof.” If a flame is introduced, the fabric may burn, but the flame spread will be “retarded” (or lessened) and, once the flame origin is removed, it will almost immediately self-extinguish. Flame retardant fabrics are typically designated as “FR” or “DFR/IFR.”

“FR” means that the fabric has been topically treated with a chemical to render the fabric flame retardant. As the flame retardancy chemical is on the surface of the fabric, it will be removed by laundering or other exposure to liquids. Multiple dry-cleaning may also diminish or remove the flame retardancy chemicals, and in time, even without cleaning, environmental conditions (such as high humidity) may do the same.

“DFR” (durably flame retardant) and “IFR” (inherently flame retardant) means that either the fibers have subjected to a durable flame retardant process during the manufacturing process this is typical of most, though not all, polyesters) or that the fibers are flame retardant on a molecular basis (such as Avora and Trevira). Since there is no chemical on the surface of the fabric, it can be laundered or dry-cleaned without any affect of the flame retardancy of the fabric.

Regardless of whether a fabric is designated as “FR” or “DFR/IFR,” we recommend (and some fire marshals require) that the fabric be retested and recertified annually by a certified flame retardancy specialist. This is because certain environmental conditions, such as surface dust accumulation or exposure to pyrotechnic chemicals, can cause an otherwise flame retardant fabric to become flammable.

For more information, please download our White Paper “What’s the Difference Between Flame Retardant and Flame Proof Fabrics?” (opens as a printable pdf) or visit the Flame Retardancy section of our website.


15 02, 2017

Think About Dye Lots When Planning for New Stage Curtains

By |February 15th, 2017|Education, Fabrics|1 Comment

Did you know………..A dye lot is a record taken during the dyeing of yarn to identify yarn that received its coloration in the same vat at the same time. Yarn manufacturers assign each lot a unique identification number and stamp it on the label before shipping.

There is always lots of talk and conversation when crafting large stage draperies about the fabric of choice and the number of “dye lots” that the project will utilize.  The concern seems greatest with cotton products, where we see far broader visual variances in the color tone and density between one dye lot and another.

As a client – this means that some thought should be put towards possible future re-orders or expansion of a project by phase.  For example – if you are just going to do the main stage drapes right now (utilizing say a Red 21oz Cotton Velour) but plan to add legs and border in 6 months time, you should be aware that there is significant risk of the legs and border not in fact matching the drapes when the time comes as they will be cut from a different dye lot of cloth.

We have a couple of cruise ship clients that will purchase a full dye lot of cloth and then store the remnant for replacement and drapery maintenance while out at sea. But indeed, we don’t always have budgets to allow such purchasing behaviors. So we would suggest that some mindfulness be applied when deciding what to order and when.  Try to order the drapes that will “play together” such as mains and main border, or leg sets and borders. That way variations in color will be far less evident if they are given some on-stage depth separation and perspective.

Polyester Velours seem to be less impacted by dye lot variations.  There are some very stable polyester velour available – such as Encore Velour (in 15 or 22oz)  – which are generally speaking near exact across dye lots.   Beware of large lot variations in materials such as wide muslin (in blues and greys) or in cotton napped velours.

If you are really concerned – then order a sample yard to be taken from the same “dye lot” that the order will be sewn from.

Hope that this little snippit of information is helpful to those of you who have wondered about dye lots. If there are ever any questions don’t hesitate to call us here at Sew What? Inc.

9 02, 2017

Fantastic Throwback Thursday…………….Sew What? crafts a custom applique stage drapery for the Motley Crue final tour

By |February 9th, 2017|Clients, Digital Printing, Fabrics, Projects|1 Comment

Did you know that Sew What? Inc created the custom sewn backdrop with applique pentagram for rock heavyweights Motley Crue, and their Final Tour?  In this concert backdrop we see a traditional theatrical Sharkstooth Scrim is used for the main backdrop cloth. Then a digitally printed applique element is painstakingly pinned, sewn and then trimmed away to reveal the opaque on sheer pentagram for use on the Motley Crue Final Tour.

What makes this type of stage drapery unique is that the various layers supply a variety of special effects when the piece is hung and lit appropriately.  The Sharkstooth Scrim is a very traditional textile that has been used for opera and ballet installations into theatres for many years.  Sharkstooth scrim is available both in 100% cotton and also now in an Inherently Flame Retardant polyester version.  This makes it even stronger and more reliable for the touring marketplace. Scrim is best known for its “magical” property which allows it to be front lit and appear opaque, or when the front lighting is removed and the items behind it are lit it then appears transparent.

See the transformation and creation of this special order backdrop as it is crafted right here in our facility:

Video By Tom Underhill

The 2015 leg of the Motley’s Final Tour included shows all across the globe. By the end of the tour, The Final Tour visited an impressive 5 continents (North America, South America, Europe, Australia and Asia) for a total of more than 164 shows. Durability is needless to say…. extremely important. We selected a 3 thread scrim for this project, and utilized heavy knit for the digitally printed element as it is both durable and wrinkle resistant. This piece was hung in front of a massive pyrotechnic effect. The effect was revealed when the front lighting was removed from the Sharkstooth Scrim.  WOW!

For more information on this project read the full press release: Stage Drapery Manufacturer, Sew What? Inc. Bids Farewell to Motley Crue on its Final Tour:

Wondering who made the rocking soundtrack for the video? Our featured artist, Brainspoon, is a rock ‘n’ roll punk band based in Los Angeles, California. A staple of the Downtown Los Angeles rock scene, the band has earned a solid reputation with its blistering live show and catchy songs.
Brainspoon’s music has been played on “Livation” on KXLU Los Angeles, KUKQ in Phoenix, and KKZZ in Ventura, as well as on Goldie’s Garage on Sirius/XM satellite radio. The band has been featured in Sparkplug Magazine, the Ventura County Star, and the VC Reporter.

The band consist of Lead Vocals: Daphne Vandervalk, Guitar and Vocals: Michelle Balderrama, Bass: Tom Underhill, Drums: Chris Diez.

Brainspoon can be reached at:

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

14 09, 2016

Unique Mixed Media Backdrop for Passenger Tour

By |September 14th, 2016|Digital Printing, Fabrics, Projects|1 Comment

Last year, we manufactured a Mixed Media Backdrop that was so complex and interesting that, when I stumbled on pictures of it recently, I just had to share it with our readers. We have made many Mixed Media Backdrops over the years, but this particular one for Passenger is particularly interesting due to the many different fabrics used and the various effects each fabric offered.

Designed by Oculus, with artwork created by Sarah Larnach, the image of the sun rising over lush rolling hills was translated to a backdrop with the intent to select specific fabrics with qualities that would take advantage of specialty stage lighting to create contrast and intensity not usually found in a scenic backdrop. First, the vibrant green hills were digitally printed onto Heavy Knit. With the background hills lined for opacity and the foreground hills left unlined, with proper stage lighting the foreground hills can take on a medium translucent glow against the depth of the background hills, or the entire hill area of the backdrop can appear nearly black.


Bryan Dos Reis – Photography / Sarah Larmach – Artwork Element / Okulus – Design

Above the hills, Pewter Textura was used to create the sky and sun. By lining most of the Textura with Sharkstooth Scrim, but leaving the “sun” section unlined, when lit, the sun appears to shine brighter than the surrounding sky. Above the sky, Black Encore Velour fades into the background, creating a nearly invisible header so that the backdrop appears to float.


Bryan Dos Reis – Photography / Sarah Larmach – Artwork Element / Okulus – Design

This was an interesting project for us, and we are so proud of the way our talented sewing staff were able to achieve our client’s vision with this beautiful backdrop. I hope this backdrop can also serve as inspiration to our readers as they consider the many ways that digital printing and theatrical fabrics can combine to make a truly unique backdrop.