Velvet is a kind of fabric. It tends to be associated with luxury and sophistication, because (traditionally) it was a very rare and expensive material used only by the rich for special occasions or for fine décor. It was the favored fabric of royalty and was prized not only because of Its beauty but its warmth, making it ideal for European weather. However, velvet was also used in Egypt.
Velvet’s rarity and price made it inaccessible to anyone except the rich and the powerful. Current technology, however, has developed more affordable synthetic velvets, which retain some of the qualities of velvet at a much cheaper price. These include velour, velveteen, and corduroy.
People have been making velvet for nearly 4,000 years. The process for making velvet is expensive, though. While it can be made from any kind of thread, it traditionally made use of silk which was already quite rare and difficult to make. It is also made with a special kind of loom, wherein the warp threads are sent through to two pieces of cloth (instead of the single piece used in traditional fabric). At the end of the process, a sharp blade splits the fabric along the warp. The thread accumulates into a pile, leading some people to call velvet “pile fabric.” This is then sheared evenly, and then dyed in gorgeous colors. Coupled with its natural sheen, velvet is very striking. Master weavers also highlight its beauty by twisting it while the dye is wet, leading to interesting patterns (called “crushed velvet”) or using threads of different colors. Velvet’s famous texture is created by brushing it when it is still wet.
While velvet is already more affordable and accessible, it is still not an “everyday” fabric because of its fragility and high maintenance. If it is folded or creased the wrong way, it becomes lumpy. It also requires special cleaning methods like steaming, dry cleaning or velvet boards.