Theatrical stage curtains are manufactured using “specialty fabrics” that are designed to meet fire code requirements for areas of assembly. The fabrics used fall into one of two categories: they are either made from natural fibers (usually cotton) or from man-made synthetic fibers.
Cotton stage curtain fabrics have been used for many years. They are aesthetically pleasing and tend to drape very well. Typical cotton fabrics include Velour, Atlas Oxford, Nassau Chevron, Commando, Muslin and Sharkstooth Scrim.
Cotton fabrics are treated at the mill with a chemical flame retardant after the fabric has been woven and dyed. All fabric flame retardants tend to break down and dissipate over time due to environmental factors. Cotton fabrics must be retreated with a quality flame retardant at regular intervals. The time span between treatments varies depending on local fire code requirements. The standard retreatment period is every five years. All curtains that are retreated should be flame tested using the NFPA Standard 701 Small Scale Flame Test to insure that the flame retardant treatment has been effective.
Man-made fabrics are the new generation of stage curtain fabrics. They are made from blends of synthetic fibers that have been specifically selected because they will not support combustion. These synthetic fabrics are permanently and inherently flame resistant for the life of the fabric. They never require any type of flame retardant treatment but only need to be properly cleaned in order to maintain their flame resistant qualities. IFR (inherently flame resistant) curtains should be periodically inspected for needed repairs such as rips, tears and unraveled hems. Any needed repair work should be completed by a qualified curtain servicing company in order to gain maximum years of useful life from your stage curtains. Curtains left with unattended repairs will not only look unsightly but the repairs will get larger over time and most likely initiate premature curtain replacement.
Many of the newer IFR fabrics are equally as beautiful and durable as the older cotton fabrics. And the pricing of many of the IFR fabrics is comparable with cotton fabrics. Examples of commonly used IFR fabrics are Encore Velour, Prestige Velour, Nevada, Doral Opaque, Brava, IFR Trevira Muslin and IFR Modacrylic Scrim.
No matter what type of fabric you select for your next stage curtain project, make sure that the curtain manufacturer provides you with the proper flame retardant documentation when the new curtains are installed. This documentation will be needed when the annual building fire inspection is done.