The word 'velvety' is used as an adjective to mean "smooth like velvet." Velvet can be either synthetic or natural.
Velvet is woven on a special loom that weaves two thicknesses of velvet at the same time. The two pieces are then cut apart to create the pile effect, and the two lengths of fabric are wound on separate take-up rolls. Velvet was expensive to make before industrial power looms became available. Velvet is difficult to clean because of its pile, but modern dry cleaning methods make cleaning more feasible. Velvet pile is created by warp or vertical yarns and velveteen pile is created by weft or fill yarns.
Velvet can be made from many different kinds of fibers, traditionally silk. Velvet made entirely from silk has market prices of several hundred US dollars per yard. Cotton can also be used, though this often results in a slightly less luxurious fabric. Velvet can also be made from fibers such as linen, mohair, and wool. A cloth made by the Kuba people of the Democratic Republic of Congo from raffia is often referred to as "Kuba velvet". More recently, synthetic velvets have been developed, mostly polyester, nylon, viscose, acetate, and mixtures of different synthetics, or synthetics and natural fibers (for example viscose mixed with silk). A small percentage of spandex is sometimes added to give stretch.
Traditionally, velvet is associated with nobility. Velvet was introduced to Baghdad during the rule of Harun al-Rashid by Kashmiri merchants and to Al-Andalus by Ziryab. In the Mamluk era, Cairo was the world's largest producer of velvet. Much of it was exported to Venice, Al-Andalus and the Mali Empire. Musa I of Mali, the ruler of the Mali Empire, visited Cairo on his pilgrimage to Mecca. Many Arab velvet makers accompanied him back to Timbuktu. Later Ibn Battuta mentions how Suleyman (mansa) the ruler of Mali wore a locally produced complete crimson Velvet caftan on Eid. During the reign of Mehmed II, assistant cooks wore blue-coloured dresses (câme-i kebûd), conical hats (külâh) and baggy trousers (çaksir) made from Bursa velvet.
The earliest sources of European artistic velvets were Lucca, Genoa, Florence and Venice, which continued to send out rich velvet textures. Somewhat later the art was taken up by Flemish weavers, and in the sixteenth century, Bruges attained a reputation for velvets that were not inferior to those of the great Italian cities.
- Chiffon (or transparent) velvet: Very lightweight velvet on a sheer silk or rayon chiffon base.
- Ciselé: Velvet where the pile uses cut and uncut loops to create a pattern.
- Crushed: This type of velvet can be produced by pressing the fabric down in different directions. It can also be produced by mechanically twisting the fabric while wet. The result is patterned appearance that is very lustrous.
- Devoré or burnout. A velvet treated with a caustic solution to dissolve areas of the pile, creating a velvet pattern upon a sheer or lightweight base fabric.
- Embossed: A metal roller is used to heat-stamp the fabric, producing a pattern.
- Hammered: This type is extremely lustrous, appears dappled, and somewhat crushed.
- Lyons: A densely woven, stiff, heavier-weight pile velvet used for hats, coat collars and garments.
- Mirror: A type of exceptionally soft and light crushed velvet.
- Nacré: Velvet with an effect similar to shot silk, where the pile is woven in one or more colours and the base fabric in another, creating a changeable, iridescent effect.
- Panné: Also a type of crushed velvet, panné is produced by forcing the pile in a single direction by applying heavy pressure. Sometimes, less frequently, called paon velvet.
- Pile-on-pile: A particularly luxurious type of velvet woven with piles of differing heights to create a pattern.
- Plain: Commonly made of cotton, this type of velvet has a firm hand and can be used for many purposes.
- Utrecht: A pressed and crimped velvet associated with Utrecht, Holland.
- Velveteen is a type of imitation velvet. It is normally made of cotton or a combination of cotton and silk. It has a pile that is short (never more than 3mm deep), and is closely set. It has a firm hand and a slightly sloping pile. Unlike true velvet, this type has greater body, does not drape as easily, and has less sheen.
- Wedding ring or ring velvet: Another term for devoré and/or chiffon velvets which are allegedly fine enough to be drawn through a ring.
- Silk: More expensive than plain velvet, this type is usually shinier and softer than the cotton variety.
- Viscose: In terms of quality, this type is more similar to silk velvet than cotton velvet.
- Glossary of textile manufacturing
- Velour, or velours, a plush, knitted fabric or textile
- Velvet painting
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