Mention crazy patchwork and I’m sure most quilters’ thoughts will turn to velvet. It is such a beautifully rich fabric that it lends itself to crazy patchwork with lots of other rich fabrics and plenty of embroidery. Plus of course it wouldn’t really lend itself to ordinary patchwork!
Velvet fabric is made by weaving two layers at the same time and then cutting the two layers apart. The pile is created by the short lengths of thread which joined the two layers during the weaving. The softness of true velvet and the way it drapes so beautifully results from the use of silk fibres for weaving. Naturally this is also the most expensive form of velvet.
Different, less luxurious, forms of velvet can be made using cotton, linen, mohair and wool and of course there are now synthetic fibres that can be used in velvet manufacture. sometimes velvet can even be made with a small addition of spandex to give a little stretch to the fabric. Doesn’t that word ‘stretch’ strike terror into the heart of a quilter!
Velvet is thought to have been woven first in Kashmir but in time Cairo became an important producer of velvet, and Bursa velvet takes its name from Bursa in Turkey which was one of the most important cities on the silk foute. Then, as now, velvet was regarded as a luxury fabric. In the 14th century England’s King Richard II decred that when he died his body should be buried dressed in velvet.
Types of velvet fabric
There are various different types of velvet which vary both in which fibre they are made from and what happends to the fabric after weaving:
- Crushed velvet: made by pressing the pile in different directions. This can be achieved by twisting the fabric when it’s wet and gives some contour to the fabric.
- Devore velvet: the woven fabric is treated with a caustic solution applied in a pattern. This leaves a pattern showing where the pile has been dissolved by the caustic solution.
- Embossed velvet: heat treatment applied using a metal roller to produce a pattern.
- Panne velvet: the pile is forced to lie in one direction only by heavy pressing.
Velvet is a beautiful fabric and even though it is not washable and not always easy to work with, it still remains one of my favourite fabrics.