Pile Fabrics Vs Napped Fabrics

Updated on November 3, 2022 by Sarina Tariq

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.

pile fabrics vz napped fabrics

The pile is produced by double weaving or by looping an additional filling thread into the basic weave, and leaving it 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 fabric

Pile Fabrics & Napped Fabrics

Pile fabrics are also referred to 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

napped fabric

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.

pile fabric

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).

Different types of pile fabrics


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

2.Terry cloth

This is a warp pile fabric with uncut loops of fibers forming the pile on the surface.

3. Velveteen

This is a fabric with a very short pile.

4. Corduroy

This is filling pile fabric with vertical ribs. Read more on corduroy here.

5. Chenille

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

6. Velour
This is a cotton warp pile fabric with a deep pile.

7. Fur and Fake fur

pile fabrics

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.

Related post: Fur types ; Fake fur.

8. Plush

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.

9. Shearling and faux sherpa

Shearling aka sherpa is the real skin of animals with wool on one side and leather on the other side. Faux sherpa is a synthetic imitation of the real sherpa. Read more on sherpa fabric here.

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!. Check out this post on dealing with pilling.

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

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Hi, I love sewing, fabric, fashion, embroidery, doing easy DIY projects and then writing about them. Hope you have fun learning from sewguide as much as I do. If you find any mistakes here, please point it out in the comments.

3 thoughts on “Pile Fabrics Vs Napped Fabrics”

  1. Hi Cheryl
    Walking foot is normally used for sewing faux fur. Then there is the Ultra glide presser feet made of plastic – as per Janome website “ultra glide foot is molded from a special resin allowing easier sewing of fabrics that may otherwise stick to the standard metal foot” I don’t know about it not clogging up your machine – for that you will have to clean up the machine after every time you sew with faux fur.

  2. Where do I find a presser foot that allows you to sew the faux fur without it clogging up your machine. I have a Brother sewing machine.

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