Saturday, March 22, 2014

Velvet and fusible thread

Oh, well it has been really crazy around the cutting table for the past few weeks and the next month promises more of the same. I don't know about your work place and work flow but mine is like getting on a ride at the fair, blindfolded!  You kind of know what to expect, but how the work unfolds is always different. Since I am working on three shows at the same time, you might think that if I couldn't get ahead on one, then I could on another and generally that is true, but sometimes, it just happens that you hit a roadblock of perhaps lack of information, or actor availability. Then sometimes actors show up a different size, or the designer is not available, or the fabric is stuck in customs. Can you guess that all of these things have happened to me this season? So, I feel that I am currently suffering from being spun around on some kind of carnival ride and now I am trying to catch my balance and move forward to the next ride in line.

So, now that you know how I am feeling, I thought I would show you a very interesting technique that I have borrowed from my colleague Evan.
A few years ago he had to make a purple velvet suit, out of that kind of velvet that is like a cat's tongue, very napped, very shiny and very hard to work with.
He controlled the fabric by stitching a grid onto a backing fabric using fusible thread. The velvet was then placed onto this backing, and gently pressed which melts the filament and fuses the two fabrics together.

We had to make a waistcoat out of silk/rayon velvet as well as use it for a facing for an evening dress cape. I don't know if you have ever worked with this fabric but I can tell you that it is not something easy to use. It shifts and wiggles around on the table, it is all drape and no substance! It would make a great bias cut 1930's style dress (as long as I didn't have to sew it). A waistcoat? Well, that is what was asked for and we complied.
This type of fabric doesn't always respond well to being flat mounted just around the perimeter, but it needed some support just to work with it, so we thought we should try out Evan's technique.

We used YLI fusible thread in the bobbin, regular Gutermann thread in the needle. This fusible thread is quite fine, you can break it by hand, so we bypassed running it through the bobbin tension slot, just feeding it through the open space beside the slot.

I cut out rectangles of a very lightweight poly cotton, marked a 2" grid and Denise stitched it.  I cut the velvet in a rectangle as well and the two fabrics were basted together along the perimeter to keep the grains aligned. At the ironing table, they were laid out on the large needle board, and carefully pressed. Once the filament melts, the needle thread can be pulled away if you choose. I recommend doing that so you don't have loose threads floating around that can mark the velvet at subsequent pressings.

Once the fabric was stable, I marked the pattern on it and it was line basted in preparation for sewing.
Sewing this kind of velvet still presents a challenge, so if you find yourself in this situation, do a sample. Putting a welt pocket into this was painful, and finally it was sewn in by hand, rather than fight with it at a machine.
If I was going to do this again, which I hope I don't have to any time soon, I would choose a backing with a bit more substance than what I used. I would also try to figure out a way to pre-fuse behind the welt pocket- not sure how but it would make cutting into the corners of the welt pocket less tedious.
Sorry Denise! she sewed the waistcoat and it did try her patience to the utmost!! In retrospect I would have changed the darting too. I needed the waist dart shaping but I should have reverted to just a single vertical dart. Sorry Denise! Can I apologise enough?
Well, if we have to do it again in the future, I hope I will have more thinking time and will improve the process!


  1. Velvet is always "fun" to sew. Interesting technique, I will have to give it a try.

  2. Fascinating! May I ask why the fusible thread is preferable to just applying a light fusible interfacing to the pieces?

    1. We were having trouble with the nap flattening with full fusing, and worried about adequate adhesion. Time will tell if it was a better or worse choice.

  3. That should come in handy, next time I can't talk the designer into cotton velveteen for tailoring!

    1. Yes, velveteen at least holds its own shape after being cut. I like that you can wash velveteen as well before using. We had some that was quite stiff that softened nicely after a wash.