Saturday, November 17, 2007

Cynthia's Corner

"Pile It On"


My dad has always said, "The older you get, the faster the time flies." Well, time has flown by and once again I hear the much too fast approaching sound of Jingle Bells. This is also the season for luxurious fabrics including on of my favorites, velvet. This gorgeous fabric is not only popular in clothing, but also in home decor. Yes, I know what you are thinking, velvet is beautiful but it is a pain to work with. To help ease your painful thoughts I have some great tips and tools on working with velvet.

The way velvet is handled depends on its fiber content. Cotton velvet has a firm hand and sews beautifully for suits, jackets and children's clothing. It can be machine washed using a gentle cycle and a mild detergent and then tumble dry with low heat. The more lustrous velvets are made of rayon, acetate and the king of velvets, rayon/silk. They have a more pliable hand and a softer texture than cotton velvet. Handle these rich velvets carefully because the pile can crush easily. All lustrous velvets should be dry cleaned. Of course there is an exception to alot of sewing rules and here is mine. I have prewashed and tumbled dried rayon/silk velvet before. It does shrink some but, it washes and dries beautifully and the completed garment can be washed from now on. So don't be afraid to experiment but start with a scrap first. If you are going to prewash your velvet, be sure to serge all raw edges first.

Choose a pattern with simple lines because a garment with too many seams does not show off the luxurious nap of velvet. Be sure to use the with nap yardage when purchasing velvet to be certain you have enough fabric. Lay all pattern pieces in the same direction. Always cut velvet using a single layer and right side (nap) up because velvet slips when folded. I know that this is true because I have tried to baste or pin edges together and cut, but is always slips! When pinning the pattern to velvet, pin in the seam allowances only and work one pattern piece at a time.

Cut facings from light weight fabrics such as silk crepe de chine, lining or broadcloth to keep seams from being too bulky. Use chalk or marking pens (appropriate color of course) to transfer markings and notches from your pattern to the velvet.

The stitch length should be about 2.5 and use either size 10, 11 or 12 needle depending on the type of velvet. Always stitch in the direction of the pile. Finish seams by serging each seam singly before stitching garments together. You can also use Seams Great as a finish.

The best way to press velvet is to use a needle board and a steam iron. If you do not have a needle board you can use a left over piece of velvet.Place velvet press cloth over ironing board pile side up. Lay garment pile side down on top of the velvet press cloth or the needle boardI use my iron to shoot a burst of steam over the seams, then I use the edge of a Popsicle stick to smooth and flatten the well of the seam only.Never touch the velvet with the iron.

Once when making a velvet wrap for that rare "I get to dress up" occasion, I realized that I needed to press hard to reach areas without crushing the pile. I covered a wooded dowel with velvet and inserted it into the opening.It was much easier to press seams open without crushing the pile of the fabric.

To help prevent my wrap from being crushed while hanging, I covered the bottom part of a pant hanger with a left over piece of velvet. This has helped to keep my wrap safe!

Final Thoughts
  • When steaming a velvet garment from the right side, allow the velvet to completely dry before hanging or storing. If stored while the velvet is still wt from the steam, the pile will crush wherever it is folded.
  • The dowel has also worked with other sewing projects by covering it with whatever fabric you are working with be it wool crepe, denim, or even muslin.
Now get ready to create your velvet masterpiece!!

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