When you’re a sewist, learning how to work with all types of fabrics is important and some of them can be more difficult than others. Learning how to sew velvet fabric is certainly a challenge, but it’s a task that is not insurmountable, especially if you have a few tips in mind before you start.
Sewing velvet requires you to become familiar with the fabric first, then you have to cut out the pattern just right, always test your stitches, and make sure your seams are always basted by hand. Only by taking it slow will you be successful in creating something out of velvet that looks perfect.
Getting Started: How to Sew Velvet Fabric 101
If you’ve never worked with velvet fabric before, get a feel for the fabric first. This is a pile fabric, which means it has a fuzzy surface. Terry cloth and corduroy are also pile fabrics, as are others. Here are a few terms that you need to learn before starting your project:
- Warp: threads that run the length of a fabric
- Filling (weft): threads woven through the warp that are horizontal
With pile fabrics, you get either weaves that have uncut piles, such as terry cloth, or weaves with piles that are cut, which includes velvet. Pile fabrics also come with many different fiber contents, but you can check the label on the bolt to discover what each type of velvet is made of.
If you buy some velvet fabric and place a hand on it, it’s only natural to rub your hand against the fabric since velvet is so soft. When you run your hand on velvet and it is soft and the color is vibrant, you are rubbing with the nap. If the fabric feels a little rough and the color is duller, you are going against the nap.
How Do I Choose a Pattern for my Velvet Fabric?
When you’re shopping for the perfect pattern for your velvet fabric, here are some things to take into consideration:
- Silhouette and fit. You can get velvet in many different weights, which are determined by both the content of the fiber itself and the weight of its backing fabric. Keep in mind that velvets made of silk or rayon will be lighter and are therefore perfect for garments that fit loosely or which are semi-fitted. Heavier velvets are perfect for dresses and jackets, and you can add strength to them if you add an underlining.
- Try to choose closures such as bound buttonholes for buttons and zippers that are high-end and not invisible. (Pile sometimes gets caught in the teeth of invisible zippers, making for a real mess.)
- If you’re a beginner with velvet, choose patterns that have pleats, tucks, and gathers because they are easier to work with and don’t require as much ironing.
Beginners often find that sewing with stretch velvet is a little easier because it is easier to work with shaping and closures.
Prepping and Cutting your Velvet Fabric
When learning how to sew velvet, keep in mind this is a fine fabric; therefore, you have to cut it single-layer. Here are some other things considered important when working with velvet:
- If you come across a pattern piece that requires cutting on the fold, instead trace it so that it is “open.” In other words, you don’t cut on the fold with velvet.
- Always cut all of your pieces in the same direction. You can cut with the pile running down the garment or up the garment. Either way, be consistent with it each time.
- Place tissue paper on top of the cutting surface to help shift the fabric and place a cutting mat underneath the tissue when you use a rotary cutter, which is recommended for velvet.
- Put the velvet on top of the tissue before arranging the pieces. You can use pattern weights that are lightweight to make it easier if you like. Once you’re ready, go ahead and cut your pieces.
Continuing with the Process of Sewing Velvet Fabric
When you’re marking your velvet fabric, take it slow, just as you should with every other step of working with velvet. Using tailor’s tacks for darts, notches, and more, as well as using a disappearing ink marker on the fabric’s wrong side, are great places to start.
You should never use iron-on interfacing with velvet, but instead use the sew-in interfacing. You can choose fabric such as silk organza to use for the backing of collars and waistbands, which works beautifully.
At this point, especially if you aren’t sure how to sew velvet and are just learning, it’s a great idea to test your stitches on a few pieces of scrap fabric that you (hopefully) haven’t thrown in the trash. This is especially important if this is your first project in velvet.
For standard velvet, a good needle suggestion is the size 70/11 microtex. For heavier types, you can try a larger needle such as a 75/11 stretch needle. These are just suggestions and you may find that other needles work better for you.
Some other tips for sewing velvet fabric include:
- Your tension level likely should be altered and made a little looser so the extra bulk can be accommodated.
- Try using a longer stitch length to help improve any tension issue that you might have.
- Reduce the pressure on your presser foot. This way, the feed dogs won’t “scar” the fabric.
- Consider using either a roller foot, walking foot, or a Teflon foot.
- Never skimp on your test stitches. This is crucial when you’re a beginner.
You will be basting your seams by hand. For this stitch, use a stitch pattern that runs diagonally so that the fabric remains secure while you’re sewing. This will avoid the fabric “creeping,” as velvet often does. When you hand-baste the seams before sewing the fabric with the machine, creeping is kept to a bare minimum.
When you’re ironing velvet, it can be a real challenge because ironing can crush the velvet’s pile, which makes the surface of the fabric uneven. Because of this, it is recommended that you use a steam iron when working with velvet. Press the seams down with your finger first, then use steam on the fabric’s “wrong” side.
You can also use a piece of terry cloth or a towel on the velvet so the piles aren’t crushed. If you avoid three things — intense ironing, topstitching, and bulk — you can learn to make gorgeous velvet garments without any problems.
If you create a blind-stitched single-fold hem, you won’t have as many problems with topstitching or bulk. And just as with the seams, make sure that you use a lot of steam for the hemline.
In Summary: How to Sew Velvet Fabric with a Sewing Machine
When working with velvet the first time, one rule is imperative: take it slow! The tips mentioned here are a big help, but if you don’t take it slow, you’ll miss out on the learning experience and likely won’t get the results you were hoping for.
Just as with other fine fabrics, velvet takes a while to get used to, but once you’ve mastered a few skills the task will become much easier. Learning how to sew velvet is just the same as sewing any other type of fabric, meaning that it takes practice. The thing is that velvet pieces are always beautiful pieces indeed, and the final results always make you glad that you kept going until you got it right.