I have made two Moneta dresses (bringing my grand total to 5!) out of stretch velvet recently. One is a stunning midnight blue and the other is a gorgeous burgundy (I managed to track down some more of the fabric I used to make my pencil skirt). I have also made some velvet scrundies, my burgundy skirt and, would you believe it, a red velvet short suit commission by a guitarist playing Angus Young in an AC/DC tribute band!
I have already blogged about making my velvet skirt earlier this year, but that went more into the detail of pattern drafting, rather than the tricky subject of sewing with velvet. Therefore, I thought I would write a new post to share some tricks and tips.
Chose the direction of the nap
Velvet is a napped fabric, which means it feels different when brushed up or down. You need to choose which way you want the nap to lie. It is typical for the fabric to feel smoothest when brushed downwards on the body. I recommend drawing arrows of the chosen direction on the back of the fabric using a chalk marker.
Make sure you cut all of your pattern pieces with the nap facing the same way.
I found it easier to fold the fabric so that the right side was on the outside while cutting out. If you fold the velvet with the right side in, as per normal, the pile will grate against the other side and it will be impossible to work with. You can also opt to flat cut if you are finding the fabric is moving around too much. To do this, you will need to trace round any pieces that should be cut on the fold and then flip the pattern piece over where the fold line should be, and carry on and trace the other side.
I found it easier to use a sharp rotary blade, rather than scissors. I made sure I used lots of pattern weights to prevent the fabric moving around and distorting.
During construction, make sure that you use plenty of pins as the fabric will be prone to slip. Another great tip is to put a little bit of tension on the fabric as you sew by lifting the fabric at a right angle before it goes through the machine. (hopefully this picture will explain what I mean!) It really helps all of the layers of fabric to feed through at the same time.
Invest in a walking foot
If you don’t already have one, it may be worth buying a walking foot (also known as an even feed foot). They are around £40, which is a little expensive but they do really help as they help the two layers of fabric feed through the machine at the same time. I sewed the velvet suit using the walking foot as that velvet was particularly slippery but I actually didn’t use it for my Moneta dresses and I had no issues at all, so they aren’t strictly necessary but are definitely worth trying if you are having issues.
Use a stretch needle
Make sure you use a stretch needle for stretch velvet – you need to treat it as you would any other knitted fabric. Similarly, using a twin stretch needle will make your hems and cuffs look more professional.
Use tissue paper to start seams
If you find that your fabric is getting sucked down into your feed dogs at the start of seams, try using a piece of tissue paper underneath and it should prevent that. You can just rip the tissue paper away when you have sewn the seam.
Baste where necessary
When I sewing the velvet suit, I chose to line it in a polyester lining and this proved slightly tricky when sewing the two fabrics together as they wanted to slip out of place a lot! Even though it took much longer, I chose to hand baste each section together which helped massively.
I think that it is such a gorgeous fabric to wear and it definitely is worth taking a little extra time during construction to get a good finish on your garment. I’m going to make some cushion covers out of the offcuts that I’ve got, as I think they will look lovely and luxe. I may even throw in some piped edges if I’m feeling fancy!
All of these tips should help you tame the beast that is velvet fabric – let me know how you get on!