8 FAQ answered on Sewing with Velvet

Velvet is a beautiful fabric with a luxurious soft  piled surface . Clothes and accessories made with this fabric have an unparalleled elegance and class to them. Have you noticed that, at all points of fashion there is velvet – whether it is as accents , as a trim, as an accessory,as details like collars & cuffs, as elements in home decor or as the whole garment, like jackets, gowns, capes or  pants – velvet is all around us adding to the richness of life.

Sewing with velvet is nothing to sweat about, if you can follow some basic tenets

Checkout this post on the many different kinds of velvet you can buy for sewing – as many as 12 types.

1.How to select patterns to sew in  Velvet

First thing about sewing with velvet is to be careful to select a pattern which doesnot have too many seams. Velvet is bulkier than other fabric and seams add to bulk. So fewer the seams better the garment will drape. Another problem is in pressing fabric. Seams require you to press . Same is the case with darts. Simple patterns with not many seam lines or manipulations work well.

It is also difficult to do fine embroidery work on velvet – even if you do you will have a hard time finding it in the pile of the fabric.

2.How to cut Velvet

Preshrunk cotton velvet like velveteen. Otherwise it will shrink in the wash.

Mark velvet on the backside with chalk. Hand basting with a contrasting thread can work in place of chalk markings on the front of the fabric, as it is impossible to mark accurately on the face of the fabric because of the pile.

The most important thing to take care of when sewing velvet is to have very sharp scissors . Checkout this post on sharpening your scissors if you donot have a sharpened one.

Always cut velvet in single layer . Usually I am all for  cutting patterns on the fold. This ensures that both the sides are the same. But for some fabrics this is not the best way. Velvet is one such fabric.

You should first make a paper pattern on the fold ( if you are drafting the dress pattern yourself). Open it up and lay it on the velvet fabric and mark the pattern. When you cut the pattern pieces, cut away the marking lines 

3. How to determine Nap of Velvet

When buying velvet for sewing clothes/ accessories  you have to take into account it’s nap- the direction in which the pile of the fabric lies

In the direction of the nap ( running down) the fabric is smooth and shiny. It will also be light in colour. Against the nap the colour will be darker and it will be rough. You can tell by running your hands over the surface of velvet.

Just decide on the direction you fancy for your garment . Then cut all the pattern pieces in that direction.You can mark arrows on the back of the fabric to show the directions.Checkout  this post on nap for more details on this. Usually the 

You have to ensure that the pile of all the pattern pieces are in one direction.The pile of the fabric can be taken in any direction ( though Velvet wears better with the nap running up, from bottom to top of the garment but feels smoother running down). Check it out from both ways and decide on which one you want. One will be more shinier. Follow the chosen direction in all your cuts. If you get two sleeves with piles in a different direction it will look very odd and disjointed.

Because of this you will also need to buy more fabric than for other fabrics where you can place the paper pattern in any way and it would not matter

Usually napping running up is used to cut patterns, because this way the fabric appears darker. 


4 How to Sew Velvet on your sewing machine

Use very sharp Microtex needles for sewing velvet on your sewing machine ; Use good quality cotton thread to sew velvet. A polyester thread also would do, as would a cotton-polyester blend. 

Because of the fuzzy surface, the velvet may at times refuse to move under the pressure foot, especially when sewing bulky joints; And at times the top layer will move leaving the bottom layer still under the pressure foot.Puckering of seams is a common problem when sewing velvet on a sewing machine.

Velvet can be sewn easily enough on the sewing machine with the regular stitch length and regular pressure foot – 2.5 mm mark . If you have a walking foot (even feed foot) or roller pressure foot the machine will move easier though. If you find any difficulty in sewing velvet layers slightly loosen the tension. Even then if puckering persists, increase the stitch length. 

You should also pin the layers together. Pinning may be a necessity to keep the fabric together as you sew. But it can leave visible holes, so be careful. Try in on a test piece before on the real cut patterns.

You can hand baste with hand sewing needle and silk thread instead of pinning. Actually this is a very good idea if you have the patience. Use a contrast coloured thread so that you can easily unpick  after you have done the stitching.

In store bought clothes you will find serged edges and a straight seam. You can do a hongkong finish on the edges for a couture look.

 5 What interfacing  to use with Velvet

I would use a sew in interfacing with velvet. You cannot iron the iron on interfacing to velvet without damaging the pile. Sometimes you may want something softer than interfacing – then you can use silk organza or batiste instead of interfacing 

You get cool fuse interfacing (I do not at my shop ) – this is ideal for use with velvet. 

6 How to hand sew  hems in velvet clothing

The cut edges of velvet do not fray much, as far as I have seen. So when hemming you do not have to turn under the edges twice. Simply turn once and stitch. This avoids bulk. You can serge the edges and then turn under the hem, as well( this is the best way)

sewing velvet

I would prefer to work velvet hems with hand stitching. A catch stitch is best here or even the blind hem stitch. A catch stitch uses small fine herringbone stitches catching the turned under edge and the main fabric . This stitch gives a stretch to the hem which you need when sewing velvet. No more puckering or the turned under edge not easing up.

7 What fastenings work with velvet

You can choose to sew buttons with loops instead of buttonholes. Sewing buttonholes on velvet may prove challenging.If you are attaching zippers you may need to hand stitch them for a neat finish

A stitch which can work very well on velvet is the pick stitch. The stitch creates very small running stitches on the face of the fabric.These stitches are almost invisible on the pile of velvet. Checkout the tutorial for pick stitch for more details

8 How to press velvet

You need to press fabric during sewing as well as after – this is one of the golden rules of dressmaking. But velvet is a difficult fabric to iron. The pile of the velvet makes it difficult to iron. A touch of the hot iron and the pile will be destroyed, flattened. But in sewing pressing is unavoidable.

Velvet can be pressed from the wrong side using a steam iron. Hold the steam iron a few inches from the velvet fabric . Move in the direction of the nap of the fabric

There are special velvet boards available which have many projections which server to keep the pile of velvet intact.The ordinary seamstress who donot have a board like that will have to make do with a  simple solutions like using a terrycloth underneath as a pressing cloth. 

You can press the seams open on the  back of the fabric ( try finger pressing first). Just be careful that you do not do so with too much force.  You can keep paper under seam allowances and darts to prevent imprints on the right side of the fabric .Keep a terry towel underneath if you feel the pile will be flattened. 

You will see that while sewing some areas have become crushed, the pile is flattened. You can revive this flattened pile by steaming the velvet fabric slightly. Some have success by hanging it for sometime in a newly used hot shower area. You can also use a soft brush to brush the pile softly in place

Related post : 12 Different types of Velvet fabric.