VELVET – Fabric of Luxury

VELVET – Fabric of Luxury

Post 385 ⇒   by Gautam Shah 

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Piled weaves are used to create textured fabrics. The characteristic texture over the surface of fabric is formed of Tuft or, loops that are cut or uncut. The piles are made from either or both warp, and web yarns. Corduroy, Velvets, Velveteen, Valour, Plushes are such piled fabric constructions. Few other materials, such as the suede, flocked fibres, have Velvet like a feel.

Velvet sleeves Portrait of Sir Thomas More. Oak, 74.2 × 59 cm. Frick Collection, New York

Velvet is a fabric formed of three elements: ‘a structural warp, a structural weft and a non structural or supplementary warp’. There are two types of looms in which pile-velvet were produced. On a regular velvet loom, double layered fabric is woven, with piles interlacing both layers. After weaving the fabric layers are sheared and separated into two single cloths. The inner faces of the fabrics have cut piles. On a wire loom the piles are formed through looping the yarns over the wire. After withdrawing the holding wire a knife cuts the loop, producing the cut pile. In another option the piles are not cut. The uncut piles have own texture and feel. Often there are dual constructions where one set of warp and web fibres form a plain weave base, and another set of alternate web or warp fibres create piles. The piles may be cut or left uncut as loops.

Blue velvet dress of Diana, Princess of Wales

Velvet weaving originated somewhere on the far east side of the silk route. From here it must have been taken by the Arabs to Europe. The Persian and Hindi (India) word for velvet is Makhmal, literally meaning silky or smooth feel. Mughal and Safavid (Iranian) weavers not only exploited the properties of velvet but enriched it with gold and silver. They also dyed the fabric to dark and deep colours. In Europe, during 12th C. velvet found a base in Italian towns of Lucca, Sicily and Florence.

Throne chair of Stanislaus Augustus Warsaw

The cut-pile method of fabric surface forming is used in two other types of fabrics: namely, Velveteens and Valours. Velveteen is usually made of cotton or its blends. It has shorter and stiffer pile that lies flat. It is sturdy and durable but has poorer draping, and lesser sheen. It is also less denser and so used as craft or toy making fabric. Velvet is a very ancient fabric, whereas velveteen is of recent making. Velour is often called a stretch fabric. It is used as stretching over furnishing fabric for shaping purposes.

Velvet curtain

Crushed velvet is produced by manipulating the fabric whilst it is wet. The manipulations include twisting, crushing, brushing, creasing and embossing. Creases and folds in the fabric can flatten the pile or make it lumpy. Devore velvet is a fabric treated with a caustic solution as a pattern, to dissolve the piles in select sections. Embossed velvet is created by heat treatment with a patterned roller. Panne velvet is a result of treatment that forces piles to lie in particular direction.

Devore velvet -burn-out sections on velvet

Velvet fabrics due to the one-directional weave and piles show a characteristic nap. The nap affects the colour perception from length and width sides. Due to the nap, the fabric feels smoother in one direction than the other. It is very necessary to align or orient the nap consistently for all uses.

Nap on Velvet fabric

Velvet, a piled fabric consumes lots of silk, and so is very costly. It is a light density and fragile material. Velvet is a method of fabric formation, and so can be used with many other fibres, such as cotton, rayons, acetate, polyesters, etc. Each fiber types or combination provides a different quality of velvet fabric. But it is the surface-feel that makes the fabric soft, smooth, elegant, cool to the skin and drape-able.

A cape in pile-on-pile velvet.

Silk velvet was a highly prized fabric, identified with wealth, power and prestige. Synthetic velvets made from rayon and acetate are cheaper but heavier and do not drape well. All types of velvets can be dyed with saturated deep colours, due to its unique fibrous surface.

Jewel box lining

Velvets are used in everything dresses, gowns, horse carriages, furniture, clothes, jackets, handbags, scarves, skirts and blouses, drape and wall coverings. Mughal used it for making Shamiana (tents) for parties. Velvets have been used stage curtains. Velvet fabrics are opaque, and due this reasons are used as background for exhibit of art-pieces shadowboxes, jewellery boxes, photo boxes and lining the coffins.

Diwan i Khas Red Fort Delhi Shamianas

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