Velvet is a luxurious woven fabric that has a soft, fuzzy feeling. It's tufted, meaning that tiny loops of thread are woven into the cloth then cut to produce the soft nap that gives the material its distinctive feel. Historically, velvet was owned and worn only by nobility. Today, it's available in fabric stores as well as couture and thrift shops. Below is a guide to some common types of velvet that are available.
Pure velvet is the most basic type of velvet, made from a plain weave with a cut pile. It's used in clothing, curtains, upholstery, and other home decor items. Velvet can be made from silk, cotton, rayon, acetate, or a blend of two or more of these materials. Cotton velvet is the most durable, while velvet made from silk or synthetic materials has a glossier sheen. Nacre velvet has a differently coloured backing and pile, giving the cloth an iridescent hue.
Cut velvet has a design cut into the fabric. The cloth usually has a backing of chiffon, voile, or another lightweight woven fabric. Manufacturers make this type of velvet by cutting the pile down to its backing around the design so that the design has the raised, soft feeling of velvet while the background is less distinctive. Floral and abstract designs are popular in cut velvet.
Crushed velvet looks as if it has been wet, squeezed together and allowed to dry -- and that is exactly how it gets its unmistakable appearance. Manufacturers use machines to twist and crush the velvet then they dry the fabric in a crumpled form, which gives it a mottled appearance. Crushed velvet cannot be ironed or smoothed out.
Panne velvet has a flatter, shinier finish than pure velvet. During manufacture, the makers lay the cloth out flat and apply high pressure to it with a roller. This flattens the nap and makes it shinier. Panne velvet usually has a higher pile count than pure velvet. It can be made from any fabric that pure velvet is made from but it's often made from silk or rayon.
Some fabrics look like velvet, but actually are not. One such fabric is velveteen, which is made from cotton and has a shorter pile than velvet. Another is velour -- a fabric often used for clothing and upholstery. It's also made from cotton, but it's heavier and has a deeper pile than velveteen.