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What is velvet fabric?
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What is velvet fabric?
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What is velvet fabric?

    What is velvet fabric?


    Velvet is a sleek, soft fabric that is commonly used in intimate garments, upholstery and other textile applications. Due

to how expensive it was to produce velvet textiles in the past, this fabric is often associated with the aristocracy. Even

though most types of modern velvet are adulterated with cheap synthetic materials, this unique fabric remains one of the

sleekest, softest man-made materials ever engineered.


    The first recorded mention of velvet fabric is from the 14th

century, and scholars of the past mostly believed that this textile was originally produced in East Asia before making its

way down the Silk Road into Europe. Traditional forms of velvet were made with pure silk, which made them incredibly popular.

Asian silk was already very soft, but the unique production processes used to make velvet result in a material that’s even

more sumptuous and luxurious than other silk products.


    Until velvet gained popularity in Europe during the Renaissance, this fabric was commonly used in the Middle East. The

records of many civilizations located within the borders of in modern Iraq and Iran, for instance, indicate that velvet was a

favorite fabric among the royalty the region.


    When machine looms were invented, velvet production became much less expensive, and the development of synthetic fabrics

that somewhat approximate the properties of silk finally brought the wonders of velvet to even the lowest rungs of society.

While today’s velvet may not be as pure or exotic as the velvet of the past, it remains prized as a material for curtains,

blankets, stuffed animals, and all manner of other products that are supposed to be as soft and cuddly as possible.


    While various materials can be used to make velvet, the process used to produce this

burnout velvet fabric is the same regardless of

which base textile is used. Velvet can only be woven on a unique type of loom that spins two layers of fabric simultaneously.

These fabric layers are then separated, and they are wound up on rolls.


   



    Velvet is made with vertical yarn, and velveteen is made with horizontal yarn, but otherwise, these two textiles are made

with largely the same processes. Velveteen, however, is often mixed with normal cotton yarn, which reduces its quality and

changes its texture.


   



    Silk, one of the most popular velvet materials, is made by unraveling the cocoons of silkworms and spinning these threads

into yarn. Synthetic textiles such as rayon are made by rendering petrochemicals into filaments. Once one of these yarn types

is woven into velvet cloth, it can be dyed or treated depending on the intended application.


    The main desirable attribute of velvet is its softness, so this textile is primarily used in applications in which fabric

is placed close to the skin. At the same time, velvet also has a distinctive visual allure, so it’s commonly used in home

decor in applications such as curtains and throw pillows. Unlike some other interior decor items, velvet feels as good as it

looks, which makes this fabric a multi-sensory home design experience.


   



    Due to its softness, velvet is sometimes used in bedding. In particular, this fabric is commonly used in the insulative

blankets that are placed between sheets and duvets. Velvet is much more prevalent in womenswear than it is in clothing for

men, and it is often used to accentuate womanly curves and create stunning eveningwear. Some stiff forms of velvet are used

to make hats, and this material is popular in glove linings.


    China leads the world as the most prolific producer of synthetic textiles. These and other reckless industrial practices

have rapidly made this communist nation the world’s largest polluter as well, and China is lagging far behind the rest of

the world’s gradual switch to sustainable fabrics and non-polluting production processes.


    Since “velvet” refers to a fabric weave instead of a material, it can’t technically be said that velvet as a concept

has any impact on the environment. The different materials used to make velvet, however, have varying degrees of

environmental impact that should be carefully considered.


   



    Environmental impact of silk


    Silk is the closest thing we have to an ideal fabric from an environmental standpoint. This

embossed velvet fabric is still, in most cases,

produced the same way it has been produced for thousands of years, and since the production of silk is not aided by any

pesticides, fertilizers, or other toxic substances, making this fabric does not have any significant negative environmental

impact.


   



    Environmental impact of rayon and other synthetic textiles


    Rayon is the most commonly used substitute for silk in velvet and velvet-inspired fabrics, and the production of this

synthetic substance is significantly harmful to the environment. The rayon production process involves multiple chemical

washes, and the base material of this substance is petroleum.


   



    Essentially, rayon is non-biodegradable fossil fuel product that introduces tons of harmful chemicals into the water

supply as it is created. With these detractors in full view, the only reason that rayon is still produced is that it is

inexpensive.


    The term “velvety” means soft, and it takes its meaning from its namesake fabric: velvet. The soft, smooth fabric

epitomizes luxury, with its smooth nap and shiny appearance. Velvet has been a fixture of fashion design and home decor for

years, and its high-end feel and appearance make it an ideal textile for elevated design.


    Velvet is a soft, luxurious fabric that is characterized by a dense pile of evenly cut fibers that have a smooth nap.

Velvet has a beautiful drape and a unique soft and shiny appearance due to the characteristics of the short pile fibers.


   



    Velvet fabric is popular for evening wear and dresses for special occasions, as the

jaguar velvet fabric was initially made from

silk. Cotton, linen, wool, mohair, and synthetic fibers can also be used to make velvet, making velvet less expensive and

incorporated into daily-wear clothes. Velvet is also a fixture of home decor, where it’s used as upholstery fabric,

curtains, pillows, and more.


    The first velvets were made from silk and, as such, were incredibly expensive and only accessible by the royal and noble

classes. The material was first introduced in Baghdad, around 750 A.D., but production eventually spread to the Mediterranean

and the fabric was distributed throughout Europe.


   



    New loom technology lowered the cost of production during the Renaissance. During this period, Florence, Italy became the

dominant velvet production center.


    Velvet is made on a special loom known as a double cloth, which produces two pieces of velvet simultaneously. Velvet is

characterized by its even pile height, which is usually less than half a centimeter.


   



    Velvet today is usually made from synthetic and natural fibers, but it was originally made from silk. Pure silk velvet is

rare today, as it’s extremely expensive. Most velvet that is marketed as silk velvet combines both silk and rayon. Synthetic

velvet can be made from polyester, nylon, viscose, or rayon.


    There are several different Holland velvet fabric

types, as the fabric can be woven from a variety of different materials using a variety of methods.


   



    Crushed velvet. As the name suggests, crushed velvet has a “crushed” look that is achieved by twisting the fabric while

wet or by pressing the pile in different directions. The appearance is patterned and shiny, and the material has a unique

texture.


    Panne velvet. Panne velvet is a type of crushed velvet for which heavy pressure is applied to the material to push the

pile in one direction. The same pattern can appear in knit fabrics like velour, which is usually made from polyester and is

not true velvet.


    Embossed velvet. Embossed velvet is a printed fabric created via a heat stamp, which is used to apply pressure to velvet,

pushing down the piles to create a pattern. Embossed velvet is popular in upholstery velvet materials, which are used in home

decor and design.


    Ciselé. This type of patterned velvet is created by cutting some looped threads and leaving others uncut.


    Plain velvet. Plain velvet is usually a cotton velvet. It is heavy with very little stretch and doesn’t have the shine

that velvet made from silk or synthetic fibers has.


    Stretch velvet. Stretch velvet has spandex incorporated in the weave which makes the material more flexible and stretchy.


    Pile-on-pile velvet. This type of velvet has piles of varying lengths that create a pattern. Velvet upholstery fabric

usually contains this type of velvet.


    Velvet, velveteen, and velour are all soft, drapey fabrics, but they differ in terms of weave and composition.


   



    Velour is a knitted fabric made from cotton and polyester that resembles velvet. It has more stretch than velvet and is

great for dance and sports clothes, particularly leotards and tracksuits.


    Velveteen pile is much shorter pile than velvet pile, and instead of creating the pile from the vertical warp threads,

velveteens pile comes from the horizontal weft threads. Velveteen is heavier and has less shine and drape than velvet, which

is softer and smoother.


    For budding fashion designers, understanding the characteristics and feel of different fabrics is key. In her 20s, Diane

von Furstenberg convinced a textile factory owner in Italy to let her produce her first designs. With those samples, she flew

to New York City to build one of the world’s most iconic and enduring fashion brands. In her fashion design MasterClass,

Diane explains how to create a visual identity, stay true to your vision, and launch your product.


   



    Become a better fashion designer with the MasterClass Annual Membership. Gain access to exclusive video lessons taught by

fashion design masters including Marc Jacobs, Diane von Furstenberg, and more.


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