Velvet fabric has always been a popular choice for outfits where you want a luxurious, elegant look and the same goes for upholstery where that velvety texture instantly elevates your interior décor, providing both luxury and comfort. Its soft texture provides a unique velvety drape and sheen resulting in the most tactile of textiles.
However, for dressmakers, velvet fabric can present some unique challenges to achieve professional looking results, so at Fabrics Galore we wanted to help you overcome your fears and offer a comprehensive guide to sewing with velvet fabric.
Choosing the Right Velvet Fabric
First of all, in order to sew with velvet, it is helpful to understand how it is made. Velvet is woven on a special loom which simultaneously weaves two different thicknesses of the fabric. The two pieces are then separated by cutting the layers to create the raised pile, and finally the two lengths are wound up on rolls.
This complex weaving process meant that historically, velvet was only available to the wealthy, although the arrival of machine looms and the use of alternatives to silk made it increasingly accessible to a wider audience.
Nowadays, there are so many different types of velvet fabric to choose from as velvet can be made from either silk, linen, cotton, wool and frequently from synthetic fibres such as polyester velvets.
Velveteen, popular in dressmaking, looks like velvet but with a shorter nap and no stretch. Stretch velvet is typically made from polyester with spandex or elastane to provide the stretch for a figure-hugging garment. Here is a quick guide to the different velvet options we have at Fabrics Galore:
Furnishing Velvet in 100% polyester ideal for curtains, blinds, cushions and all soft furnishing projects.
Upholstery Velvet in 100% Polyester, 300gsm and with a high Martindale rating of 180,000.
Velveteen in 100% cotton – a non-stretch dressmaking velvet with a 220 gsm weight, perfect for jackets, coats and trousers.
- Stretch Velvet in 95% Polyester and 5% Spandex, perfect for dressmaking projects such as a fitted dress or top.
When selecting velvet fabric, always look at the fabric weight, the direction of the pile and whether it is a stretch velvet to decide what is right for your project. You can use furnishing and upholstery velvets for dressmaking projects like jackets or bags but don’t be tempted to use dressmaking velvets for furnishing projects!
Preparing and Cutting Velvet Fabric
The most difficult aspect of sewing with velvet is avoiding wrinkles, creases and bruising. If your velvet fabric has been folded, consider steam pressing or pre-washing before sewing with it.
The luxurious pile of velvet is likely to show up any holes so do take care when marking, pinning and handling the fabric.
It is also essential to cut all your pattern pieces in the same direction to ensure that the pile is all going the same way on the finished item.
Sewing Techniques for Velvet Fabric
Velvet fabric does require particular tools such as using a walking or roller foot to prevent the fabric from slipping while you are working with it. And we would recommend pinning velvet as much as possible to avoid the fabric moving while you are sewing it.
It is also essential to choose the right needle, thread and stitch length for sewing with velvet. Again we would recommend using a longer stitch to allow the pile to come through neatly.
You may need specific techniques for sewing velvet seams, hems and closures such as French seams, understitching and invisible zips.
For finishing raw edges on velvet fabric, you should consider using a serger or zig-zag stitch.
Finishing and Pressing Velvet Fabric
The last thing you want to do is ruin your velvet fabric by using an iron which is too hot, so always err on the side of caution. Use a very low setting on your iron and use a pressing cloth to avoid crushing the pile. Use a clean towel to protect your velvet fabric from any residue on the ironing board and lay the fabric completely flat with the reverse side facing up.
Care and Maintenance of Velvet Garments and Velvet Furnishings
Velvet fabric doesn’t like water so if you can, avoid wearing your best velvet garments in wet weather. Similarly, spills on velvet upholstery, cushions and curtains should be dealt with promptly to avoid lasting damage.
We recommend dry cleaning for all velvet garments, and gently brushing velvet upholstery with a soft brush in the direction of the nap to lift any dirt and to restore the pile. You can spot clean spills and stains with gentle detergent in water using a soft cloth and blotting the stain.
When storing velvet garments, hang them on padded hangers with plenty of space and avoid folding velvet for long periods of time. Protect from sunlight to avoid fading and do not wear your velvet clothes so often that you risk creating a rubbed effect on elbows and knees.
If this all sounds like hard work, remember that velvet is also a highly durable fabric which can last for years if cared for properly. And let’s face it, velvet never really goes out of fashion.
Ready to Sew with Velvet?
We hope that our Guide to Sewing with Velvet will encourage you to give it a try as you will be so pleased once you have mastered sewing with this elegant and luxurious fabric. Do your preparation right, use the right tools and give yourself extra time as this is definitely not a fabric for quick makes. Watch our video on Instagram by Fabrics Galore team member, Marcela for additional help on sewing with velvet and browse the different types of velvet fabrics we have online and in our London shop if you live locally.