As a sewist, there is nothing more therapeutic than sewing with amazing fabric. A gorgeous crisp linen; a shimmery, drapey silk; or-getting into the fall spirit of things-luxurious velveteen. Velveteen is a fantastic fabric. However, as usual, with great fabric comes great responsibility. Here are a few tips to consider as you sew with and care for your cotton velveteen.
Velveteen is very similar to velvet because it is also a fabric with a pile. That fuzzy, brushed surface has the classic luxurious look of velvet. At Farmhouse, we love our cotton velveteen. Why cotton? Well that’s because cotton velveteen is pretty durable-as far as pile fabrics go. And when you’re sewing for little ones, you need a fabric you can put in the washing machine!
So let’s talk about the care of velveteen fabric from the start to the finish of a project. Just as you would do with all 100% cotton fabrics, you should pre-wash your cotton velveteen to avoid shrinkage. Like we said a few sentences ago, we do indeed machine wash our velveteen. Now, everything we have ever read about the care of velveteen recommended dry cleaning; so officially that’s what you should do. However, off the record, we would just like to admit that we put our cotton velveteen in the washing machine and it not only survives but it looks great too. If you plan to machine wash your completed project, pre-wash and dry your fabric in the same way. Now in terms of drying cotton velveteen you need to be careful. Never line dry or dry your velveteen by hanging it over a ledge of some sort. Any ridge or crease your velveteen has while it goes from wet to dry will be a permanent mark in the pile. So it is important to spread your fabric out to dry or hang your garment on a padded hanger. You can “fluff” your velveteen in the dryer until it is merely damp, and then lay it flat or hang on a padded hanger to finish drying.
Moving on to what would be the next step in your creation of a velveteen garment. When you prepare to cut your fabric you need to take into account that all your pattern pieces need to be running in the same direction. The pile of velveteen would cause any piece cut in a different direction to look like a different color when cut. That is why some patterns have a different yardage requirement for fabric with nap. Fabrics with nap are “one way” fabrics (no fancy fitting and placement of pattern pieces allowed!) and often require a little extra yardage. To find the proper direction of the velveteen, run your hand down the length of the fabric. The correct direction will feel silky soft but the wrong direction will not feel nearly as smooth. Of course, there are always exceptions. Some people choose to place their pattern pieces the on the “wrong” grain in order to achieve a certain color for their project. The important thing is to have them all going the same direction. Also, velveteen can easily show pin marks so it’s important to use fine, sharp pins during the cutting out and sewing process.
When you are ready to sew your velveteen into a gorgeous garment be sure that your machine needle is sharp and fine. The pressure on your presser foot should be relatively light so as not to crush the pile of the fabric. Because velveteen is a pile fabric, the cut edges are extra prone to shedding. You can finish your edges with serging, a zig-zag stitch, with a seam casing (Hong-Kong finish), or simply by lining the garment.
A very important aspect of velveteen is the method with which to press it. A regular method of ironing would absolutely crush the pile beyond repair and you would lose that gorgeous, luxurious effect. There are a few different techniques you can use for ironing (essentially they all have the same goal: keep the pile from being crushed). One option is to use a needle board-a thick, padded piece of canvas with hundreds of needle-esque wire sticking up. You would place the velveteen on these needles with the pile side down and would press the “wrong” side of the fabric-thus ensuring that the pile is not crushed. Another method would be to use a thick terrycloth towel in the same way as a needle board. When you are ironing seams it is helpful to use something called a “Strip Stick“. These handy sticks make sure that the edges of your seam allowances do not get pressed into the velvet and make a heinous crease line in the pile.
After you have finished your velveteen creation it is important to store it by hanging rather than folding. Again, any crease in the velveteen can become a permanent mark in the pile. So hang that Christmas dress on a hanger! You won’t regret it when you pull it out next year and all it needs is a light steam!
Velveteen is truly a stunning fabric. Sometimes the care involved in pile fabrics can scare people away from sewing with them, but when you look at velveteen creations you can be sure the result is well worth the little extra effort.