By | May 7, 2016

Cotton velveteen. Source:

I mentioned velveteen briefly during the section on velvet, because they’re so closely related. Like velvet, velveteen is a napped fabric. Like velvet, the pile – the fuzzy part – is on a non-stretchy base.

So what’s the difference between velvet and velveteen? Velveteen has a shorter pile than velvet, which makes the fabric physically lighter than velvet. The depth of the pile in velveteen is comparable to corduroy. Traditionally, velveteen is made from cotton and only cotton, but that’s no so much the case any more. These days, “velveteen” is used to describe any napped fabric that is otherwise identical to velvet, but has a shorter pile.

The difference between nap and pile.

You’ll find a lot of not-cotton velveteen in the upholstery section, usually on a heavy webbed backing to give it strength. Cotton velveteen doesn’t get nearly as much love as it deserves. Why does it deserve love? Because it’s washable. You can sling that stuff in the washer and it won’t come out crushed and shredded to hell. You can even run it through the dryer – although it will shrink but that shouldn’t be a problem because you thoroughly pre-shrank your fabric before making your costume, right? Of course you did.

Your humble author in velveteen and satin (with twill underlining).

Your humble author in cotton velveteen and polyester satin (with cotton twill underlining).

That big purple monster there was made with cotton velveteen, and flat-lined with a medium weight twill to give it some heft. Granted, that made it a bit of a sweatbox to wear, but it’s a washable sweatbox, although I would still lay it out to dry because I didn’t want the heat of the dryer doing a number on the polyester satin facings and trim.

Velveteen is subject to most of the same cautions as velvet, although the creeping factor isn’t nearly so aggravating because the pile is shorter. But you want to use the same precautions regarding fluff getting into the guts of your machine, cleaning and ironing. Again, if you use cotton velveteen and it gets creased, you can always hang it up and steam it, which is another reason it’s so great. You can also try running it through a dryer set to low with a damp towel in with in, for about ten minutes and that might help.

Velveteen is usually $9 or $10 a yard, although I’ve seen it as high as $15 a yard for pure cotton velveteen. You can find it in an entire rainbow of colors and also in multicolored patterns. It’s a little harder-wearing than velvet – shorter pile makes it somewhat less vulnerable to crushing although I wouldn’t go playing football in the stuff.

The 3rd Doctor loved velvet and velveteen. Source: BBC.

The 3rd Doctor loved velvet and velveteen. Source: BBC.

Cotton velveteen is great for kids costumes and – you can see this coming, right? – stuffed animals. It can certainly be used in place of velvet, but it never looks quite as rich as full-blown velvet does, so bear that in mind when choosing your fabrics. A quick caveat emptor: I’m seeing velour – aka “stretch velvet” being offered up as “velveteen” by a lot of ebay sellers who either don’t know the difference or don’t care, so be careful when shopping. If it stretches, it’s not velveteen.

Velveteen can be sewn with a universal needle with cotton or polyester thread. Use a walking foot if you have one, or a roller foot if you don’t.



Rayon velveteen. Source:

Rayon velveteen. Source:

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