For anyone wanting to add everlasting interest to their home, you can’t look past velvet! This is a fabric that’s as rich in textile history as it is in texture with incredible durability that may surprise you.

Velvet fabric fuses a historical sense of luxury and indulgence with a plush, practical comfort that has a timeless style, sure to outlast any momentary design trends. With its silky sheen and rich colours, velvet holds a specific seductive quality that no eye for elegance can resist the allure of.

For a fabric that feels like a soft, buttery hug the unique piles have a hard-wearing quality that will ensure your velvet curtains, cushions or furniture will continue to be loud and daring or subtly sophisticated for years to come.

History of Velvet

The history of velvet is one of luxury and meticulous construction. It is believed the material was first introduced in Baghdad around 750 A.D. The original velvet material was made from silk and therefore naturally reserved for royalty and other notably wealthy classes that could afford the exorbitant cost.

Velvet eventually travelled to Europe on the Silk Road and gained popularity during the Renaissance. At the same time, new loom technology lowered the production costs and therefore widened the availability to fabric lovers of all classes. Fast-forward to the 21st century and velvet fabric can be found in almost every home, transcending and outlasting interior trends to suit any home decor for years on end. 

How is Velvet Made?

Velvet is made in a very unique way. It is woven on a double piece loom that makes two pieces of fabric simultaneously with the velvet pile encased in the middle. It is then separated, creating the three-dimensional texture velvet is known for.

While the first velvets were made from silk, more recent adaptations in the production process means velvets can now be made from natural or synthetic fibres such as polyester, nylon, viscose, or rayon.

Classic plain velvet will then be sheared to ensure the pile is a consistent length and often brushed while moist to achieve a nice uniform grain across the fabric. If the fabric is destined to boast a pattern, at this point in the process it will be crushed, embossed or snipped to different lengths to ensure this pattern is part of the pile’s identity for the life of the fabric.

Velvet is then dyed to produce amazing, rich colours that are accentuated by the three-dimensional texture.

Durability of Velvet

Due to the aura of luxury surrounding velvet and the fact that it was originally made from silk, there’s a preconception that it’s delicate and requires gentle, loving care to stay pristine. We’re here to set the record straight!

It then comes as a surprise to many that velvet is very durable and perfect for everyday upholstery, cushions, curtains and other home décor that gets caught up in the rough and tumble of day-to-day living.

Velvet is a material with no raised weaves or loose threads meaning it’s very difficult to snag or tear the fabric. It is also has a flat pile, similar to a rug, which means dirt or pet hairs should fall away from the fabric rather than get stuck in it.

Because the piles stick out from the base of the fabric, unlike flat fabrics, water and liquid spills tend to float on top of the piles before soaking in and leaving a stain, giving you valuable time to dry and spot-clean the site. Another win for the texture of velvet is that those same piles take the brunt of rubbing and wear before eventually wearing on the base, therefore it’s got the head start on durability compared to flat fabrics.  

Rumours of fussy, fragile velvet? Kick them to the curb and let’s make the sturdy and enduring qualities of velvet the talk of the town instead!


 7 Different Types of Velvet

There are several different velvet fabric types, as the fabric can be woven from a variety of different materials using a variety of methods.

  1. Crushed velvet. As the name suggests, crushed velvet has a “crushed” look that is achieved by twisting the fabric while wet or by pressing the pile in different directions. The appearance is patterned and shiny, and the material has a unique texture.
  2. Panne velvet. Panne velvet is a type of crushed velvet for which heavy pressure is applied to the material to push the pile in one direction. The same pattern can appear in knit fabrics like velour, which is usually made from polyester and is not true velvet.
  3. Embossed velvet. Embossed velvet is a printed fabric created via a heat stamp, which is used to apply pressure to velvet, pushing down the piles to create a pattern. Embossed velvet is popular in upholstery velvet materials, which are used in home decor and design.
  4. Ciselé. This type of patterned velvet is created by cutting some looped threads and leaving others uncut.
  5. Plain velvet. Plain velvet is usually a cotton velvet. It is heavy with very little stretch and doesn’t have the shine that velvet made from silk or synthetic fibres has.
  6. Stretch velvet. Stretch velvet has spandex incorporated in the weave which makes the material more flexible and stretchier.
  7. Pile-on-pile velvet. This type of velvet has piles of varying lengths that create a pattern. Velvet upholstery fabric usually contains this type of velvet.

Caring for velvet

The nature of velvet is three-dimensional and so it’s always assumed that the piles will shift, change direction and gain personality as they settle into your home; thus the character of velvet. However, steps can be taken to ensure your velvet items stay looking as fresh as possible.

Velvet, like a fine carpet can be cared for by occasional vacuuming which will ensure that dirt does not stay in the fibres.

Marking or bruising of the pile after sitting is normal. Almost all marks will recover by themselves with time and natural humidity. Bruising that does not recover, although infrequent, can be restored by minimal steaming. Gentle brushing, in the direction of the pile will also help align the pile to regain its original state.

Most stains can be blotted or wiped away with a damp cloth or paper towel. Dried stains can be removed with spot cleaning. Always test in an inconspicuous area first. Using soap and water or a commercial dry-cleaning product, start from the outside of the stain, while working your way from the outside into the middle of the stain. Once dry, brush in the direction of the pile with a toothbrush, nailbrush or similar soft dry brush to restore the loft and direction of the pile. Repeat the process if necessary.

Thanks to Marthas Furnishing Fabrics for this cool article!