Stage Drapes and Fullness Calculations

I blogged a couple of years ago about the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF) Region 5 festival and the event that I began running at the region 5 festival a couple of years ago.  The event is called Stage Crew Showdown. This year it was held on the campus of The University of Nebraska in Lincoln Nebraska on Sunday, January 20 and Monday, January 21.  The event consists of teams of 4 students representing their schools who face off in relay-race style heats performing tasks common to various areas of technical theatre.  Events include  hanging, and focussing a lighting instrument, tying knots, a costume quick-change, a prop setup-relay race, and cutting tie lines and hanging a border at the correct fullness.  It is the last event that is the subject of today’s blog.

The event description for the event follows:

  • Teams are provided with a border of a specific width and a specific length of tie line.
  • Team members will cut the tie line into the correct number of equal lengths.
  • The ties will be properly attached to the border
  • the border will be tied onto a batten, centered and with the required fullness tied in.
  • The fullness is chosen by the judges immediately prior to the event and  may include %50, %75, or %100.
  • The event is timed, then seconds are added to the score based upon the following deficiencies (if any apply)
  • Major Evaluation Criteria:  Tool safety, Attachment process, Conformity of tie-line lengths, Placement with appropriate fullness on batten, Completion of task

This year, I committed to providing all competitors with pdf scans of the judges’ official score sheets so that they might learn from mistakes to improve future performance.  I did so earlier this week.  One of the team leaders requested clarification on the matter of fullness.  Particularly, this team leader was frustrated by the lack of information on how to calculate fullness in the literature. Neither the Backstage Handbook    nor any  of the standard texts reportedly contain such information.     I responded to her with the following email (text paraphrased below)

I know that fullness can be confusing, and there was an unofficial standard out there several years ago  that is not considered industry standard and that confuses the issue.  It doesn’t help that the unofficial (wrong)  standard seems to make better mathematical sense than the “official” one.
The most reliable explanation of fullness that I have found is on the Rose Brand web site at
This site provides  less of an “equation” than an “explanation”.
What follows, is my interpretation of that explanation:
 In a nutshell, fullness is expressed as the amount of EXTRA fabric that is sewn or tied into the width of the finished drape.
Hence, 100% fullness is the width of the finished drape PLUS  and extra 100% of the finished drape width.
In this example, if a leg started out at 12′ wide,  and you were to need to tie it to 100% fullness, you need to create a kind of reverse engineered version of the explanation that Rose Brand publishes to explain fabric width required for sewin-in fullness in order to figure out how wide the drape would be with the correct fullness tied-in. My version of the equation is below:
Tied width (X) + 100% fullness (X*100%) =Actual width (12′)
X + (X*1) = 12′
2X= 12′
Thus, a 12′ flat-sewn leg tied to 100% fullness would be tied to a 6′-0″ width
Similarly, a 6′ wide leg with sewn-in fullness of 100% would require a 12′ width of fabric.
Substitute 50% (.5) or 75% (.75) into the equation for 50% & 75% fullness respectively,
Using this formula, a 12′ flat-sewn drape tied with 50% fullness would be tied to 8′ and a 12′ flat-sewn drape tied with 75% fulness would be tied to approximately 6′ 10 1/4″
The diagram below illustrates some of the common fullness variations

And you thought that you’d never use that Algebra that you learned in 9th grade!

Meanwhile, that’s enough for now! Have fun!  But be safe!



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