by Gillian on January 18, 2015, no comments

blue and floral rayon velvetsI’ve done a couple projects with rayon velvet in the past several months – first the Ezio tailcoat lining, and later a kimono jacket that I made for a Christmas present – and sometimes I could swear that fabric is possessed. It likes to creep when you try to mash two layers together at the seams, with the result that the upper layer scoots in one direction while the lower makes a break for it in the other. Basting is more or less mandatory, but even holding the fabric still while you thrash it into submission with hand stitches can be challenging—and then it still creeps, because hand stitches don’t flatten the pile the way machine stitches do. And of course you can’t press the stuff properly unless you shell out $$$ for a needle board to protect the pile. (Yeah, I’m a jerk and haven’t gotten around to buying one. If this means I have to spend hours understitching things by hand then WHOOPS OH WELL SO SAD.)

Mind you, I still love the hell out of the final results. It’s soft and fluid in a way I’ve never gotten from synthetic velvets, you can do interesting stamping and embossing things, it weathers beautifully, and the pile and drape make it pretty forgiving of wobbly seams. Besides, I’ve already stashed away about six yards for a pirate coat I’ve been contemplating, and I’m trying to be better about not buying a lot of fabric I’ll never get around to using. I really want to try combining velvet and embroidery, and have been going on 18th-century court costume pinning sprees. Yeah, I totally have time to do something like that!

a pile fabric primerI also recently scored an intensely cool book to help me out on my next velvet project. This was a birthday present from my folks, and there’s a bit of a funny story attached. There’s a little junk shop around the corner from my parents’ house, and my mom has picked up quite a few weird knicknacks and relics there. We’ve popped in there many times during my visits home, just to paw through buckets of antique handkerchiefs, rifle the vintage patterns and postcards, and linger over weird costume jewelry. So one day my mom was walking by this little gold mine and the proprietor ran after her saying “Oh my god, you have to come in and see this book!” Needless to say, it found its way into my hands shortly thereafter.

As the title indicates, this is a book all about velvet, velveteen, and corduroy. It must have been mad expensive to print, because it’s got two different page sizes, several dozen swatches, and rockin’ illustrations (including full-color photos).

pile fabric primer title page

Pile Fabric Primer title page – you can see the swatches are attached to larger pages interleaved with the small text pages

pile fabric primer making of

Possibly the coolest spread in the book – swatches of corduroy, velveteen, and velvet from each stage of manufacturing, to illustrate the different processes

pile fabric primer engraving

The book is illustrated with rad engravings

pile fabric primer engraving

pile fabric primer atmospheric photo

And also weird atmospheric photographs

The copyright date is 1970, and it’s in great shape – the pile is a little crushed on some of the swatches, as one might expect from a book that’s been crammed onto a shelf for god knows how long, but only one was missing.

missing swatchI went ahead and dug around in my parents’ basement for an appropriately aged swatch of corduroy to replace it. I can’t vouch for the exact vintage of the scrap I dug up, and the color doesn’t quite match the Harvest Gold extravaganza in the rest of the book, but I think it’s in the right ballpark.

pile fabric primer replacement swatchMost of the book is about the history and manufacturing of these fabrics, but it’s got a pretty solid chapter on sewing and garment care at the end.

pile fabric primer sewing tips pile fabric primer careA pretty amazing find, all in all. Thanks, Mom!

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