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3 Common Categories of Ideal Fabrics for Your Pipe and Drape Kit Drapery

Posted by LO on 10/4/2019 to Pipe and Drape
theater draping

Pipe and drape kits contain four major components that are used to divide, decorate, conceal, and create spaces. These four components that make up the package are steel bases, aluminum uprights, drape support rods, and drapes.

The packages are used in a wide variety of events and institutions, from schools and colleges who use pipe and drape kits for graduations, theater performances, school dances, and proms, to wedding decor that can be utilized for both the ceremony and reception, to churches who use them for plays, concerts, youth ministries, and creating a more intimate space, just to name a few.

The numerous ways that pipe and drape can be used makes it an ideal choice for many applications.

This article will focus specifically on the draping component of the kit, outlining the different features and best uses for each of the three main types. Before we get started, first a fun fact: the tallest drapes in the world measure an outstanding 213 feet and 3 inches high, and can be found in a hotel in Oslo, Norway.

That said, whether you need a 1 foot tall drape or a 213 foot tall drape, or any height in between, you’ll need to make sure that you choose the right fabric depending on the conditions of your site. So let’s explore the fundamental types of event draping.

Why is fabric selection important for drapery?

Selecting the perfect fabric for your event drapery is a multifactorial decision. You have to consider the visual appeal you desire to have, the layout of your installation space, and your budget. The best way to reach a sound decision when choosing drapery is by first understanding these three factors as well as educating yourself on the kind of fabrics in the market, which may suit your requirements.

Here are common categories of fabrics often used in theater draping as well as other functions.

The Translucent category of fabrics

The translucent group of drape fabrics includes styles like Poly Pongee, Poly Silk, and lighter weight Poly Satin / Sateen fabrics, amongst others. These types of fabrics are translucent, which is a mid-way point between being opaque and sheer. They allow some light to pass through, though not as much as the sheer fabrics that will be outlined further down.

The widths of translucent drapery vary, but are usually somewhere between 45 inches wide and 60 inches wide, and because they’re slightly heavier than sheer fabrics, they tend to hold their shape well when gathering on a drapery rod.

This type of material is ideal for applications in which some light blocking is preferred, but it doesn’t have to be super opaque. Covering walls, dividing a room, or any non-privacy application are usually best suited. However, if you do need a more opaque fabric, that’s where we’ll head next.

The Opaque category of fabrics

Opaque drape fabrics don’t permit light to pass through them. These types of fabrics include Commando (also known as Duvetyne in some parts of the United States, particularly the west coast) and heavier Velours that are usually either cotton or polyester.

Most of the time an opaque fabric will have a backing or lining on one side, which helps it block more light than translucent materials. However, keep in mind that because of this backing opaque drapery generally has a stiffer hand / feel, and may not gather on a drape support rod quite like thinner, more pliable fabrics.

Opaque backdrop drapes are great for masking areas in theatrical performances, providing privacy for things like changing rooms, and in any other situation in which you wouldn’t want anyone to be able to see through the drapes.

The Sheer category of fabrics

This group of fabrics includes Voile, Poly Chiffon, and Poly Organza.

Poly Voile is a popular and visually appealing drape fabric, which is akin to Organza. Voile drapes are durable and transparent, and can typically be found in ultra-wide 118 inch drapes.

Poly Organza (usually around 60 inches wide) is a transparent and light fabric with sheen. Its body is more than that of Chiffon, and as such, it can be shaped easily and nicely when used on walls or the ceiling.

Poly Chiffon (again, most often found in a 60 inch width) is a transparent and light fabric that flows easily in the wind. It’s light and it has less body when compared Organza. As such, it presents little design flexibility. It’s thus more ideal as a room divider, exit or entry accent draping, or wall draping.

Nylon Tulle (commonly seen in 54 inch and 108 inch bolt widths) is a transparent and light fabric that’s often starched to enhance stiffness.

Sheer fabrics are a great choice for a wide variety of events, particularly lavish galas and weddings. The only time you definitely wouldn’t want to use Sheer drapes is when you need privacy or light blocking -- otherwise, fabrics like Sheer Voile can really make both backdrops and ceilings look absolutely amazing.

Starting with the question of “what kind of drape best suits my event?” helps you immediately narrow down your options and can make choosing the best drapes go that much faster. For example, if you’re building temporary changing rooms, then you can cross sheer fabrics off the list, and perhaps translucent as well. Now you know you’ll need an opaque fabric and can start narrowing down your selection from those types of materials. The same applies to any draping situation that you have -- answer this question first, and you’ll be on your way to the perfect fabric in no time!

If you’re seeking formal theater drapes or drapery for backdrops, stage curtains, room dividers, and ceiling or wall coverings, please contact us and we’ll be happy to help point you in the right direction.

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