There is a certain feeling you get when you brush your hand over a piece of velvet, as if the richness of the fabric is travelling up your arm and filling your head with images of glamour.
A brief history
As far back as 2000 BC, samples of a velvet-like fabric made of silk and linen have been discovered in Cairo, Egypt. There are also samples of velvet that better resembles the fabric that we know, found as earlier as 403 BC in China and it crops up again at several points in ancient Chinese history. Velvet production drifted into the Middle East in 750 AD, where it was introduced in Baghdad, Iraq. The complex technique used to make velvet at that time was very time-consuming and this meant that the fabric was strictly reserved for the wealthy and sold at very high prices.
For a long time, the most skilled velvet weavers were found in places such as Turkey, Cyprus and Greece. It wasn’t until advances in loom technology came about in the Renaissance period that the production price was lowered and the European velvet industry really began to take off. During this time, Florence, Italy was a hub for the arts and a deep love for the finer things in life was being cultivated there, which included a demand for velvet. The best velvet workers were sometimes even banned from leaving the city to prevent them leaking the secrets of velvet manufacture to those in other Italian cities such as Venice and Genoa, which were also establishing their own velvet industries.
By the time the Industrial Revolution came around, the thought that velvet was only for the social elite faded as it became easier and faster to produce. More people could afford it but it was still mostly used to add a touch of glamour to an outfit or a room. If you take a look at 1920s fashion, velvet is a common material for evening dresses and winter shawls. Velvet has remained a material of sophistication in modern times. It can be seen in several high fashion looks of the 1970s and even in the 1980s and 1990s, crushed velvet was often sported by celebrities.
It is made on a loom called a double cloth, where long pieces of thread are woven between two pieces of material produced simultaneously. These are then cut short to create the signature smooth, soft pile. The base material can vary but the process is always the same and has been for centuries. Pure velvet is always produced with a vertical yarn while velveteen (which is often made of cotton) has a horizontal yarn. Velveteen is a lower quality version of velvet with a shorter pile and doesn’t have quite the same sheen as its more expensive sibling.
Today, there are a few types of velvet available to us. Cotton velvet is normally the option that textile makers opt for, as cotton stretches easily and is a very breathable fabric. Silk velvet is the traditional, pricey option while a rayon and nylon mix is the purely synthetic, cheapest velvet. Synthetic velvet is not to be sniffed at though because it still definitely retains a lot of the best qualities of pure velvet such as the softness.
There are also various velvet textures on the market such as crushed or panne velvet, where the pile is flattened. These are usually made of polyester and contain a lot of elasticity, as their bases are often knitted rather than woven. Brocade and embossed velvet result in beautiful patterns, formed when the pile is crushed in some places varying the colour depth. Corduroy is another textured velvet where the fabric is joined by extra weft threads to form vertical lines. It’s usually 100% cotton but can sometimes contain essence of polyester or elastane. So, you can tell your dad that when you next see him sporting a pair of cords!
Taking care of velvet
So now that you know all about velvet’s sumptuous, privileged past, you might want to know what to do to keep it looking like its glamourous self, right? Your Amechi velvet cushion should always be dry cleaned but this isn’t always the case for all velvet products. Read on to find out how to keep your velvet looking its very best for as long as possible.
It is a common misconception that velvet can only be dry cleaned. If you avoid alkaline solutions (these can affect the dyes in your velvet) and instead opt for gentle solutions such as soap flakes, you can get your velvet looking beautiful. Here is our guide to washing your velvet.
- Turn the velvet inside out so that you’re dealing with the flat side.
- Get rid of any stains before washing -see how later on!
- Put the soap flakes in lukewarm water and allow them to dissolve.
- Gently rub the velvet, focusing on any particularly marked areas.
- Squeeze out the excess water without wringing or twisting it.
- Rinse it in fresh lukewarm water until all the soap has gone.
- Squeeze again to remove the excess water.
- Air dry it on a flat surface while softly brushing the pile back into place.
Your Amechi cushion is made of cotton velvet, so it is very durable but you should keep it out of reach of direct sunlight to prevent the colours fading. However, it would benefit hugely from a spot of regular brushing to keep it in top condition.
- If your velvet experiences a lot of handling or heavy use, it is advised that you vacuum it with an upholstery attachment at least once a week.
- You could also use a clothes brush or a soft-bristled brush but of course, make sure you brush in the direction of the velvet.
- It’s a good idea to regularly flip your velvet cushion over too, so that one side doesn’t get too much wear.
Velvet is prone to marks, so be sure not to leave heavy items such as mugs or plates on it for long periods of time as this can cause dents to appear. You can remove them through light steaming and brushing but some deep marks may become permanent.
You should really seek professional help when removing large stains. However, you can remove smaller, less significant stains by yourself.
- Dab it lightly with a dry cloth rather than rubbing it to keep the sheen and smoothness of the weave.
- If the stain is still visible, mix some washing up liquid with some warm water and whisk it until there are a good amount of suds. Dab the stain with the suds and a cloth.
- Gently dab the remnants with a dry cloth to get rid of the excess moisture.
- Blot the area with another dry cloth and brush the velvet back into place.
- To prevent any marks from the stain, blast it with a hairdryer from a distance and lightly brush it to stop matting.
- It’s easier to clean up wet stains with a damp towel but it becomes a bit trickier once the stain is dry and this is where you should take it to a dry cleaner who knows how to look after velvet.
And there you have it. If you follow these instructions, you should be able to enjoy your cushion for a very long time. We hope you enjoy your elegant, wonderfully soft Amechi velvet cushion!
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