Soft, drapey fabric with a short, densely woven cut pile on a knit or woven background.
The height of luxury, sensuous velvet is a pleasure to wear and beautiful to the eye. Velvet obtains its luxurious appeal from its evenly cut, thick, soft pile. The drapiest velvet is a rayon and silk blend. It combines softness with richness of color.
Traditionally made from silk, velvet now comes in a variety of fibers and blends such as microfiber, cotton, or nylon. Stretch velvet contains some Lycra® blended with the main fiber.
Velvet is created in two ways: it can be woven on a loom that creates a double cloth with two thicknesses of fabric. The yarns between the two thicknesses are sliced apart, creating a napped surface on each piece. The other method of creating velvet uses wires placed above the fabric surface. In the weaving process, the yarn is lifted over the wires to form loops. When the wires are removed, the loops are cut to produce the velvet surface.
Types of velvet include:
- Brocade velvet: with a pile of different heights cut to form designs
- Chiffon velvet: has a rayon pile and a silk back and is very lightweight and surprisingly durable
- Embossed velvet: has certain areas of the pile pressed flat to create designs
- Lyons velvet: closely woven with a cotton pile and a silk back
- Nacre velvet: has a back of one color and a pile of another, creating a changeable appearance
- Panne velvet: pile is pressed flat, resulting in a smooth and lustrous surface
Other surface treatments can be applied to create types of velvet including
Use velvet for jackets, dresses, tops, skirts, pants. Heavier grades of velvet are also available for use as upholstery or home decorating fabric. Fiber content of these velvets may vary.
Long considered the fabric of kings, velvet originated in Kashmir and was introduced throughout the Middle East by the 14th century.
The Italian cities of Lucca, Genoa, Florence, and Venice became centers of production beginning in the 12th century and continuing through the 18th century. During this period, Italian velvet dominated the market, Italy being the largest supplier of velvet in Europe. Italian velvets were used for clothing, wall coverings, draperies, and upholstery. The word velvet may have come from the Italian vello, meaning fleece, and velluto, meaning fleecy.
Velvet became the official fabric of royalty and nobility and of the church during the Middle Ages. In France, blue velvet was worn exclusively by the King and his family.
In the next centuries, velvet production was established in Flanders, with Bruges becoming a center of production in the 16th century.
Velvet continued to be favored by nobility and aristocrats through the 18th and 19th centuries, when a broader acceptance of the fabric was made possible through improved production methods and greater affordability.
Up to the mid-20th century, velvet was still made mostly of silk. However, shortages of silk during the Second World War led to a reformulation of the fiber content. Today, silk velvet is still available, but is very costly. Blends of 14% to 18% silk combined with rayon are the most common silk velvets on the market.
Contemporary designers still feature velvet in their collections. Modern collections by designers such as Givenchy and Montana showcase velvet. As long as there is a taste for luxury and comfort in clothing, velvet will continue to play a role in design.
Tips & Tricks
Washing changes the appearance of velvet; test a sample before cutting.
Use the layout for napped fabrics.
Sew with a Microtex or Jeans needle in a size appropriate to the weight of the fabric.
Use a walking foot to prevent fabric layers from slipping against one another.
Press using a needle board or a deep-pile terrycloth towel. Apply steam by holding the iron just above the fabric; finger press seams open.
Sew in the direction of the pile, raising the presser foot frequently to allow the fabric to relax and feed evenly.