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24 07, 2017

Avora, Trevira and Polyester

By |July 24th, 2017|Education|1 Comment

Did you know that not all polyesters are created the same? You may have heard of fabrics made from Avora polyester or Trevira polyester, but you may not know that these aren’t just “name brands.” The terms “Avora” and “Trevira” (technically, AvoraFR® and TreviraCS®) actually indicate significant differences in the chemical structure of the polyester fibers.

Prestige Velour, 100% TreviraCS®, is a beautiful option for custom stage drapery, as pictured above on Princess Cruise Line’s Queen Victoria (photo courtesy of Gridworks)

One way that these fibers are different is in the way the fibers respond to flame (and thus to the flame retardancy of the fabric milled from these fibers). This doesn’t mean that other polyester fabrics are not flame retardant (some are, some aren’t), but rather that Avora and Trevira fabrics tend to respond a little differently than other polyester fabrics when under flame.

To learn more about these differences in flame retardancy behavior, click here to open a pdf copy of our white paper “Avora, Trevira, and Just Plain Old Polyester.”

18 07, 2017

A look behind the scenes at the creation of the MOVE Live Tour “steampunk themed kabuki drop”

By |July 18th, 2017|Digital Printing, Products, Projects|1 Comment

We recently had the opportunity to work with Stage Designer Butch Allen and the MOVE Live choreography team – crafting three unique textile drapery looks for the 2017 MOVE Live Tour. This popular touring production is the brain-child of multi-talented artists Derek and Julianne Hough. Both known for their multiple successes on the hit ABC show ‘Dancing with the Stars,’ they bring an incredible dance and performance spectacular to the stage in this production. Working with Peter Morse, Lighting Designer; Butch Allen, Set Designer; and Director Tabitha D’umo, this was an exciting project for Sew What? Inc right from the get go.

One drapery backdrop piece we made for this project was completely unique in its design and construction, and unlike anything we had ever crafted before. Having taken lots of photos of the progress we will feature the STEAMPUNK themed kabuki drop in this blog entry.  It was fun to see the design develop from the various inspiration materials that were supplied.

Let’s start with the initial design package, which drew on a variety of color tones, textures, and steampunk themes.  As with all backdrops, it is more than just designing the drape – it has to work with the theme of the show, the wardrobe, the lighting design, and the overall tone of the production. Take a look here, and in particular note the items that were ultimately selected to draw from conceptually in the creation of the 30’h x 24’w finished kabuki backdrop piece.

Starting with a baseline – the drape itself needed to have a backing which would set the overall color palette for the drape. For this the Espresso Encore in 22oz (a nice solid opaque polyester velour) was selected for the trapezoid lining. This is a sturdy and durable cloth that reacts well when appliqued and is often used in mixed media backdrops.  The Espresso color offered just enough warm tone that we could bring in all manner of golds, taupe and burnt umber tones on top of it.

A wardrobe inspiration package was supplied that offered a glimpse of the different costumes that would be designed and crafted for the artists and dancers.  In reviewing the different wardrobe styles, one piece in particular jumped out as being “translatable” into a larger scale.  This image here shows a women’s leather woven bustier top.  In crafting this in a large scale, we would dress the face of the Espresso Encore with different ribbon width layers of various fabrics and textures per this inspiration image from wardrobe – all the cloth ribbons would be laid out on the bias and crafted with a woven effect. To mimic the movement of the wardrobe piece, the backdrop would also have knotted and braided ends to stream off the edges of the drape.

The color palette for the overall piece was very important.  Often, it’s not just what materials you choose – but rather the colors that you select when it comes to artistic pieces such as this.  This drape needed to stand alone and be gorgeous whether lit under stage lighting – or unlit under natural conditions. Here is a snap shot of the materials that were selected to create just the right antiqued / bronzed / steampunk tones.  We blended from gold thru cocoa brown, and made sure to have more than one texture and finish within the palette.  Materials selected included Textura, Supervel and Illusion.

The final touches for this piece would come from the applique of some custom “steampunk” themed printed elements.  The client supplied the graphics in a low resolution file, which graphic artist John Rios of John Rios Designs then re-drew to suit our applique project. This included “toning” the new print files so that the color palette worked perfectly with the fabrics that had been selected for the project.  A group of digitally printed steampunk “cog and wheel” elements were to be printed and then “cut out” for a decorative applique over the top of the weaving as a final dressing layer.

The early concept was some quick copy, past and stretch of the various inspiration images. Once the idea had been developed and approved then it was time to get to work!

Enjoy these images (in order) showing the construction progress as this masterpiece was crafted in hours by our wonderful and talented staff.  Even Crispin the office dog helped out with the project.  This massive undertaking required ALL hands on deck!

And so now you are probably ready to look at the finished piece live on stage!  Well, here it is in all its glory. We could not have been prouder of our work and the craftsmanship of the Sew What? sewing team was really put to the test on this piece.  We think that the team did an amazing job – don’t you?

Want to see the kabuki drop?…………..  In this YouTube video, you can see the kabuki action which is very dramatic!

About Sew What? Inc: Just like your audience, you want top performance. Sew What? understands and delivers. Our Stage Drapes and Theatrical Backdrops, Curtain Tracks and Theatrical Supplies exceed expectations and enhance your shows. For an experienced drapery manufacturer with work that ranges from digitally printed drapery for the hottest rock concerts, to the biggest theater performances, to just about any other kind of production under the sun, Sew What? is the answer.

24 05, 2017

Wondering About Velour and Velvet

By |May 24th, 2017|Education, Fabrics|1 Comment

Have you ever seen a beautiful Grand Drape at a theatre and thought, “Wow, isn’t that velvet drape beautiful?” If so, you might be surprised to learn that the beautiful stage curtain that you were looking at was likely made from theatrical velour, rather than velvet.

This beautiful drape, made on behalf of Gridworks for the luxury cruise ship Queen Victoria, was manufactured from IFR 26oz Theatrical Velour

While the two fabrics are similar, there are some definite differences between the two, particularly in regards to weight and depth of nap. In general terms, velvet is lighter-weight, with a corresponding short nap, and is used primarily for apparel, whereas theatrical velour is heavier, tends to have a thicker nap, and is used primarily for drapery. There are also differences in the types of fibers typically used and in how the fabrics are constructed.

Want to learn more about the differences between velvet and theatrical velour, and about theatrical velour is made? We’ve written an article that explains all about it. To download the article as a pdf document, click here: “Wondering About Velour and Velvet?“.

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.


27 03, 2017

Metal Mesh Rental Drapery from our Industrial Textures Collection

By |March 27th, 2017|Products|1 Comment

For those of you who aren’t familiar with our RENTAL Drapery Collections, Sew What?/ Rent What? Inc is excited to show off our dynamic and edgy Industrial Textures Metal Mesh rental drapery.  If you are looking for a dramatic, stunning, and incredibly versatile drape for your next event, show, concert, stage production, or trade show, look no further! Curvaceous and cutting edge. This series focuses on mixed media pieces and textiles that will please artists and lighting designers alike. Let us show you just a few of the looks you can create with lighting on our Metal Mesh Drapery.

Seen in this installation photo at Austin City Limits are 5 of our 23’h x 10’w metal mesh legs, hung from the truss at top and with a pipe installed into the pipe pocket in the bottom for a slick and tight surface installation. These metal mesh legs present the edgier side of rental soft goods, and have been rented for everything from major concert tours and community church productions to television series to conferences.

The beauty of Metal Mesh is that it takes light SO well!  Both front and back lighting offers effects that will WOW the audience. In particular we have found that metal mesh gives the illusion of an “oil painting” when touched with theatrical lighting fixtures. If you are looking to complete the stage scene with a full drapery package, you can complement these stand-alone mesh pieces with masking drapes from our traditional BLACKout Masking Series.

Credit: Lighting Designer Anne Militello

See in the image above just how dramatic the stage background looks with the right combination of lighting and metal mesh, showing yet again the versatility of this metal mesh surface for lighting.  Anne Militello with Vortex Lighting brought this dramatic design to stage for the Decemberists. By lining the upstage area with a light toned flat backdrop she was able to create a light box effect with colors within and amid the layers of metal mesh.  Ethereal and mesmerizing, this hypnotic scene was the perfect backdrop for this indie rock band out of Portland.

We are excited to offer you “Performance that Rocks!” At Rent What?, we’ve got the curtains and masking drapes for just about any kind of show, massive or minor. But just as important, we’ve got the creds. Our team has performed for many of the biggest names in entertainment, so we know the realities of dressing up a major venue and dancing around all the surprises that can pop up at the last second. It’s not just about having the right products, but having the experience and putting in the blood and sweat our customers remember when it comes to booking each new tour. If you have questions don’t hesitate to reach out for more info at 310-639-6000.