Velvet has always been known for its luxurious look and feel. It’s our go-to fabric when we want a bit of opulence for that special occasion. We love the drape, the soft hand, and how the colors seem to pop when the light hits it just right! What is velvet and how does it get its lustrous characteristics? Velvet has a dense pile of fibers that have been evenly cut short to create a smooth nap. When it was mostly made of silk, it was considered to be a fabric only used for high-end garments. Now, you can find velvet made from wool, cotton, linen, and synthetic fibers, making it much more obtainable. When it comes to sewing with velvet, it can seem a little intimidating at first. Once you understand the special properties of this wonderful fabric, sewing will be a breeze! Listed below are a few key points to keep in mind when tackling your next velvet project!
All seam allowances are 1/2″ unless otherwise stated. See chart below for sizing specifications. Note, this specific pattern is available up to a size 30.
Nap Direction: The first thing you want to do is identify the nap direction of your fabric. Have you ever swiped your hand back and forth across velvet and it seems to change color with the direction of your hand? This is caused by the direction of the nap. The nap of the fabric is created when a secondary yarn is woven through the cloth, and then is intentionally cut short and even throughout. The color will seem lighter and It will feel smooth when your hand is running along with the nap. When the color gets darker and feels a little rough, your hand is running against it.
Cutting your pattern: Now that you’ve identified the nap direction, you can begin to lay and cut your pattern pieces. It’s important to follow the smooth nap direction for all pieces. You don’t want your garment to appear to be made from different fabrics. This is a common but easy mistake you can avoid.
Construction: For best results, try making a garment with little construction detail such as darts, and seams. If your pattern does require some type of fabric manipulation you must be mindful of how you lay your patterns out and transfer the markings. You can use tailor’s chalk to transfer markings on the wrong side of your fabric, but a hand basting stitch will work best. Use a contrasting thread and make long loose stitches to transfer your markings. They can be easily removed and will not leave marks on the fabric.
Sewing: For a standard weight velvet, use 70/11 Microtex machine needles. If you are using a stretch velvet, a 75/11 stretch machine needle will work best. Because of the thick pile velvet tends to have, you may want to loosen the tension on your sewing machine. Pining the fabric and working with a walking foot attachment will minimize movement as you sew.
Finishes/Pressing: Velvet has a heavier weight than most fabrics so the simpler the finish the better. You don’t want complicated finishes that leave your seams feeling thick and bulky. In most cases, velvet garments have seam allowances that are simply cut and finished with pinking shears. The garments are then lined leaving the seams clean and flat. If you are making sportswear garments, you can use a standard overlock stitch to finishes your seams.
Pressing your garment can be a bit tricky. Steam works wonderfully for velvet but pressure does not! Make sure you are using an ironing cloth and pressing lightly on the wrong side of the fabric. Cotton fabric and muslin work great! Be sure not to use pressure. Pressing too hard will crush the fabric pile changing the appearance of the nap.