Velvet is a rich sounding word and it conjures up the softness of the fabric. I have not sewn a lot with velvet myself. I can remember making one skirt in High School and having to be very careful with the nap and the fabric in general. I was thinking about making a velvet dress for Zara for next year which made me wonder how or if the fabric had changed over the years. If I am going to do research on something then I like to share. Here is what I learned, 12 facts about velvet.
1. Definition – I read several and this one from The Free dictionary seemed the most succinct. “A soft fabric having a smooth, dense pile and a plain underside.”
2. Origins – Some sites mentioned that it was woven thousands of years before Christ but their documentation seemed vague. I found a new site for me, utsavpedia which described that merchants from Kashmir introduced it to Baghdad in about 809 A.D. I also liked learning that at one point in history, Cairo was the largest producer.
3. Made from – I had no idea that velvet means the double weave, not the fiber. According to this site, you can make it from any fabric but originally it was made from silk. And crushed velvet? Twist it when the velvet is wet.
4. Velveteen – I always wondered what was the difference besides price. I learned here that velveteen has a short pile than velvet and velour is made from cotton and has a longer pile than velveteen. They sound like cousins!
6. Glory days – Velvet was expensive so only the rich could afford it and so it became associated with power and prestige. This was particularly true during the Renaissance when Spanish and Italian weavers were known for their sumptuous results. There are more enticing facts like this at this website.
7. Care – Most velvet need to be dry cleaned. They should not be washed nor ironed. If you need to iron velvet, use a needle board and iron the wrong side. Best thing is to use steam. There are even more tips in this article.
8. Wear – Would any mother ever make her children wear matching velvet dresses? Sadly, this has happened. You may even know the guilty party who bought these dresses at J.C. Penney and did not care for them as I just learned I should have.
9. Modern – Velvet is still a fancy fabric and although it can be made from polyester and used in shoes, it still has a look and reputation of being something special. You can look at this gallery or these pictures for modern day use.
10. Other meanings – I do not gamble but I learned from dictionary.com that velvet also means earnings or winnings from gambling. Who knew?
11. Famous velvet – A few years ago, National Velvet would have probably won. But if you google famous velvet the first answer is Red Velvet, the cake. You can’t really argue with cake.
A dozen facts seem sufficient and safe. As I googled more and more with velvet I wandered into some areas that use the word velvet in unexpected ways. Just as you need to be careful when sewing with velvet, the same caution applies to google.
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I published my last fact post on Holiday colors. You can read it here.