Sewing velvet requires some preparation and attention to detail, but once it is mastered, there is no reason why every sewer shouldn’t try this luxurious fabric. The pile, or the short, dense fibers that give velvet its characteristic feel, can shift easily, making it essential to sew with care. Moreover, velvet can easily show marks, so regular pins and ironing require caution. But with the right techniques, learning how to sew with velvet can lead to stunning results.
Sewing Velvet Tutorial
What is Velvet?
Velvet is a woven fabric with a short but dense pile. It has a soft and warm feel and drapes beautifully, making it suitable for clothing, furniture, and home decor.
Velvet was originally made from silk, but these days is often blended with cotton or polyester to provide more affordable options. Due to its thickness and pile, there are a few extra considerations to make when sewing velvet. Read more about what is velvet.
At one time, blue velvet, in particular, was meant only for the King of France and close family. He and he alone could turn up in blue velvet. Nowadays, anyone can design an outfit in this beautiful fabric.
Supplies for Sewing Velvet
Sewing velvet requires special attention due to its unique pile and often slippery nature. To ensure the best results when working with velvet, consider the following list of supplies:
- Velvet Fabric: Remember, there are different types of velvet (like crushed, stretch, or silk velvet), so choose the one appropriate for your project.
- Sewing Machine Needles: Stretch velvets need a ballpoint or stretch needle: These can prevent snags and help manage the pile of the fabric. Non-stretch velvet is best with a universal or sharps needle. Check your sewing machine needle sizes are correct for sewing velvet.
- Walking Foot: Helps in feeding the fabric evenly through the sewing machine, essential for slippery fabrics like velvet.
- Tissue Paper or Tear-Away Stabilizer: This can be placed between the layers of velvet or underneath the fabric to prevent it from shifting as you sew.
- Tailor's Chalk or Fabric Marker: Avoid using hard pencils or tools that may damage the pile.
- Polyester or Cotton Thread: Matches or complements the velvet color.
- Scissors: Sharp fabric scissors or a rotary cutter and cutting mat for a clean cut.
- Pins: Use very fine, sharp pins to prevent leaving noticeable holes. Silk pins can be a good option.
- Velvet Pressing Cloth: Used when pressing seams to protect the pile and prevent crush marks.
- Steam Iron: A steam iron with a low setting is crucial.
Remember, always do a test on a scrap piece of your velvet before sewing or pressing to make sure you get the desired results. Adjust your machine settings, if necessary, to accommodate the fabric's thickness and texture.
Characteristics of Sewing Velvet
Learn a little bit about sewing velvet before you start.
- FABRIC WEAVE - It is soft and plush because it is woven in two layers. The top is made of layers using different fibers like rayon, silk and polyester. It has a plain underside and a very distinct pile on the right side. (Read - Fabric Weaves)
- DRAPE - Velvet drapes well. It suits simple semi-fitting styles with a less is more philosophy. (Read - Fabric Drape)
- NAP - Velvet has a very distinctive nap or pile, and it is very important to make sure you always have the nap going the same way. The most common choice is going down the garment. You can actually feel the way the nap goes. When you look at the right side with the nap smoothed down, it looks soft and has a shimmer. (Read - Sewing Napped Fabric)
How to Sew Velvet, Step by Step Instructions
Before you start sewing velvet, it is important to prewash for shrinkage. Cotton and cotton blend velvet is especially prone to shrinking. Follow the washing instructions on the bolt of fabric. Velvet is generally hand washed with a mild washing detergent and air-dried in the shade. If you are in doubt about the washing instructions, wash a sample piece first before you tackle the whole piece.
If your velvet is dry clean only, then do not pre-wash. Simply hang it overnight to remove creases.
Choosing the Best Velvet Pattern
Not all patterns are suitable for sewing velvet. Choose sewing patterns with simple lines and not too many details. Thicker velvet can be hard to gather or topstitch.
Step 1 - Cutting Velvet Fabric
Once you have checked the nap direction, turn your fabric to the wrong side and mark the nap direction in the tailor’s chalk. This will help you identify the nap easily when cutting. It is important that the nap faces the same direction for all pieces or you will get color variations.
Cut out pieces individually in a single layer and always in the same direction. Read my article on sewing fabric with a nap. Any pattern pieces cut on the fold needs to be duplicated so the pattern can be opened out and cut as one whole piece.
Watch out for fluff as you cut each pattern piece out. Have a little packet to scoop the fluff into as you work so it doesn’t mess up your work area.
Step 2 - Marking Velvet
Mark pattern markings with thread tracing using a sharp needle and silk thread. Don't use tracing wheels or pins as they make holes in the fabric and it damages easily. Mark notches with small snips or tailors tacks
Step 3 - Baste the Velvet Stitching
Velvet can be slippery to sew, so hand basting first is recommended. Traditional pins can leave marks on velvet. If you must pin instead of basting, pin within the seam allowance.
Hand baste the fabric with either a double thread, backstitch or diagonal basting method.
You could also try a spray-on seam adhesive to put the two pieces of fabric together before sewing. The spray should disappear from the fabric easily but always test a scrap first.
Any interfacing should be the stitch in kind as the iron-on type will pucker and pull the velvet in different ways. (types of interfacing)
Step 4 - Sewing Velvet
Before you tackle the velvet stitching try out your machine on a scrap of velvet fabric so you are absolutely sure you have everything right. Sewing machine tension, stitch length, needle and thread are your key points.
Sewing machine settings for velvet:
Once again, try out different techniques for sewing velvet on a scrap first.
- Stitch Length: Set the machine to a standard stitch length (2.5 to 3 mm). However, you may need to adjust based on the thickness and type of velvet.
- Tension: A slightly looser tension might be necessary because of the fabric's thickness, but this can vary based on the machine and the specific type of velvet. Always do a test stitch to ensure the tension is right.
- Feed Dogs: Ensure they're clean. The pile can shed and accumulate.
- Presser Foot Pressure: The best pressure will depend on your machine and the specific velvet you're using, but in general, it is best to use a light to medium pressure.
Steps for sewing velvet fabric:
- Now your seam is basted and ready to go. Double-check you have the pile the right way and every piece that is to be sewn has its pile following the same direction.
- Use a walking foot, Teflon or roller foot as velvet can slip and slide.
- Hold the fabric taught as you go so you get even tension on the fabric and can guide it through the machine as you are sewing velvet.
- Stitch in the direction of the pile and trim and reduce bulk by grading seams.
- Because velvet can fray, consider using a serger or an overcasting stitch to finish the edges.
Step 5 - How to Hem Velvet Fabric
The final touch of sewing, the hemming velvet, is very important as it must hang perfectly.
- Let the garment hang for a full twenty-four hours before hemming and sewing velvet.
- The hem may not need special stitching but could just be turned up once and hand-stitched with a catch stitch.
- Avoid folds or bulky turnovers. When the hem is done, simply steam iron and leave to hang.
Types of Hems for Velvet
- BIAS TAPE: Use a piece of bias tape and stitch the hem to the bias-cut strip. This makes a lovely flat but neat and tidy hem. Firstly stitch the bias cut where you would like it with ½ an inch (12mm) showing above the seam hemline and ½ inch (12mm) below. Catch the top of the tape to the velvet by hand with a catch stitch, then fold the bottom over the hem and stitch it to the tape. Read about bias tape hems.
- SERGER: You could also neaten the hem with a serger and finish off with hand sewing and a blind hem stitch.
Step 6 - How to Press Velvet
It is best to iron on the wrong side of the fabric so you do not crush the pile. Press velvet carefully using a steam iron, pressing cloth, and just applying downward steam pressure. Do not rub the iron from side to side.
Sewing Velvet FAQs
Can you sew velvet on a regular sewing machine?
Yes, you can sew velvet on a regular sewing machine. However, due to the unique nature of velvet with its plush pile and slippery surface, you'll need to take specific precautions, such as hand basting first, using the right sewing machine needles and tailoring the hems and seams to suit the velvet thickness.
What stitch should I use for velvet?
The best stitch for velvet depends on whether it is stretch or non-stretch. For stretch velvet, use a ballpoint or stretch needle in an appropriate thickness. Woven or non-stretch velvet can be sewn with a sharp or universal needle.
What foot do you use to sew velvet?
While you can sew velvet with an all-purpose presser foot, better results can be obtained by using a Teflon foot or walking foot. These 2 specialty sewing feet glide over the velvet fabric, preventing the puckering of seams.
Sewing Velvet - In Conclusion
Despite its challenges, the allure of velvet's luxurious texture and timeless elegance make the effort worthwhile. With the right techniques, even tricky materials like this can be tamed and transformed into beautiful creations. As you continue your journey in sewing, let the lessons learned from sewing velvet inspire resilience and creativity.
Here are some great patterns for sewing velvet:
Sewing Different Fabrics
- CHIFFON – Sewing Chiffon
- BATIK – What is Batik
- CANVAS – Sewing Canvas
- COTTON – Sewing Cotton
- DENIM – Sewing Denim
- FELT – Sewing Felt
- FUR – Sewing Fur
- KNITS – How to Sew Stretch Fabric
- INTERFACING – Types of Interfacing
- LACE – How to Sew Lace
- LEATHER – Sewing Leather
- RAYON – Sewing Rayon
- SHEER – Sewing Sheer Fabrics
- SILK – How to Sew Silk
- THICK – Sewing Thick Fabrics
- VELVET - Sewing Velvet
- WOOL – Sewing Wool