( Originally Published Early 1900's )
This rich, lustrous-appearing fabric is presumed to have been first developed on the shuttle loom by the Chinese. It was used by the Persians about 2000 B.C., and woven in exquisite designs by the Italians during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Today it is made in pile weave entirely of silk yarn, either organzine or spun silk, as in all-silk velvet; of silk warp and pile with a cotton filling thread; with a ground, both warp and filling, of silk and a rayon pile as in transparent velvet. Some novelty velvets have a pile of Cellophane. If made entirely of cotton this pile fabric is known as velveteen. The denseness of the pile indicates the quality of the velvet.
Formerly velvets were woven over fine wires which raised the extra pile warp slightly above the ground warp, as is still done in the making of Brussels and Wilton carpet. After the weaving the wires were pulled out, thus leaving loops in what is termed "uncut velvet." If a cut pile was desired the loops were slit open by means of a knife on the end of the wires. In some types of velvet, particularly in cisele, which has both cut and uncut pile, two sizes of wires are used in forming the pile, the larger wire having the blade with which to cut the loops for the cut pile, that is later sheared to the same height as the uncut pile.
Most modern velvets are made by weaving two cloths with a short space between, across which an extra warp passes from one to the other. A small knife following the same movements as the shuttle cuts through this common warp, separating the two fabrics, and causing the short ends of the cut warp to form the pile on each of the two fabrics. In such fabrics as velveteen and corduroy a weft pile is formed by an extra set of filling threads which intertwine at intervals with the ground warp and form floats across the width of the fabric. When cut the ends of these floats form the pile. In all good velvets the pile is originally erect but during the finishing processes it may be flattened to obtain certain desired effects.
In brocaded velvet the figure is in pile with the ground in plain or satin weave. Formerly of all silk and woven on looms with Jacquard attachment, this velvet today is made with a rayon pile and silk ground, the pattern being printed on the all-over pile fabric with en-graved copper rollers carrying a chemical which destroys the rayon pile where necessary for the design without affecting the silk ground.
Velvets are woven in the gum, which in the first of the finishing processes is removed by boiling. The fabric is then dyed, and when under tension live steam is forced through it for several minutes, and at the same time the pile is brushed first with hand cards then by rotating brushes. It is then beaten by revolving wooden blades, and to insure a pile of uniform height the velvet fabric next passes through the process of shearing. Velvets with the pile longer than 1/7 inch are known as plush.
In the finishing of panne velvet the pile is usually brushed in one direction, set by steam and pressure, then run between a heated cylinder and a metal plate, so that the luster of the material may be fully brought out.
To make them less perishable modern velvets are subjected to special processes. They are frequently showerproofed to make them water repellent, but with one or two exceptions they lose this finish in dry cleaning. To an ever-increasing degree velvets are impregnated with a synthetic resin to make them more resistant to crushing and creasing.
The following are varieties of velvet found in general use today:
Brocaded Velvet. The erect pile or the pressed rayon pile in this type of fabric is formed in designs on a ground of chiffon, taffeta, crepe, or metal.
Chiffon Velvet. An extremely light-weight dress velvet made with an erect pile in either silk or spun silk with either a silk or cotton back.
Coating Velvet. A silk or rayon pile velvet with cotton back. It is very closely woven and rather heavy in weight.
Lyons Velvet. A crisp velvet with short silk pile and back of either silk or cotton, used chiefly for millinery and garments. Lyons-type velvet has a rayon pile and a ground of cotton or silk ; it is stiffened after weaving to simulate the costlier Lyons velvet.
Panne Velvet. A light-weight velvet with its pile pressed flat in one direction. It has a decided luster and is used chiefly for millinery.
Shoe Velvet. An erect, short-pile fabric especially constructed for shoes.
Transparent Velvet. A light-weight, thin-textured velvet which in the better grades is made with a warp and filling of organzine and an erect pile of rayon. The cheaper grades in general have a spun silk or organzine ground warp, cotton filling, and rayon pile.
Uncut Velvet. The pile loops in this type of velvet are left uncut.
Upholstery Velvet. A heavy, wide velvet with either an uncut or a cut pile used for draperies and upholstery.
Washable Velvet. This type will wash without losing its original appearance.
Care of Velvets. Velvet is a delicate material and should receive special care whether in ribbon, trimming, wraps, or gowns. To keep the pile erect or to raise it when it has become flattened or crushed, a velvet garment should be steamed over a kettle of boiling water, the steam being forced through from the wrong side of the fabric; hung in a bathroom over a tub filled with steaming water; or pressed with a warm iron over a needle or velvet board with the pile against the erect wires. In place of a needle board use a hot iron turned up and covered with a wet cloth; draw the wrong side of the velvet tightly over the steaming cloth. Velvet articles should always be well and frequently brushed to prevent the collection of dust in the pile.
When cutting garments of velvet care should be taken to place the pattern on the material so that the pile runs from the bottom toward the top of each piece. This ensures richness and depth of texture and color.