VELVET – Fabric of Luxury

Post 385 – by Gautam Shah 

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Velvet sleeves Portrait of Sir Thomas More (ART by Hans Holbein (1498–1543)). Oak, 74.2 × 59 cm. Frick Collection, New York

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 ropes

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 http://www.reagan.utexas.edu/archives/photographs/vips.html

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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

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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 – Tableau curtain from inside of the scene Wikipedia Image by Sémhur

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 Wikipedia Image by Libby norman

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.

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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.

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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.

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Diwan i Khas Red Fort Delhi Shamianas

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TAFFETA

Post 364 – by Gautam Shah 

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Taffeta is a high end or luxury fabric of Silk. It was worn by Persians since early 3rd C. Persians called it, taftah or taftan or taffian. It has been called taffety. The Persian word meant twisted-woven silk. Silk taffeta was once made from white silk cocoons. The taffeta making materials, their combinations, weaving styles, dyeing, printing and finishing procedures, all have been varying in different locations and times. But, all through history, in spite of many variations, it has retained its popularity for uses like women’s wear, bedspreads, dresses, drapes, lampshades, linings, trimmings, ribbons, corsets, etc.

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Winslow Homer Croquet Scene

Taffeta is tightly woven fabric and so has full body. Original taffeta is believed to be woven with equal numbers of warp and weft yarns. But in later periods, the proportions have been varied: with warp and filling threads, yarn-quality such as filament or staple, density of the weave. Other main effects included yarn-dyed and piece-dyed fabrics. Yarn-dyed taffeta has a stiff handle, and a rustle known as scroop, (Scroop -its synonym froufrou, is the sound that taffeta makes). It can be added to certain fabrics, by acid treatment that hardens the fibres of the fabric. Scroop is a desired effect of formal or evening dresses, and for undergarment-skirts for couture dresses of very thin or sheer fabrics like chiffon or georgette.

Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres princess Albert de Broglie

Taffeta being a silk fabric has a lustrous surface, but different texturizing, sizing and effects can make it a dull or slightly sheen fabric. Taffeta has an identical surface on both sides, and same texture from both orientations due to the same number of yarns in both directions. Some taffeta fabrics have fine cross ribs, formed due to the use of heavier Filling yarn than warp.

Woman’s plaid silk taffeta dress 1855

Faille Taffeta is cross rib weave fabric with a heavy and firm handle. It is woven with staple yarns. Moire taffeta or Moire faille has ripples which if heat set may not be permanent. Moire, French word meaning watered, once applied to lustrous fabrics of gold, silver and silk during 15th C. Today, it is used on synthetic taffeta as perma-set process. Paper Taffeta is a plain weave light weight material, treated to give a paper-like crisp feel. Tissue Taffeta is similar to paper taffeta but softer in feel and very light weight and transparent fabric.

Silk Taffeta dress 1865

Taffeta fabrics are given effects. Pigmented Taffeta is woven with pigmented yarns to make them almost an opaque or solid coloured fabric. Shot taffeta, Iridescent, Changeable or Chameleon taffeta, is a plain weave material, but with different colours for warp and filling. The fabric seems to show different colours in different angles of views. Warp-print taffeta is a plain weave, but the warp yarns are differently dyed in segments, or printed before the filling is inserted (similar to Patan, Gujarat, India, Patola Sarees). This gives a dazzling or fuzzy look to the regular patterns.

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Taffeta coutil is silk-cotton mix fabric, with lilac-white effect. Taffeta alpaca is similar to coutil but with black and white colour combinations. Fiantique taffeta has slub filler yarns and a near reversible look that imitates fine shantung. Taffeta angleterre is a highly glazed and stiff material used for, caps, hats, form-effects and for curtains and for billowing the dresses through stiff lining.

Taffeta fabrics were favoured for offbeat uses till arrival of Rayons, Nylons, Polyester and glass-fiber fabrics. Taffeta fabrics were used for electrical insulation, parachutes, making air-balloons and very light air craft. Synthetic taffeta like fabrics, mainly of polyesters are used for different purposes ranging from garments, industrial to built-forms. The uses include dresses, dresses for performance, stage curtains, tents, partitions, air structures, umbrellas, soft luggage, and as an insulation and lining fabric.

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