Velveteen is a type of cotton fabric woven with a short pile which makes it soft to the touch. It superficially resembles velvet, a textile traditionally made from silk, but differs in cost, texture, and appearance. The material is used in a wide range of clothing and crafts projects, and is usually available for sale in crafts stores in a variety of colors. Like other textiles, velveteen is also available by the bolt for large projects.
Velvet is an ancient fabric which has been made from silk thread for thousands of years. Velveteen is a more modern adaptation, with a name which clearly indicates that the manufacturer wants consumers to associate it with velvet. Like velvet, velveteen is woven in a doubled format and sheared when it is finished to create two pieces of cloth with a “pile” of threads which stick out. The pile is very soft, and the fabric can be pressed to make the pile lie in one direction or another after it has been woven and sheared.
Unlike velvet, velveteen has some give, since it is made from cotton. Another related textile, velour, is made even more stretchy by being knitted instead of woven. Velveteen is also prone to shrinkage, like other materials made from cotton. It will tend to fray and fade in the long term, especially since velveteen is machine washable, which can lead to more wear and tear on the fabric.
Many crafters use velveteen because it is easy to care for, and it is much cheaper than velvet. The material is sometimes labeled “imitation velvet,” and it is often used in stage productions to create costumes with the rich, heavy look of velvet without the expense. The washability of velveteen can also be very useful, making velveteen garments less expensive to maintain in the long run.
The fabric is sometimes classified as fustian, a word used to describe any type of dense fabric made with a short nap. Because velveteen is made from cotton, it can be dyed in a rainbow of colors, since cotton takes dye readily. Velveteen can also be dyed at home, for consumers who cannot find the perfect color or shade for their needs. It is also relatively easy to work with, as long as crafters remember that it has a nap, so the grain of the fabric must always run the same way in projects, or the end result will look and feel strange. When using a machine, sewers should work in the direction of the nap, instead of against it.