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If you want a luxurious fabric with pile, velvet and velveteen are two popular and similar options.
But which will work better for your project, and what’s the difference between velvet vs. velveteen?
Let’s discuss the similarities, differences, and intended usages for both of these plush fabrics so you know which to pick for your next endeavor!
Velvet vs. Velveteen: The Short Answer
Velveteen, commonly made from cotton, is duller, stiffer, heavier, more durable, and easier to sew than velvet. Essentially, it’s “faux” velvet that can be substituted for the real thing at a fraction of the cost.
However, velvet, the more luxurious, drapey fabric, is more popular and requires more care when washing, cutting, and sewing.
What’s the difference between velvet and velveteen?
Now, for the long answer. Below are 6 ways velveteen and velvet differ, described in depth.
1. Fiber Composition
The fiber composition of velvet and velveteen influence the fabric drape and intended usage.
Velveteen is typically made from 100% cotton, although you might find polyester, wool, or blended varieties.
In contrast, velvet is constructed from silk or synthetic fibers mimicking silk such as rayon, polyester, nylon, or acetate. There are some cotton velvets, often used in upholstery, that are much more similar to velveteen.
There are also more variations of velvet than velveteen. For example, there are many available velvet weights, whereas velveteen is commonly found in medium-weight varieties. There are also more types of velvet such as burnout, panne, crushed, and even embossed velvet.
2. Pile or Nap Construction
The pile or nap of velvet or velveteen, in no fancy terms, is the elevated fabric fluff.
Both fabrics have a nap or pile on the entire surface, but the construction methods differ.
Velvet is a warp-pile fabric constructed from an extra lengthwise (warp) yarn woven into the fabric to create the pile.
In contrast, velveteen, like corduroy, is a filling-pile fabric made with a cross-grain yarn. As such, the pile is short.
3. Pile Characteristics
Due to fiber composition and fabric construction, these two fabrics feel different.
Velvet pile is higher, more erect, and softer to touch. And, it has a better drape, which is why it’s often used in fancier applications. It has a more luxurious sheen and a greater depth of color than velveteen.
Velveteen has a shorter, closer pile that is denser, stiffer, and less supple to touch. As a result, it’s more durable and is the choice for items with more wear and tear.
4. Common Uses
Velvet is found in anything from evening dresses to home furnishings. As it has characteristics more suited to snazzy apparel, it was once even fabric for royalty!
Velveteen is commonly used as a home decor fabric for pillows, cushions, draperies, and other upholstery items. In terms of apparel, you can find velveteen in children’s clothing and slacks, vests, coats, skirts, and other items that need to be durable or washable. Oh, and don’t forget the Velveteen Rabbit!
5. Durability and Care
As it’s commonly made from cotton, velveteen is more durable than velvet and less likely to mar.
Washing, drying, and ironing velvet can be tricky, but velveteen takes well to machine washing and gentle pressing.
Velveteen does shrink, though, so prewash before sewing and tumble dry on low heat to revive the pile.
One exception to this rule is cotton velvet, which does have similar durability and characteristics to cotton velveteen.
6. Sewing Considerations
Sewing velvet takes more skill than sewing velveteen.
For both fabrics, it’s recommended to use an even feed (walking) foot or roller foot, stitch with the direction of the pile, and hand baste first, if needed, to avoid slippage while stitching.
Both fabrics also require a nap layout when cutting pattern pieces. You can find the nap by moving your hand over the fabric and feeling which way provides less resistance.
While consistency is key when using a nap layout and either direction is permissible, typically velvet is cut with the pile facing up to provide a more luxurious appearance. In contrast, velveteen is more often cut in a nap-down direction for better durability.
Both velveteen and velvet also ravel and fray at the edges, so find a way to neaten the edges or plan to encase them in your project.
If you have problems working with velvet, switching to velveteen with its shorter pile can alleviate many issues. Velvet sews a lot like corduroy and most other most medium-weight fabrics.
While very similar, these two plush fabrics have slightly different characteristics. (Throw in velour, and things get even crazier!)
Choosing the best fabric for your project simply requires deciding the look you want and whether you need the item to endure wear and tear.