Velvet – soft, plush, luxurious and the fabric meant for kings and queens in days gone by. 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 one can design an outfit in this beautiful fabric but…is it easy to sew? Sewing velvet requires some preparation and attention to detail but once it is mastered there is no reason why every seamstress shouldn’t try this luxurious fabric.
STEP ONE: Know your Fabric
Learn a little bit about velvet before you sew the fabric:
- 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.
- Velvet drapes well. It suits simple semi-fitting styles with a less is more philosophy.
- Keep bulk to a minimum with flat seams and avoid ripping out stitches. Velvet is not very forgiving of holes made by incorrect stitching.
- 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.
STEP TWO: Cutting and Marking
- Once you have checked the nap direction, turn your fabric to the wrong side and mark the nap direction in tailor’s chalk.
- Cut out pieces individually and always in the same direction.
- 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.
- 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.
- Any pattern pieces cut on the fold needs to be duplicated so the pattern can be opened out and cut as one whole piece.
- Mark notches with small snips or tailors tacks
STEP THREE: Get Ready to Sew
- Check your sewing machine needle sizes are correct. A universal or sharp 70/10H or 80/12H works best.
- Use 100% cotton or silk thread. (read sewing thread types)
- 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 FOUR: Sewing Velvet
- Before you tackle the seams 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.
- 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 an even tension on the fabric and can guide it through the machine.
- Stitch in the direction of the pile and trim and reduce bulk by grading seams.
- Slash open darts and press carefully using a steam iron, pressing cloth and just applying a downward steam pressure. Do not rub the iron from side to side.
STEP FIVE: Finishing off the Garment
The final touch of the garment, the hem, is very important and must hang perfectly.
- Let the garment hang for a full twenty-four hours before hemming.
- 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.
- Another suggestion is to use a piece of bias cut flannel 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.
- You could also neaten the hem with a serger and finish off with hand sewing. Once again try out different techniques on a scrap first.
LE GRANDE FINALE: So now you can parade your velvet creation feeling like a member of the royal family. It’s time to get all the royal recognition for sewing velvet!
Great patterns for sewing velvet