How to Sew Fabrics With Pile

By | May 7, 2016


The 3rd Doctor and friends. Dig the velvet jacket. Source: BBC.

The 3rd Doctor and friends. Dig the velvet jacket. Source: BBC.

Velvet, velour, velveteen, corduroy and even terrycloth. What do these have in common? They’re fabrics with pile – that delightfully fuzzy surface. It’s a joy to see and touch, but it can present some real challenges to cut and sew.

Addendum: The difference between nap and pile.

When cutting it, you want to use lots of pins to hold your fabric in place. If the edges *really* curl when you cut it, grab your basting spray and stick some tear-away stabilizer on to the back of the fabric before you cut it. That will help reduce the curling a bit.

Unfortunately, you can’t use an iron-on interfacing as a stabilizer because you can’t iron velour without crushing the pile unless you have a pin-board. What’s a pin-board? About $100. If you’re going to sew piled fabric on a regular basis, make the investment. The correct tools will make your job a lot easier.

When it comes to velour, if you’re feeling brave, you can try lightly pressing it on a thick, rolled-up towel. But be warned, you’re going to get fuzz from the towel all over the fabric and there’s no assurance you won’t crush the pile. Test-press on a scrap, first.

If you’re sewing any seriously piled fabric – velvet or velour – consider investing in a walking foot. They’re expensive – one for my Viking machine cost me about $90 – but it will save you a LOT of grief. If you don’t have a walking foot, get a rolling foot, which is cheaper. If you have to use a roller foot or a regular foot on your sewing machine, take the time to hand-baste your seams AND use a lot of pins. Velvet and velour are both devils for “creeping” as they go through your machine and it can be very frustrating to watch your seams go all wiggly no matter how carefully you guide your fabric into the machine.

Regardless of the type of foot on your sewing machine, consider hand-basting your pieces together before machine-sewing. Yes, it takes time but sometimes there’s no alternative if the stuff just keeps creeping around. These challenges are less pronounced with velveteen and corduroy, both of which have shorter piles than velvet and most velours but the challenge is still there.

Patience and the right tools will see you through.

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