Velvet is a fabric loved by many – except me perhaps? – and is used by many designers in fashion, from simple velvet dresses to elaborate velvet jackets. It is seen to be a luxurious fabric type and can be made from a variety of materials – silk, cotton, rayon and more – and in a variety of weights.
But did you know that there are several types of velvet, and each has its own unique characteristics? Crushed velvet is a popular type that has a textured look. Modern panne velvet is a type of stretch velvet that has a lot of body and drapes well. Embossed velvet has a raised design on the surface, while ciselé has a cutaway design. Velour is a plush, cotton-like fabric with a high sheen.
So what’s the best type of velvet for you and your next project? It really depends on what you’re looking for in a velvet fabric.
If you want something luxurious and elegant, silk or cotton velvet might be right for you. If you’re looking for something with more texture, crushed or embossed velvet might be better. And if you want something soft and cuddly, then velour is probably perfect!
Let’s dive in and learn about the types, how they’re made, what they’re best for and most important of all, how to sew with them!
Oh, and in case you’re wondering, I’ll be hiding at the back of the room so I don’t accidentally touch any!
What Is Velvet
Velvet has been around for hundreds of years, with its first mention being back in the 14th century. It is a type of fuzzy woven fabric – we say that it has a ‘nap’ or a ‘pile’ where the short fibers are raised from the surface of the fabric. The cut threads are evenly distributed, giving it a smooth surface.
It can be made from a variety of materials, including cotton, linen, silk, and wool which is when you’ll see velvet referred to as:
- Cotton velvet
- Linen velvet
- Silk velvet
- Wool velvet
It can also be made from synthetic fiber, such as polyester or rayon. In fact, real silk velvet is rare to find due to its cost and anything that is marketed as ‘silk velvet’ is probably a blend of silk and a synthetic fiber.
Something else of interest…
There’s a difference between natural, synthetic and man-made fibres!
Velvet is often used for clothing, upholstery, and curtains. And bizarrely (to me) it is also a popular choice for making puppets and stuffed animals. imagine cuddling up to a velvet stuffed animal? Shudders.
We’ll cover the variations in velvet further down, but first let’s look at how this pile fabric is made.
How Is Velvet Made?
The process of velvet production is quite interesting, as it is a double weave cloth. First, the material for the nap is selected. This can be any type of fiber, as mentioned above. Next, the fibers are woven into a base fabric.
The nap is then created by raising the fibers from the surface of the fabric using a special brush. The fibers are then cut to create the desired velvet pile. Finally, the velvet fabric is trimmed and finished.
Even just writing that process raises goosebumps on my neck! Let’s move on…
What Are The Different Types Of Velvet
There are several different types of velvet and each version has its own unique properties. Here’s a general overview of the differences in velvets, but I’ll dig into each type in more detail further down:
- Cut velvet is woven on a jacquard loom before cutting the loops and allowing the piles to stand upright.
- Devore velvet is made by burning away areas of the fabric to create a textured effect.
- Pile velvet is made by looping the yarns through the fabric backing.
- Panne velvet is made by pressing the velvet in one direction, resulting in a matte finish.
- Plush velvet has a longer pile than other types of velvet, giving it a luxurious feel.
- Synthetic velvet is cheaper than natural fiber versions
- Velvet can also be dyed in various colors and prints.
Let’s dig into velvet types in more depth!
1. Ciselé Velvet
Ciselé has a raised design, created by cutting the fabric into patterns. This gives the velvet a textured appearance that is similar to embroidery.
The word “ciselé” comes from the French word for “to chisel.”
Ciselé velvet is usually made from silk, although it can also be made from other types of fabrics such as cotton and wool. The fabric is first woven on a loom, and then it is cut down as per the design using special scissors. Ciselé velvet is often used for clothing and it can add a touch of luxury to any garment.
2. Crushed Velvet
Crushed velvet has a soft, velvety surface. It is made by first creating a velvet fabric, then crushing it to create a textured effect. The resulting fabric is often used for clothing.
To create crushed velvet, the fabric is first woven on a loom. The weft (horizontal) threads are passed through the warp (vertical) threads, creating a series of interlocking loops. After the fabric has been woven, it is then “crushed” to create the signature textured effect. This can be done by hand or with a machine, depending on the desired end result.
3. Devore Velvet
Devore velvet features a design in which one color is burned away, revealing another beneath it. The effect is created by applying a chemical solution to the fabric, which dissolves the top layer of fibers. Devore velvet is often used for evening wear.
The fabric can be made from a variety of materials, including silk, wool, and synthetic fibers. When choosing a devore velvet fabric, it is important to consider the weight and drape of the fabric, as well as the colors that will be used in the design.
4. Embossed Velvet
When velvet is ’embossed’ it is created with a raised design which is normally floral or geometric. The raised design is created by pressing the fabric into a metal mold. The mold then leaves an impression on the surface of the fabric. The embossing process can be done by hand or by machine, and it is often used to create ornate patterns on clothing and upholstery.
To create an embossed velvet fabric, the chosen design is first carved into a metal plate. The plate is then placed on top of the fabric, and the entire piece is passed through a rolling mill. This process presses the design into the fabric, leaving a raised impression. Once the design has been imprinted onto the fabric, it can be dyed or painted to add color.
Embossed velvet fabrics are prized for their luxurious feel and eye-catching designs, and they are often used in high-end fashion.
5. Lyons Velvet
Lyons velvet is a type of fabric that is made from silk and has a soft, velvety texture. It is named after the city of Lyon in France, where it was first produced. The fabric is made by weaving silk threads together to create a dense fabric with a short nap.
Lyons velvet is heavier than other velvet types and so is structured parts of clothing such as collars and cuffs but can also be used to create whole structured garments like jackets.
Lyons velvet fabric is available in a variety of colors and designs, and it can be either plain or patterned.
6. Panne Velvet
Panne velvet is a form of crushed velvet that is created by pushing the pile in only one direction using great pressure. It has a short, dense pile.
The term ‘panne velvet’ comes from the French meaning ‘soft cloth’. The velvet fabric is first created before being put through a process called “panning.” This involves stretching the fabric out over a cylinder and running it through a series of rollers. The rollers press down on the fabric and smooth out the piles, resulting in a shorter, denser fabric.
7. Stretch Velvet
Stretch velvet is possibly one of the most popular velvet types used in garment sewing – as evidenced in season eight The Great British Sewing Bee when Christian didn’t make it through after choosing to make his 1920s gown from stretch velvet.
Stretch velvet has a short, dense pile and a spandex weave that allows it to stretch in all directions. It is usually made from polyester or nylon, but can also be made from viscose, rayon, or cotton.
The fabric is lightweight and has good elasticity, making it ideal for clothing such as leggings, dresses, and jackets.
Stretch velvet is produced by combining two sets of yarns on a loom. The first set of yarns, known as the filling yarns, run horizontally across the fabric. The second set of yarns, known as the weft yarns, are woven in and out of the filling yarns in a zig-zag pattern. When the fabric is finished, the weft yarns are cut to form small loops on the surface of the fabric. These loops are then trimmed to create a short, dense pile.
Stretch velvet can be made in a variety of colors and patterns, and is often used for evening wear or special occasions.
Finally, the most commonly used type of velvet, we have velour which has a plush, velvety feel. It is often used for clothing, upholstery, and curtains.
While it has a similar appearance to velvet, velour is actually made from a different type of fiber:
- Velvet is made from silk or other natural fibers,
- Velour is typically made from synthetic materials like polyester or nylon.
As a result, velour is often less expensive than velvet and does not require the same level of care.
To create velour fabric, the yarn is first knitted or woven into a base fabric. This fabric is then passed through a series of rollers that brush the fibers up, creating the velvety surface. Finally, the fabric is sheared to remove any stray fibers and create a smooth finish.
Velour fabric can be found in a wide range of colors and patterns, making it a versatile option for many different applications.
How to Sew With Velvet
Now that you know what it is, the different types available and how they’re made, let’s talk about how to sew with velvet which can be tricky, because the fabric is slippery and can be easily damaged.
Here are a few tips to help you sew with velvet successfully:
- When cutting out, you’ll want to lay the fabric right side down – so protect it if your table is dirty! – and place the pattern pieces on top
- Avoid doubling your fabric and instead cut each piece as a single layer
- Pins can leave marks due to the the way velvet is created, so use super fine ones if you need to pin pieces of fabric together
- Use a sharp or universal needle and choose the size based upon the weight of the velvet you are sewing
- Choose a suitable seam finish – the piled natural of velvet means that enclosed seams will be bulky and spoil the finish of your garment
- Consider pinking the seam allowance or binding it for a nice finish which will stop the fibers from shedding
- Unless you’re using stretch velvet, you’ll want to consider lining your velvet garment
- Finally, take your time! Sew slowly and carefully to avoid making any mistakes.
Today we explored the different types of velvet and what they’re best for. We looked at ciselé, crushed, devore, embossed, Lyons, panne, stretch and velour, and discussed their unique features. All eight of these types are great for garment sewing and have a unique look that can add something special to any outfit. My personal favorite is ciselé – well by that I mean that I love the look of its textured appearance but we all know that velvet gives me the heebie jeebies, so I’m never going to sew or wear it.
I hope you found this guide on velvet fabric types helpful. Let me know int he comments further down which is your favorite velvet type, and what you plan to make with it in the future! I of course won’t be touching the stuff (eeeew) but I sincerely hope that you enjoy working with it for your projects!
Eve Tokens (aka The Creative Curator) is a fashion designer, creative pattern cutter and sewing pattern designer.
Eve graduated with a 2:1 in Fashion Design from the University of The Creative Arts in the UK, has a BTEC diploma in Creative Pattern Cutting, a Foundation Degree in Art & Design from Wimbledon College of Art and gained extensive experience in the fashion industry by interning and freelancing for London based fashion brands – Hardy Amies, Roland Mouret, Peter Pilotto and others.
As well as running her own small sustainable fashion brand, Eve has more than 25 years experience sewing and making clothes for herself and family members.