What is velvet fabric?
Known for its luxurious softness and opulence, velvet material has been a favoured fabric for clothing and upholstery for decades. But what is velvet? A heavy, rich, and sumptuous textile, that has been woven since the Middle Ages, velvet is renowned for being associated with royalty.
Velvet is a woven warp pile fabric. Therefore, it is not a fibre, such as silk, cotton, or cashmere. The term refers to the weave. It is a woven tufted fabric, with cut threads distributed evenly along the ground material. Characteristically, it has a short, dense pile.
The quality of the textile is determined by the density of the pile tufts, and the way that they are anchored to the base fabric. There are many kinds of velvet. Some of the most renowned include:
- Marbled velvet – a beautiful marbled effect, created by the pile going in all directions
- Velvet shimmer – a reinforced woven back, making it strong, with a shimmering face
- Plush velvet – thick, warm, and sumptuous with a very soft brushed face
- Cotton velvet – made using cotton yarns for both the pile and the ground. Less luxurious but harder wearing
- Antique velvet – woven with occasional slub weft yarns producing an uneven surface
- Brocade velvet – a velvet material where the pile is sheared at different lengths to create a pattern
- Crushed velvet – a normal, solid velvet in which the pile is pressed or crushed in different directions
How is it manufactured?
When considering velvet manufacturing, the question of “what is velvet” is once again important. As the name refers to a certain weave, velvet is a woven fabric.
Woven as a double cloth on a specialist loom, that can weave 2 thicknesses of the textile at the same time. The 2 pieces of material are cut apart to create the distinctive pile effect. These 2 lengths of fabric are wound on individual take-up rolls.
It is a complex process, which gives an indication as to why it is renowned for being an expensive and luxurious fabric. Velvet can be made from natural – such as cotton, wool or linen - or synthetic – such as rayon, polyester or viscose - fibres.
Purposes of velvet fabric
Velvet material can give any room or wardrobe an instant luxurious aesthetic. Cotton velvet is a very popular choice when it comes to clothing. From skirts, blazers and coats, velvet is an excellent choice, especially for autumn and winter fashion.
Thanks to its durability and elegance, velvet is a popular choice for upholstery and interior décor. Home furnishings such as cushions, bed coverings, drapes, curtains, and furniture upholstery are given a deluxe and gilded air when made in velvet.
Smooth and luxurious, with many different variants, velvet is one of the world’s best loved fabrics. It is heavy and durable with a lustrous sheen. However, many properties depend on the type of material or fibre used to make the velvet fabric:
- Silk velvet has a shimmering, almost fluid surface. It also has a soft and more flexible drape
- Synthetic velvets, made from acetate or rayon, mirror the strong sheen, but the drape is not as natural and fluid
In general velvet is:
Advantages of velvet fabric
Velvet is a versatile fabric and can be used for both interiors, upholstery, and clothing. It is soft and opulent, and is seeing increasing popularity in both areas.
Originally, the ground fibre was made from cotton and the pile fibre was silk. However, nowadays both the pile and ground fibres are woven in several different types of fibres, which makes it a far more universal and affordable fabric.
This is a key advantage of velvet fabric. What once was a textile only affordable for the affluent few, is now made with so many fibres, that it can be used by most.