Obsessing Over Velvet, the Must-Sew Fabric for Fall

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Swatches of velvet from textile manufacturers, as displayed in our fabric library.

Take it from every fashion editor out there, velvet is the It fabric of F/W 2016. You can’t look at a trend piece or pick up a fashion magazine without reading how velvet is everything this season.

Alberta Ferretti fall 2016 (photo by Getty Images)
Alberta Ferretti fall 2016 (photo by Getty Images)

Which is fine by me, because I’ve had a longstanding crush on velvet. I think my obsession is in my DNA, as evidenced by this black velvet opera cape made by my grandmother. She lived in northern Maine and to my knowledge never actually wore this cape, but no doubt a velvet obsession overtook her and SHE HAD TO MAKE THIS CAPE.

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My actual sewing experience with velvet is very limited. I know I made something from silk or rayon velvet in the not-too-distant past, but I can’t remember what I made or what it was like to work with velvet. This concerns me, as maybe it was a horrifying experience and I’m repressing the memories? Entirely possible.

But we all know sewing obsessions can’t be denied, and I managed to come home last week with about six yards of silk velvet I bought in the garment district. (Give-or-take, $20/yd seems to be the going rate for silk velvet at the small shops in the area.) My plans are to make a coat and a simple top.

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As soon as I got home with my velvet, I folded it and then hung it up in the closet using safety pins on the selvedge. If you leave it piled in your stash it’s likely to develop creases, which are difficult to get out of velvet.

Here’s a velvet jacket by Elie Tahari I picked up at a church bazaar a few years ago. It’s lined with chiffon, which I wouldn’t have considered as a lining fabric but it works quite well here.

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Before I begin working on Velvet Project #1 (probably the top), I’m going to read up on sewing with velvet as much as I can. This article on Threads.com seems like a good starting point. If you have any tips for sewing velvet or links you’ve found helpful, please leave a comment. Thanks! I’ll share my velvet adventures this fall here on the blog.

Are you also obsessed with velvet? Here are some patterns we think would work well in velvet:

velvet patterns
l-r: V1515, M7431, V1516, M7251, B6240

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Have you joined our McCall Pattern Company Group on Facebook yet? It’s a great place to get tips and inspiration from your fellow sewers/sewists. We love seeing what everyone has been sewing lately.

Congratulations to Ashley R., who was our random winner in our Shirtdress Sew-Along Giveaway. A new Oliso Smart Iron and some Clover sewing goodies will be on their way to her soon. Thanks to all who participated in the Shirtdress Sew-Along! You all made some amazing dresses!

We’ve been sewing since 1863.

  1. I too, have not worked with velvet a great deal. However, a few years ago I made a short front jacket with long tails as part of a wedding outfit for a friend. We chose a silk velvet for its luxurious look and feel but the jacket needed more structure. I underlined the whole thing with organza. Labour intensive but well worth the effort. This had the added bonus of allowing me to catch stitch the seam allowances to the underlining so the seam pressing could be very gentle. I used more than one layer of organza as interfacing on areas such as the collar. A very successful garment if I do say so myself

  2. When I last worked with velvet I used a walking foot for longer seams so the layers would stay put and not move separately from each other. Also, I was very glad to have purchased too much fabric as I didn’t remember how different velvet looks from looking up or down the warp– the purple poly velvet I had from Joann’s was same color but MUCH lighter in one direction versus the other. I love velvet too. I would like to make a structured rock n roll purple velvet jacket like Butterick 5927 view D (can’t seem to stop listening to “Purple Rain” in my sewing room since spring…)

  3. Oh, you’re a brave woman! I made two little girl dresses a couple of years ago when I was tempted by this gorgeous fabric. Here’s a link to it on my blog if you’re interested http://sewessentiallysew.blogspot.ca/2014/12/sewing-with-velvet-never-again.html. I found the most challenging thing was stitching the two piles (right sides together) even with a walking foot and you don’t want to unstitch velvet. I found mentioned in a vintage sewing book that diagonal basting stitches work best for velvet and they did! It totally prevented the slipping as I worked on the armhole and other tricky spots. http://sewessentiallysew.blogspot.ca/2014/12/handling-things-differently.html It would have saved me a lot of stress if I read that before I started. Another tricky aspect I found was pressing. The Threads article you linked to spot on, I didn’t have a needle board but using a steam iron over a towel worked well. Good luck, it will be worth it in the end, I can’t wait to see your project.

  4. May I ask where you found silk velvet? Velvet is on my list as well.

    1. Hi Nancy. Prime Fabrics on W. 35th has a good selection. Nice quality and choice of colors. $18-$20/yd.

      1. Everything I’ve found on line is $40 a yard. Thanks I’ve never been there before.

  5. I made a pair of velvet pants last fall from V9032. I love them and can’t wait to wear them again. I want something very luxe bohemian this year and velvet is definitely on my list.

  6. a $20-30 investment in a simple top certainly beats the $639 price tag of your example!!!

  7. Oh, how luxurient…but I don’t know if I would be game to sew with it! I look forward to seeing your finished garments Meg, and then, maybe! We are heading into the warmer months now, so velvet would be a project for later.

  8. I’d love to give it another go. I splurged on some silk velvet to make a wrap for my brother’s wedding, but that whole outfit must have been jinxed, because everything that could have gone wrong with both that and the dress did. Now, my main problem is figuring out how I can possibly fit velvet into my stay at home mom closet!

    1. I like Meg’s idea of a velvet tee. It’s a great piece to dress up or down.and isn’t much of an investment

  9. How odd… I bought two lengths of stretch velvet about six months ago (red and purple) intending to make a dress from one or the other this winter (it’s winter here now in Oz) but haven’t got around to it yet. Is this me being prescient with fabric choices (again)?

  10. “Qoute :but I can’t remember what I made or what it was like to work with velvet. This concerns me, as maybe it was a horrifying experience and I’m repressing the memories? Entirely possible.

    I can’t stop laughing hahahahaha

  11. The only thing I’d recommend about sewing with velvet is to choose a top or jacket pattern, as a skirt or pants develops a sheen to the pile of the velvet where you sit down. Or choose velveteen for bottoms, since they don’t have a problem with that.

  12. I love velvet so much! I made a long dress last winter, which I still love. I think I’d look for any opportunity to make something more in velvet this year. Thank you for enabling 😉

  13. I also have a velvet cape in my winter closet. It was part of a pirate costume. I hold hope that I will someday wear it again.

  14. I used rayon velvet for a halter top gown I made. I’d draw the lines on tissue paper then pin it to the fabric. As I sewed the tissue paper fell away. Longer stitches, too, because velvet looks bunched if the stitches are too small and close together. It came out wonderful.

  15. I’ve seen velvet lingerie. Do you need to use a certain type?

    1. For lingerie it’s probably silk or rayon velvet.

  16. Be careful with pins. I usually use the quilt clips and only in the seam allowance so the holes won’t show. Press from the back only so you don’t crush the nap. I use a needle board, but you can use a towel. Pay attention to the nap when cutting. It is fun to sew with really, you just have to read up on the little tricks. Mainly don’t dent it and don’t crush it. Hang it if you are storing it.

  17. Claire Shaeffer’s Fabric Sewing Guide is excellent. It will tell you everything you need to know–best seam and seam finishes to use, what kind of needles and thread, any special needs, etc. I love this book!

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