(read in German)
Velvet is considered one of the big divas within fabrics. It is just famouss for its eagerness to walk under the presser foot. But there are also a few other (not to be underestimated!) characteristics of velvet. However, if you work carefully from the beginning and don’t make any stupid mistakes, it is far less dramatic to sew with velvet than everyone says.
All the following tips come from my experience with my velvet skirt for the christmas dress sew-along 2017 and the reworking of a velvet coat. Before I tried myself on the large velvet pieces, I tried most of it on a test piece with a fabric width of approx. 20×20 cm. And even later this piece of fabric can be very practical for other purposes – more about that later. By the way, I recommend all of you to try out everything on a test piece before starting on your actual sewing project to see if your velvet also allows the treatment.
#1 The Preparations
The first thing to consider is whether the garment should be washed later or not. If not, this step can be skipped. A coat for example will be taken to dry cleaning. Not every velvet is equally well tolerating being washed in the washing machine, so it is essential to wash a test piece. It’s really important to hem the fabric (e.g. with the overlock) before washing, otherwise it looks like there’s a flea epidemic. In addition, cotton velvet has a big reputation for shrinking. My test piece shrunk by 2 cm, which didn’t seem so much to me. After the test piece came out of the machine without any damage, I washed the whole velvet with the normal washing program and 40 degrees Celsius. Afterwards, it is important to dry the fabric flat, without creases and wrinkles.
#2 Storage of Velvet
In the short term, velvet can be folded and transported lying down and stored. However, in order to avoid long-term damage/layout marks, the fabric must hang or be stored on a roll.
#3 The Nap of Velvet
If the nap is upside down or the other way doesn’t matter – personal preference. Important is, that all pieces are cut out in the same nap direction. When the nap is bottom up the velvet appears darker and more dramatic.
#4 (Non)-Appropriate Patterns for Velvet
Velvet is not suitable for patterns, where many layers of fabric land on top of each other, such as a pleated skirt. At the multi-layered areas it becomes quickly very thick. If several layers of fabric should come upon each other, the only solution is to cut back the seam allowance as far es possible.
#5 Transfer of the Pattern
When transferring the pattern onto the fabric, use only pins without a large glass head or similar. The glass heads would leave behind pressure marks. The needles must also be removed from the fabric as quickly as possible. Generally it is to be noted that you should not leave pins of any kind in the fabric for too long.
The copy wheel is an absolute no-go with velvet. (Except you want to see the markings on the outside.) Wonder clips are not recommended for the same reason!
#6 Finishing of Edges
Immediately after cutting, trim all edges with bias tape or the overlock. This significantly reduces the linting of the fabric. In addition, the seam allowance is slightly “flattened” and the velvet moves less around when sewing.
If the velvet still shifts too much when sewing, there is unfortunately no way around basting.
#7 Please Avoid Ripping!
Seams are visible after ripping. This means that velvet can only be sewn tighter and not wider.
#8 Ironing of Velvet
The ironing of velvet is a bit more complicated than with normal fabrics, but with the appropriate preparations it is also possible. Ideally you have a velvet ironing board. Since I didn’t have one, I used my test piece as an ironing pad with the tuft up. I always ironed the velvet from behind with more steam than pressure. It’s also best to do a test here, because then you can see what happens when ironing on the tuft side with a lot of pressure and steam. With a little patience, it is also possible to iron on adhesive inserts, even if they have to be applied with a lot of pressure without steam.
An untested recommendation from an old sewing magazine is to steam the seam allowance by placing a damp cloth over the iron, or hold the cloth over a saucepan of steaming water. In summary carefully steam without pressure.
#9 Sharp Edges
To get sharp edges use waist shaper.
#10 Transport of Velvet Clothing
To ensure that the velvet does not get markings during transport, I recommend that you turn the garment inwards, roll it up loosely and transport it with enough space in a bag. That’s how my velvet skirt survived the 12-hour train ride to Austria without any damage.
#11 Daily Use & Wear
Velvet is not a material for sewing everyday clothes. At points where velvet is regularly touched, the tuft gradually rubs off. However, this can also lead to very nice colour effect on well maintained vintage velvet clothing (example 1 and 2).
Do you have a question that has not been answered? Feel free to leave us a comment. Otherwise, I wish you all the best for your next velvet project.