Velour is a woven stretch fabric with a short, fuzzy, pile. Visually, it is very similar to velvet and velveteen. Unlike those other two, though, velour is a stretch fabric. In fact, it’s sometimes called “stretch velvet” by retailers.
The degree of stretch depends on the fibers used and other factors. But, as a rule, your typical velour has a four-way stretch of about forty percent. I’ve seen claims of stretchier velours, but I regard them with skepticism.
Because of that stretch, velour is good for garments where you want something form-fitting that can allow movement but with a minimum of seams – bodysuits, leotards, leggings, tube tops.
Most velours are a polyester blend, so they’re pretty cheap – about $10 yard if you hunt around. But being a poly-blend AND delightfully fuzzy means that they can be very warm to wear.
Please, oh please, don’t use this for historical costuming of any kind. Despite what some lower-budget movies might have you believe, velour is not a period fabric. In a pinch, you might call it peri-oid, but I wouldn’t. However, for fantasy wear, anime cosplay or kids’ costumes? Go for it. That’s one thing I like about the fantasy genre – no fussy guidelines about fiber and fabrics!
Because it’s stretchy, you do NOT want to use this for a large, heavy garment that’s going to stretch under its own weight, like a cape. If you want to make a cape or a full skirt, use velvet or velveteen. If you absolutely MUST use velour for a cape or something, be sure to hang the garment up for at least 24 hours before determining your bottom hem, as it will stretch and be longer than you expected when all is said and done. Actually, you should do that for any cape or long skirt…
Upon hearing the word velour, almost any cosplayer will immediately think of these guys because that’s what their uniforms were made of.
Star Trek ran for three seasons and, in the first two, the costumes were made from a cotton velour. Yup, a velour doesn’t HAVE to be an artificial fiber, although cotton velour is pretty rare, nowadays. Being on a tight budget, the wardrobe couldn’t supply multiple versions of every costume for the actors and so their costumes had to be washed very often – it gets hot under those lights and actors sweat just like the rest of us.
What happens when you wash cotton and run it through the dryer? Shrinkage. Some fans can place a show’s production date by how short Captain Kirk’s sleeves are – no foolin’. The tradeoff was that the cotton velour was much more comfortable to wear than it’s artificial-fiber equivalent but, after two seasons, the actors looked like they were wearing their older siblings’ hand-me-downs. In the third season, another fabric was identified – one that didn’t shrink – and new costumes were made.
Velour combines the sewing challenges of a napped fabric AND the challenges of a stretch fabric. Oh boy!
When sewing velour, you have a couple of options. You can use a twin-needle with a ballpoint, in which case, just set it to a straight stitch. If you don’t have a twin-needle, use a lock-stitch if your machine has that setting. If you don’t have a lock-stitch, use a zig-zag stitch. A straight stitch is a poor choice because it won’t stretch with your garment’s seams – and why are you using velour if your garment isn’t going to stretch? Sew in the direction of the fabric’s nap whenever possible. Regardless of the stitch, use a ball-point needle as you would with any other knit. Don’t tug on the fabric as you run it through the machine, lest you get wonky seams. Learn more about handling slippery fabrics.
If you’re using velour, give some serious thought to investing in a walking foot for your machine. They’re not cheap – heaven knows I winced the first time I bought one. But velour is the very devil for “creeping” when you sew it – even more so than regular velvet and, honestly, trading off $50 or $90 for a walking foot is nothing compared to how you’re going to feel when you have to unpick a seam for the fourth time and your fabric is the worse off for it. In fact, if you anticipate sewing a lot of napped fabrics in your future, I INSIST you invest in a walking foot. You won’t regret it.
Some velours are devils for shrinking, so buy a little more than your pattern suggests – a good guideline is an extra quarter yard for every two yards of fabric. If you’re using a polyester velour that is specifically described as being washable, run it through a warm-water wash and lay flat to dry. If your velour is made from rayon, test a swatch by washing it in warm water and tossing it into the dryer set on low – it gives the velour a more vintage look and for some projects, that might be exactly what you want. Otherwise, hand-wash it and lay it flat to dry.
When you sew anything even slightly fuzzy, clean your machine frequently. Loose bits of fuzz are going to pile up inside the bobbin case and, to a lesser extent, around the head of the machine. Get it out of there as a gummed-up bobbin case can make your machine malfunction.