How to Cut Velvet Fabric and Keep It from Fraying

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Velvet fabric is luxurious but also fluffy, slinky, and slippery. As such, it is more challenging to cut velvet fabric than other fabric types. 

And once cut, certain types of velvet fabric fray and shed like crazy. 

Notice these issues with your velvet? Let’s talk about how to cut velvet fabric the right way and how to keep velvet from fraying once cut. 

how to cut velvet fabric

How to Cut Velvet Fabric

First, here are some tips for cutting velvet the right way!

1. Assess Velvet Nap Direction for Pattern Placement.

Stretch Velvet Wine, Fabric by the Yard

Depending on the direction from which you gaze upon your lovely velvet, you will notice a difference in shine caused by a variation in light reflection. This is because velvet is a directional fabric with nap or pile. 

Mixing pieces of velvet with different directions of nap is not advised, so you need to decide which side of the velvet fabric you want to face “up” when cutting pattern pieces. (Make sure to use the with nap pattern layout on paper patterns when included also.)

To find the direction of the nap, run your hand over the velvet along the selvage edge. If the fabric feels smooth, the nap is facing down. If the velvet feels rough and the pile raises as you move your hand, the nap is up. 

Once you’ve found the fabric’s nap, mark the direction with arrows on the back to help when cutting. 

Typically, a nap up direction is recommended as this wears better and gives a deeper, darker, fuller color to the velvet. This means as you run your hand from the hem of a garment to the neck, the velvet will be smooth. 

As long as you’re consistent, you can use either direction for your project, though! To test both directions, drape the fabric over a dress form, upholstered item, or curtain rod to see how it will look and choose your favorite.

2. Duplicate Cut-on-Fold Pattern Pieces.

Because velvet is slippery and unstable, duplicate cut-on-fold pattern pieces and tape together the two pieces rather than cutting velvet on the fold. 

Or, plan to cut one side of the pattern and then flip the pattern over to cut the other on a single layer of velvet. 

If you absolutely must cut two layers simultaneously, fold the fabric with the wrong sides together and attach with tape, basting spray, or temporary fabric tape to prevent slippage. 

3. Don’t Use Pins for Pattern Pieces.

avoid pinning velvet

Unless you pin in the seam allowance using only very fine pins, use pattern weights to hold pattern pieces on the velvet for cutting. Pins and needles leave permanent holes in velvet and should be avoided.

4. Use a Non-Slip Surface and Cover It to Prevent Mess.

Cutting on a slippery surface is not ideal, as slippage decreases cutting accuracy. So, choose a non-slip surface like a cutting mat. 

Velvet makes a fluffy mess when cut, so if you don’t want to do clean-up duty after, protect the cutting surface with a layer of tissue paper that can be removed after collecting fluff.

5. Cut Velvet Right Side Down Using Sharp Sewing Scissors.

cut velvet with right side down

When possible, place velvet with the nap side down on your cutting surface. (Trying to match up patterned velvet pieces is one exception.)

I don’t recommend using a rotary cutter but rather a sharp pair of sewing scissors or micro-serrated cutting shears. 

Cut velvet in the direction of the pile using deep cuts with the interior portion of the scissors rather than trimming with the tips, which can create jagged edges and accidentally trim the pile. 

Does velvet fray when cut?

Woven velvet frays, unravels, and sheds pile on the lengthwise grain when cut. This is much more obvious in loosely woven velvet rather than tightly woven velvet. 

Knitted velvet (stretch velvet) frays less easily or not at all thanks to the different method of construction. 

How to Stop Velvet from Fraying

If you have a sewing machine, use an overcasting stitch or narrow zigzag stitch along the cut edges to keep the velvet from later fraying. 

If you own a serger or overlocker, stitch edges with a 3- or 4-thread overlock stitch. 

When sewing velvet by hand, overcast or use a no-fray solution or pinking shears along unraveling edges. 

Other options include using seam binding or seam tape or a Hong Kong finish, which gives your project a neat, professional appearance. 

In reality, seam treatments are largely unnecessary if you sew velvet soon after cutting and choose to line your project. When choosing seam treatments, do make sure to minimize bulk and trim and grade seams for best results, though. 

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