Pile fabrics are fabrics with a three-dimensional texture with a very visible pile of fibers on the surface. The category of pile fabrics includes short pile fabrics like velvet, velveteen and corduroy as well as long pile fabrics like fake furs.
The pile is produced by double weaving or by looping an additional filling thread into the basic weave, and leaving as it is or by cutting the loops. It may be knitted or woven and the pile may be all over or in patterns and in different depths.
The pile is made, so that the resultant fabric is softer, warmer and look better.The plush surface of pile fabrics is very much valued in making garments, accessories and home furnishing because of its warmth and texture and the rich and luxurious looks.
Pile Fabrics & Napped Fabrics
Pile fabrics are also referred as Napped fabrics. But there is a difference between Napped fabrics and Pile fabrics.
Napped fabrics are fabrics that have undergone a special finishing process. They are regular fabrics which doesnot have any special weaving process or filling thread to make the pile, but the surface is later brushed/treated to stand upright. Examples of Napped fabrics are flannel and fleece. Check out the post on fleece fabrics and the post on Nap for more on this
Napping is done for many purposes – primary of which is give it a softer warmer feel.One disadvantage of napping is that it may weaken the fabric.
The pile or nap will have a definite direction. With the pile / nap running up the fabric will look darker and the pile running down it will be lighter and shinier.
Different types of Pile fabrics
There are two types of pile fabrics : Filling-pile fabrics, in which the pile is formed of filling yarn, and warp-pile fabrics, in which the pile is formed of warp yarn ( velvet, terrycloth). The pile can be cut pile or uncut pile. In uncut pile the pile is formed by loops all over the surface of the fabric(terrycloth).In cut pile the loops are cut either in the loom itself during the weaving process or after the fabric is made( velvet)
The different types of pile fabrics are as follows
Velvet is a plain weave fabric with a cut pile. Velvet is made in a double loth construction – ie two fabrics are woven simultaneously with extra set of warp woven into each. These fabrics are then cut apart and the extra warp fiber in between forms the cut pile surface of velvet.
Usually ,the pile is all over but in some types of velvet, the pile is cut out in patterns. A crushed pile is seen in panne velvet and crushed velvet. Panne velvet is made by applying a lot of pressure on the pile. Check out the post on different types of velvet
This is a warp pile fabric with uncut loops of fibers forming the pile on the surface
This is a fabric with a very short pile
This is filling pile fabric with vertical ribs
Chenille fabric has a very fuzzy pile – it is very soft and smooth. It is made by cutting the tufted fibers across for the pile.The base fabric is woven
This is a cotton warp pile fabric with a deep pile.
7 Fur and Fake fur
Fur refers to skin of animals and is not a wise choice to wear nowadays.Fake fur or faux fur as it is called, is a fabric made of synthetic materials to look exactly like fur. It is not as thick as real fur and hence more easier to sew than the original fur
A rich soft fabric, plush is woven as a double face fabric like velvet, then cut in the middle but it is cut with the warp pile higher.It is a favourite for making soft toys, blankets etc
Some tips when using Pile fabrics
Buy fabric with a denser pile – this almost always points to a better quality fabric
The pile is delicate. You will have to use the utmost care to these fabrics – in handling, washing, ironing and sewing. Even your hands can damage some pile.
Pile fabric is very much prone to pilling -pilling happens when the fabric surface comes into contact with other surfaces and little balls of fiber comes out of the pile fabric surface. If it is a low quality pile fabric it will be pilling in loads. You can check this by rubbing your hands in a circular motion over the fabric surface. If you get those small balls in plenty, avoid!.
When cutting pile fabrics / napped fabrics for making clothes you will have be aware of the direction of the nap or pile. With hairy pile, it is better if the pile is running down. Velvet looks richer and darker when the pile is up, so you may wish to cut this way. When cutting corduroy usually nap is down.
At all cost avoid cutting different pattern pieces with nap running in different directions. As already said the pile / nap looks different in the direction of the nap and against it . So if you cut differently there is this effect called shading which will ruin the look of the garment.
Pile fabrics are sewn in the direction of the nap.
Most of the pile fabrics are thick ( though there are thin ones like velveteen). So you may not be able to use pins on them. The deep pile will swallow the pins – if you have long pins, use that.
You also need very sharp scissors to cut pile fabric
Never press pile fabric with hot iron – all that beautiful pile will be crushed and will be beyond repair.Applying heat can damage the pile. Faux fur is one fabric you can never iron. Matting of the pile, tufting etc are damage to pile
Your best bet is to use the steam settings. If you have to iron, iron from the wrong side after keeping the pile on a similar pile surface like a terry cloth. If you have short pile fabrics you can iron from the back on a surface covered with another pile fabric like velvet.
Most of the pile fabrics are bulky – you may have to use seam techniques which would not add too much bulk. Choice of fastenings, like zipper buttons, hemming all will be influenced by this avoidance of bulk.
More reading reference : Fashion Design By Sue Jenkyn Jones