Silk velvet is this winter’s must have fashion fabric, but before you rush out and buy some for your next project, be warned you’ll need plenty of patience!
Velvet is one of the trickiest fabrics I’ve tried to sew with. The pile on the surface reminds me of furry caterpillars because as you work with it, it wriggles around all over the place! So be prepared for a fair bit of hand sewing to help you create beautiful results.
There is no point trying to tame this fabric – choose a simple fluid, body-skimming style that responds to drape. Avoid darts and focus up gathers and folds instead; this will bring out the wonderful lustre of the pile. I would also choose a style with as fewer seams as possible – I chose an asymmetric version of The Drawstring Dress as it is made with just two pattern pieces.
When it comes to cutting out your garment, choose which way you’d like the nap to ‘fall’. There are no hard rules to this except all your pattern pieces must be placed in the same direction. It may feel more natural to have the nap in a downward direction however if it is upwards the velvet will look darker and richer even with pastel shades.
You should never press velvet, but place fabric face down on a towel and use steam over the surface. If you are very careful you can use the ‘nose’ of your iron to flatten your seams, but do this on the wrong side with a warm not hot iron.
When it comes to cutting out - lay your fabric face down and in a single layer. Weigh your pattern pieces down on the fabric rather than pin and carefully draw around the paper with tailor’s chalk.
As you cut out your pieces there will be a lot of loose fibres from the cut pile, so have your vacuum cleaner ready. I over-locked my garment pieces to stop fraying and further fibre shedding. I used plenty of tension feeding the pieces through to make sure the fabric didn’t pucker up.
Making up your garment – when you place the right sides together you will find the pile works against itself and moves in all directions. To give yourself a fighting chance, use plenty of pins and hand baste every seam, in two parallel lines either side of your intended machine stitch line.
On your machine loosen the tension, insert a sharp needle size 70/10H or 80/12H and use a roller or walking foot. As you stitch, hold your fabric taut as you guide it through under the presser foot. You can try placing some tissue between the two fabric layers – I didn’t and realise I may have got a better result if I had. I did use embroidery backing paper when it came to the buttonhole opening at my neckline – this gave a non-puckered finish.
I decided to hand-stitch down the channels for the drawstrings, gathered cuffs and hem.
Am I happy with the finished garment? If I don’t look too closely at the finish – yes! Would I work with velvet again? I’m not sure.
I chose a really romantic blush colour to wear with The Shawl Collar Coat but I’ll accessorise with brown boots to toughen up the look.