Ever wondered how that lush velvet fabric came to be? You know, the kind that feels like a plush carpet under your fingers, with those soft pile fibers that change color as you run your hand over them. Velvet has an air of luxury and mystery about it. The secret behind velvet’s softness lies in how it’s made. Velvet fabric comes in different varieties, from cotton velvet to silk velvet, but they share some common production methods. To make velvet, hundreds of threads are woven together on a loom to form a base fabric. Then extra pile threads are woven over and under the base threads to create thousands of tiny loops. When the loops are cut, they form the characteristic upright pile that gives velvet its distinctive texture. The longer the pile, the softer and more luxurious the velvet. It’s a time-intensive process, which is why high-quality velvet fabric tends to be expensive. Now you’re in on the secret and can fully appreciate the craftsmanship behind velvet next time you see it on a garment or upholstery. Velvet may always retain an element of mystery, but at least now you know how it earns its striking softness and sheen.
Velvet is one of the oldest and most luxurious fabrics, dating back to ancient Egypt. But what exactly is it? Velvet is a woven fabric with a dense pile that gives it a plush, luxurious feel.
The pile refers to the upright loops of thread that stand up from the base fabric. This pile is created using a special weaving technique that loops an extra set of warp threads over wires that are then cut, creating the pile. This process, known as cut pile weaving, results in the short, plush pile that velvet is known for. The denser and more evenly cut the pile is, the softer and shinier the velvet will be.
There are a few main types of velvet:
With its plush pile and elegant drape, velvet remains a coveted and lavish fabric perfect for any special occasion. And now you know exactly what gives velvet its distinctive softness and sheen. The mystery has been unraveled!
Producing velvet fabric requires some specialized techniques to get that distinctive plush pile. The two most common methods are loom weaving and circular knitting.
The traditional way to make velvet involves using a special loom to weave together two layers of fabric with pile yarn in between. As the fabric is woven, knives or wires are inserted between the layers to cut the pile yarn, creating the soft pile surface. This method allows for intricate patterns and designs, but is more time-consuming and expensive.
Popular variations of loom-woven velvet include crushed velvet, with its distinctive wrinkled texture, and panne velvet, a lustrous type with a longer pile. Upholstery velvet, used for furniture, has a sturdier construction.
A faster modern method is circular knitting using a special knitting machine. As the knitted fabric tube is formed, pile yarn is fed into loops on one side to create the plush pile surface. The knitted velvet tube is then cut open and heat set to maintain its shape.
Knitted velvet is softer, stretchier, and less expensive to produce compared to the loom-woven type. It’s commonly used for clothing, especially dresses, jackets, and loungewear. Double-sided knitted velvet has pile on both sides for an extra cozy feel.
With some clever engineering and the right materials, these age-old techniques continue to produce the luxurious, touchable fabric we know as velvet. Whether you prefer the elegant drape of woven velvet or the comfy softness of knitted velvet, there’s a type suited for every use.
There are several types of velvet fabrics, each with a distinctive style and feel. The specific type you choose depends on the look and texture you want to achieve.
Pile velvet has a dense pile that creates a shaggy, textured surface. The pile, which consists of upright loops of fiber, can be made of silk, cotton, nylon, or rayon. This velvet has the most luxurious feel and drape of all the velvets. It works well for upholstery, pillows, and formal wear.
Crushed velvet goes through an additional process to create random wrinkles in the pile. This results in a shimmery, crushed appearance. The pile is permanently twisted and crushed to give it a distressed, metallic sheen. Crushed velvet is often made of rayon and used for clothing, accessories, and home decor.
Stretch velvet contains an elastic fiber like spandex blended with the base fabric, usually polyester or nylon. This allows the velvet to stretch in multiple directions, providing form-fitting comfort and drape. Stretch velvet is commonly used for athletic wear, dancewear, and evening wear.
Unlike pile velvet, velveteen has no pile. It has a short, dense nap that’s brushed in one direction to create a soft, velvety feel and appearance. Velveteen is usually made of cotton and is more affordable and durable than pile velvet. It’s a popular choice for clothing, upholstery, and craft projects.
Velour is a knitted fabric with a pile that’s slightly longer than velveteen. It drapes well and is very soft and plush. Velour can be made of cotton, polyester, or a blend. It’s commonly used for loungewear, sweat suits, bathrobes, and children’s clothing.
In summary, the velvet fabric you select depends on the specific qualities you’re looking for, like texture, drape, stretch, or affordability. With so many options, you’re sure to find a velvet perfectly suited to your needs.
The history of velvet fabric goes back centuries. Originally made from silk, velvet was a symbol of status and luxury in medieval times. As new materials and manufacturing techniques emerged, velvet became more accessible to common folk.
Velvet originated in the Middle East, made from silk imported from China along trade routes like the Silk Road. These early velvets were intricate and colorful, worn by nobility and royalty. By the 1200s, velvet made its way to Italy, where craftsmen developed new weaving techniques to produce patterned velvet with complex floral and animal designs.
With the rise of global trade during the Age of Exploration, cotton and other alternatives to silk were discovered. Velvet could now be made more cheaply, allowing the merchant class to afford velvet garments and upholstery. In the 1700s, cotton velvet from India became popular and led to new variations like corduroy.
The Industrial Revolution brought huge advances in textile production. The mechanization of weaving with power looms and the development of synthetic dyes made velvet fabric faster and cheaper to produce. New types of velvet were created, such as tufted velvet, crushed velvet, and knitted velvet. Upholstery velvet became widely used for furniture, carriages, and trains. By the mid-1800s, velvet had become an affordable, mass-produced fabric, though still retaining an air of luxury.
Today, velvet is made from a variety of natural and synthetic fibers using mechanized weaving techniques. Though no longer a symbol of status as in medieval times, velvet remains a sumptuous, decadent, and lavish fabric used for both fashion and decor. From its origins on the Silk Road to today, velvet has endured for centuries as a pinnacle of opulence and style.
To keep your velvet garments looking lush and vibrant, follow these tips for proper care:
The plush pile of velvet fabrics can mat down and lose its soft texture in the washer and dryer. For the best results, have velvet clothing dry cleaned. If machine washing, use a gentle cycle and remove while still slightly damp to avoid harsh spinning. Lay flat to air dry away from direct heat. The agitation and heat can cause velvet to pill, fade and warp.
Harsh chemicals break down the fibers in velvet and dull the finish. Do not use chlorine bleach, fabric softener or dryer sheets which can strip the velvet of its soft texture.
Once dry, use a steamer to lift the pile and restore fullness. Gently brush the pile with a specialized velvet brush, denim brush or soft toothbrush. Work slowly using small circular motions. Avoid over-brushing which can damage the pile.
To prevent creasing, store velvet garments on sturdy padded hangers. Place tissue or acid-free paper between folds and creases. Do not stack velvet items, as this can cause imprints that are hard to remove.
Use a lint roller, pill remover or razor blade to remove surface lint, dirt and pilling. Work slowly and carefully shave in one direction. Check your work in a mirror to ensure an even finish. Touch up with a steamer and brush to restore pile.
Cedar blocks, mothballs or sachets can help repel moths and other insects that feed on fabrics. Store velvet clothing in a breathable garment bag or box during warmer months when moths are most active.
Following these care tips will help keep your velvet as soft, plush and luxurious as the day you bought it. With some TLC, a velvet garment can provide many seasons of stylish wear.
So there you have it, the secrets behind the lush and luxurious velvets you’ve come to know and love. Velvet fabric has a rich history spanning centuries and cultures. Whether you’re interested in crushed velvet for an evening out or upholstery velvet for your living room, you now understand the care and craftsmanship that goes into each yard. Next time you run your hands over that soft, sensuous velvet, you can fully appreciate the timeless art form that created it. Velvet may remain an indulgence, but at least the mystery has been unraveled.