Hi there! Amy here, just popping in to talk about the joys of velvet. As George Costanza admitted, “I would drape myself in velvet if it were socially acceptable.” Me too George, me too. Velvet is so luxurious and glamourous and feels so good to wear. It also reflects light in beautiful ways, so even a simple garment sewn with it looks incredibly rich and expensive. That said, velvet can be a finicky beast, so we’ve rounded up our hard-learned lessons about how to sew velvet (see Heather’s crushed velvet gown and silk velvet Amy Jumpsuit for inspo!) May this make all your adventures sewing with velvet an absolute breeze!
CHOOSING A PATTERN
The most important consideration when sewing with velvet is the pattern you’ll be using. Here are our tips!
Choosing a Beginner Friendly Pattern for Velvet
- If this is your first time working with velvet, go simple. Skip things with complicated seams, numerous darts or heavy facings or seams.
- Avoid anything with topstitching! Buttonholes especially can be tricky to sew. Invisible zips and loops & hooks are the best choice for closures.
- Look for designs that drape – this will give you the most bang for your buck in terms of highlighting the beauty of the fabric. That said, a more structured cotton velvet like the one we used for our Jasika “evening” blazer are also beautiful.
- Make sure to consider the nap! Running it down the garment will give you better wear, but running it up looks richer and more saturated colour-wise. Either way, make sure all your pieces are cut in the same direction.
CUTTING, MARKING AND INTERFACING VELVET
It is crucial you cut velvet in one layer because velvet can be so shifty. If there are any pieces you are supposed to cut on the fold, trace it onto paper and mirror it as I did above. You can use tissue paper under the fabric on top of your mat to move the pieces around more easily. It also makes clean up easier since velvet sheds! Speaking of shedding, having a little vacuum handy to clean up your space is a great help.
Trace the pattern or make your markings on the wrong side of the fabric. Use disappearing fabric ink; chalk can leave marks if pressed too hard. Better yet, tailor’s tacks are excellent since they mark both sides of the fabric- be sure to use a sharp needle and silk thread. When cutting, use a nice sharp rotary cutter. Since velvet is so shifty its best to avoid using scissors to minimize the amount it moves around. Finally, try to use sew-in interfacing (silk organza is ideal). If you must use fusible interfacing, use another piece of velvet or a velvet board underneath your fabric pieces when you are applying it because again, shifty.
AVOID VELVET CREEPING
Creeping (as the saying goes) is not stalking your ex on facebook (news to me!) It instead refers to what happens when two fabrics do not stay even under the presser foot and start sliding apart. Save yourself time with the seam ripper by hand basting first. It takes a bit of extra effort but trust me: it’s worth it. A few sources suggested spray adhesive but we haven’t had luck with this. Heather tried this on her seam allowances while protecting her fabric with a piece of paper but the glue spit out all gummy and nearly gave her a heart attack. Wonder tape, on the other hand, worked WONDERS. Put it right in the seam allowance and sew just next to it. Bonus sewing guide! You can also use vertical pins with sharps pointing toward the machine so you can pull them out at the last second.
TIPS FOR SEWING WITH VELVET
When it’s time to get sewing, here are our top tips:
- Use universal or sharp machine needles (sizes 70/10 or 80/12)
- Use silk thread is for basting, and switch to a fine polyester thread for the final seams (silk is not very strong)
- Always, ALWAYS test before you go to sew your garment with scraps. You may find you need to make adjustments, and it’s better to discover that before you mangle your cut pattern pieces.
- If you’re able to adjust/reduce the presser foot tension, this will avoid smooshing the nap and leaving marks.
- Use a walking foot, Teflon foot, or roller foot (test for marking) to help the layers slide evenly under the foot.
- Hold the fabric taut as you sew and “marry the nap” by first proposing marriage (JUST KIDDING); rub the velvet layers together to combine them and keep them from, you guessed it, creepin’.
- Put the velvet side down when sewing to another fabric.
- Stitch in the direction of the nap where possible.
- Try finishing raw seams with serging or a zig zag stitch for a finish that won’t add bulk to your seams. Avoid french seams since they are bulky and very tricky to sew.
Be sure to trim and grade your seams to make them less bulky. When pressing, only use steam on the fron. Don’t touch the iron to the right side of the fabric if you can possibly avoid it since it will crush the nap. If you must press open seams, these velvet boards are great. They are small and kinda pricey so we would only suggest tool this for true velvet lovers (also be careful when moving your velvet around – it has a tendency to get caught on the little needles!) You can also press when needed by wrapping your ironing board or pressing aid in upholstery velvet (mohair is recommended) or a dense towel.
Before you get started, hang the garment on your dress form to relax for 24hrs before hemming. We recommend a single-fold, blind-stitched hem sewn by hand (as shown above) for the most least bulky finish. You can see we serged the hem first to reduce fraying.
STRETCH VELVET TIPS
If you’re sewing with stretch velvet, we have a few additional tips for you!
- Use ballpoint needles and a stretch stitch or zig zag stitch on your machine.
- If you are sewing stretch velvet using your serger, adjust your differential feed to ensure your stitch stretches adequately.
- Your stitching should allow for the same amount of stretch as the fabric itself.
So there you have it. Have I scared you? I hope not. Please let us know if you have any other hot tips! We are all ears.