Sewing With Velvet - This Winter's Must Have Fabric

Sewing with Velvet

The new season is in full swing and the key trend I would really love to try is velvet, I mean is there a more luxurious, sumptuous fabric out there? Plus we have the most beautiful quality John Kaldor stretch velvet in black, purple, wine and teal that keeps calling out for me to take it home. Another benefit of this gorgeous fabric is that you can wear it whatever your age - it is beautiful on children and every generation of women and men. Of course Angela, co founder of Sew Essential, has worked with velvet on many occasions so let's have a look at some inspiration for starters then I'll share Angela's top tips for sewing with velvet.

Sewing Patterns for Stretch Velvet

All of the patterns listed below are suitable for use with our John Kaldor stretch velvet.

Firstly I think I've possibly had the best idea for a sewing project - ever. The Grainline Studios Morris blazer in our black stretch velvet. I mean, come on, does it get any better than that? Smart yet casual, classy and chic, it would go with everything and would be a great way to try out the velvet trend without committing to a whole outfit in the stuff. Alternatively choose one of our jewel colours and pair it with black, denim or neutral tones.

Grainline Morris Blazer


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?

Vogue Pattern 1520

If your Christmas party is more of a hit the cocktails and dancefloor scenario this easy to sew New Look swing dress will have you shimmying the night away.

New Look 6469


Another option for a nod to the trend is a velvet bodysuit paired with a simple skirt or trousers (ok we know they call it a leotard on the packet, but ultimately it is the same thing, your secret is safe with us!)

Kwik Sew 3661


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.

Butterick 6398


Top Tips For Sewing With Velvet

The first thing to point out is that working with velvet can be tricky due to its slippery nature and the fact that it marks easily, however, a well executed project in velvet is simply stunning and if you arm yourself with the right tools and advice this can be well within your reach. Pointing out the incredibly obvious it also helps if you 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!

Preparing Velvet

The first thing to decide is the direction of the nap i.e. whether the pile of the fabric feels smooth as you run your hand down the garment or whether you are pushing against it. This is a matter of personal preference, but the most common way is for the fabric to be cut with the nap going down so the fabric feels smooth 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 and therefore remain lined up correctly. 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 use a walking foot it also eliminates the need for basting stitches saving you time (and your sanity!) 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. When working with stretch velvet choose a size 80 stretch needle and choose a size 80 universal or sharps needle for non stretch velvets. 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.

Pressing Velvet

You can't press velvet in the way you normally press other fabrics 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.

Hemming Velvet

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. If you don't have access to a coverstitch machine and you are working with stretch or non stretch velvet overlock the raw edge with your overlocker or use the overlocking stitch on your sewing machine then pin the hem in place and hand stitch. 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.

Embroidering Velvet

If you want to make your velvet garment even more spectacular and on trend 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.

Ready? Then it is time to get sewing and feel fabulous this party season.

Have fun sewing!

Lucy and Angela

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