Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Special care when handling velvet

Adding to Marji's excellent article on sewing specialty and luxury fabrics:

There are many kinds of velvets, depending on the fabric composition, density of the pile and its surface finishing (crushed, burnout, etc). The velvet that I’m going to use is 100%cotton velvet which has been said to be the easiest to handle among velvets because it can be pressed (on the wrong side) and you can even make direct contact with the iron on the pile when you press a seam open. In spite of being the easiest to handle, this fabric requires special care and techniques. I will summarize them for you:

Storing the velvet before cutting: This fabric crushes very easily and it can gain permanent markings and crease lines on the pile side. For this reason, the best way to store it is using an empty roll of fabric and covering it with a muslin remnant to protect it from dust:

Pre-treatment: I’ve read somewhere that 100%velvet can be washed and dried by machine but I don’t do that, because I don’t take the risk of disturbing the evenness of the pile. What I prefer doing is steaming it with a hot iron (normal cotton heat setting and vapor set to its maximum), on the wrong side, applying very light pressure and preferably over a marble surface. The velvet shouldn’t be disturbed until it dries completely (and if you use a marble surface it can take some time to dry). This technique is also indicated if you need to revive old and crushed velvet.

Garments suitable for being made of velvet: simple style lines for fabrics with body, vertical seam details are preferable to horizontal seam details, avoid round seams, no topstitching. Facings may be omitted or sewn using another fabric like satin (when using cotton velvet this is not necessary).

Cutting layout: a single layer “with nap” layout should be used. I prefer cutting against the pile so the color becomes richer and darker.

Marking: Tailor tacks, thread tracing (using silk thread or thin machine embroidery thread), tailor chalk on the wrong side.

Fitting: Making a test garment (muslin/toile) is mandatory since it’s impossible to recover an already stitched/pressed seam; after unstitching it the pile will be creased permanently. Making sure that the fit is perfect and no more alterations will be needed BEFORE stitching the final garment is the only option when using velvet.

Underlining: There’s no need to underline a velvet garment unless you intend to add more structure than the velvet itself already has. Nevertheless, all the other tailoring techniques for supporting the fabric (interfacing, back and chest shields, tailor tape, shoulder pads, etc.) can and should be used.

Interfacing: This is probably the only type of velvet where it’s safe to use fusible interfacings, as long as the interfacing used has a little stretch lengthwise (thanks Paco for this tip). Lightweight sew-on tailoring interfacing can also be used with optimal results. I intend to use both for my coat.

Lining: I prefer full linings for velvet made garments. A bright contrasting lining is my preference for adding more interest to the inside of the garment.

Stitching: Always stitch with the pile; use double basting and/or pins, and a walking foot (even feed foot) if you have one. When pile is hold together against pile, the fabric shifts so one layer will pucker if you don’t use these techniques to prevent this from happening. I’ll use size 80 ballpoint needles, a 2.5 stitch length setting and cotton thread.

Pressing: Use a needle board, a velvaboard or a self fabric cover (with the pile up) on the pressing surface. Self fabric (or a needle board that bends) should be used on the seam roll and the tailor ham. Use paper strips on the underside of the open SAs for preventing imprints, apply light pressure and steam with the iron, using the fingertips to set the seams open while they are moisturized and hot.

Seam finishing: I will make little diagonal cuts along the SAs just to prevent the seams from puckering. If this fabric ravels too much I may zigzag the raw edges, otherwise I’ll leave them as they are. All seams will be pressed open (I think there are no darts on my coat but if there were, they should be cut and pressed open too). I may also tack down the seam allowances (NOTE: if using a free hanging lining, consider binding the SAs.)

Buttonholes: I will run some tests but I will favor bound buttonholes or hand stitched tailored buttonholes.

And this is all for now (I will update this entry with further information later, including pictures and book/website references)


Jamie said...

Thank you for this great information, Tany!! I have three pieces of cotton velvet in my collection that I have plans for and I will definitely use your tips when I finally tackle those pieces!

Marji said...

Tany thank you for your excellent post full of information.

Tany said...

You are both welcome. I will add more information as I run some tests because though I have used cotton velvet in the past, I have never made a velvet coat, which is a good challenge and also a good opportunity for me to improve my tailoring skills and help others along the way.

BCN - UNIQUE designer patterns said...

Tany .- good information. thanks. I think that you are not problems there. velvet cotton usually very grateful for the hands of the seamstresses. even its use is widespread for the tailoring of men. Happy sewing and see you soon. Paco

Tany said...

Thank you Paco and also for you precious help and advice.
Gracias Paco y muchas gracias tambiƩn por tu preciosa ayuda y consejos.

Meg said...

This is so helpful, as I love to make a velvet jacket in the future.

cidell said...

So funny. I'm making a velvet smokig jacket for a friend. This'll come in so handy!