Velvet has had a serious comeback in recent years and is the perfect fabric for your autumn winter wardrobe. It is soft and warm against the skin making it perfect for everyday wear, but also packs some serious punch in the glamour stakes - hello knock out evening dress!
In this article we'll give you our top tips for sewing with velvet, share our sexy new velvet fabrics and give you some serious inspo and and ideas for projects using this delicious fabric.
How to Sew with Velvet
Ok so depending how you look at it, velvet can be deemed as one of those 'scary' fabrics. It is slippery and marks easily and if you haven't sewn with it before you might easily be put off. However, like all such fabrics, as long as you are armed with the right tools and knowledge for the job you'll be fine. What's more you'll have some great new sewing skills under your belt and a fabulous new garment to boot. Time to put on those big girl pants and have a go!
One way to make life easier is to choose a pattern you are confident with - perhaps one you have made before or with very simple lines. We would also recommend avoiding tight stretch trouser patterns since you could easily end up with baggy knees - not a good look darling!
Firstly you need to decide the direction of the nap. The nap is the direction the pile lies in. You know when you run your hands across it and one way feels soft and smooth and the other has a bit more resistance? Well you need to decide whether you want the fabric to feel soft and smooth as you run your hands down your garment or not. This is completely down to personal preference, but the most common way is to have the soft and smooth feel as you run your hands down the garment.
Once you have identified your preference lay the fabric face down in a single layer i.e. do not fold the fabric and remember to ensure all pattern pieces are facing the same way.
Pin the pattern pieces to the wrong side of the fabric using fine pins and mark any darts with tailor's tacks. If the velvet is made from natural fibres use a cotton or silk thread since polyester thread would be stronger than the fabric and may cut into it. Our stretch velvet is man-made therefore a polyester thread such as Gutterman Sew All or Mettler Poly Sheen thread is compatible and won't damage the fabric.
Sewing With Velvet
Using a walking foot* on your sewing machine is the best way to have maximum control over slippery fabrics such as velvet, chiffon and silk or stretch fabrics since it ensures the two layers of fabric feed through the machine at the same rate. If you use a normal presser foot the different layers can feed through at a different way and end up stitched together incorrectly. How annoying.
Some Pfaff sewing machines come with a built in walking foot called IDT which negates the need for a walking foot, but if you don't have one of these machines and do a lot of dressmaking a walking foot is a great investment.
If you don't have a walking foot another option is to place tissue paper between the two layers of fabric and/or between the fabric and the feed dogs then simply tear it away once the seams are joined.
As above choose a man-made thread for velvet composed of man-made fibres and a cotton or silk thread for velvet composed of natural fibres and choose our stretch interfacing for our stretch velvet.
We would recommend a size 80 stretch needle when working with stretch velvet such as our John Kaldor velvets. If working with non stretch velvets we would recommend a size 80 universal or sharps needle.
Always sew in the direction of the pile and test on a scrap of fabric before working on your garment. If the fabric is puckering try loosening the tension on your machine.
If you are using a velvet fabric without stretch hold the fabric taut as you sew, however, for stretch velvets such as ours do not hold the fabric taut as this will stretch it out of shape.
Trim and grade your seam allowances as normal, but also cut along the fold of any darts and steam them open to reduce bulk.
*If purchasing a walking foot always make sure it is compatible with your sewing machine by referring to our compatibility charts.
You will need to take extra care when pressing velvet - pressing it in the normal way can lead to disaster! Instead place it face down on a towel and hover the iron over it so that the steam can take effect.
If you are steaming a curved seam place your tailors ham underneath the towel then lie the fabric face down over the ham in the usual way and steam. The towel prevents the pile from being distorted.
Always hang your garment before hemming, ideally for 24 hours.
If working with stretch velvet such as ours using a coverstitch machine is a quick and easy way to hem it. This handy machine sews a neat twin row of parallel stitches on the right side and an overlocked effect on the wrong side of the fabric. Remember to still sew in the direction of the pile as with the sewing machine.
If you don't have access to a coverstitch machine and you are working with stretch or non stretch velvet we would recommend overlocking the raw edge then hand stitching the hem in place. This method minimises bulk and will look neat and professional.
If you don't have an overlocker you can use the overlocking or overcasting stitch on your machine.
If using your overlocker remember to test how the fabric behaves and adjust the differential feed if necessary (there is a useful blog post including guidance on how to use your differential feed here).
There is also a 'handy' (pardon the pun) blog post we wrote on hand stitched hems you can refer to which includes our recommended hem allowances by garment and fabric type plus five videos demonstrating hand stitching techniques. A blind hem stitch or slip stitch would be the most suitable techniques for velvet. Once you have sewn the hem hover the iron over it to apply some steam.
If you want to make your velvet garment even more spectacular you could also include some machine embroidery. If working with our stretch velvet use a regular tear away stabiliser underneath the fabric and a clear soluble stabiliser on the right side of the fabric to stop the embroidery stitches sinking into the pile.
Velvet Dressmaking Fabrics
So now you know how to work with it, the good news is we've recently added to our velvet dressmaking fabric range with some stylish new additions.
We are now stocking our John Kaldor plain stretch velvet in navy blue as well as black, purple, red and teal. Navy features heavily in my wardrobe - it is so easy to wear and pairs beautifully with so many other colours. Thanks JK, good call!
We are also stocking a John Kaldor printed stretch velvet - can I get a whoop whoop?! A bold floral abstract print in a navy and purple it is a very special treat. Super soft to the touch, a very good amount of stretch and it drapes like a dream. I know. Pinch me.
Sewing Patterns for Stretch Velvet
All of the patterns listed below are suitable for use with our John Kaldor stretch velvet.
If you are dreaming of cosy cover ups that you can throw on with jeans or a skirt how about a Linden sweatshirt made up in our velvet? My lovely friend Jen made a sweatshirt in our purple velvet and it was a great way to look glam, but still feel super comfy.
If you fancy having a go at making a jacket The Grainline Studios Morris blazer is a nice easy way to dip your toe in the water. It is a casual, loose fitting design so there is no need for complicated tailoring techniques. Plus I think it would look awesome in our plain stretch velvet.
Make a party outfit worth shouting about by combining our printed velvet and this New look pattern. The jumpsuit or the wrap dress would be a winning combo.
If you have a formal, dressy affair in the festive season and fancy getting your teeth into a project that will stretch your sewing skills why not wow the crowds in this brand new design full length Vogue evening dress?
Still not sure? Why not give your every day wardrobe an instant pop of glamour with some velvet handmade gloves or give them to a friend as a Christmas gift - they will love you forever.
Ready? Then it is time to get sewing and feel fabulous this party season.
Have fun sewing!
Lucy and Angela
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