Those of you who know me well, know I have a love affair with velvet. A number of years ago, I bought my first velvet remnant to incorporate into a table mat with tiny (1″ width) braids. It was more the color (which I have forgotten) that attracted me rather than the velvet and I clearly remember when I emailed my friend and co-blogger Christine about it, she commented “velvet, hmm….that is interesting, but isn’t velvet kind of fussy?”
When I read that I had just torn a few strips of the velvet, spraying velvet dust all over my braiding table and immediately agreed; sewing was a challenge too but when I saw the contrast of the velvet sheen against the wool, I was hooked. I became obsessed and dragged my fiber friends to join the hunt whenever we shopped for wool, not that I cured my addiction to wool shopping; no, just added another stash.
I found there are various forms of velvet depending on the base fiber, e.g., nylon, silk, polyester, etc. The first few braided mats were using non stretch rayon which tears well, tho messily. I added velvet to wool and braided exclusively one mat for the kitchen table center which had all the colors of my everyday dishes. When shopping for velvet at thrift stores I found garments are often made from stretch velvet and so I began braiding with that fabric. Not as fussy in that you can’t tear it, must cut with a rotary cutter/healing mat or with scissors, but harder but not impossible to braid with as the tension is not as uniform. But the drape of the velvet and the contrast to wool and the sheen is just as pleasant. I was given a beautiful thick orange velvet dress and when I told my gifter I was afraid it would be too small for me but that I might use it in braiding, it turned into this and several other items as I had discovered that hooking with velvet was also interesting, either with wool or by itself. I experimented with different velvets but found the only one that hooked satisfactorily was stretch velvet because it does not fray and has a nice drape because you can vary the loop height. Although some rug hookers use silk velvet I find it not as satisfactory for these reasons. Most stretch velvets are polyester.
This was the Friendship mat I hooked and braided in all velvet for the TIGHR Conference.
My hooking guild demonstrates rug hooking at the California State Fair and a couple of years ago I decided to use all velvet during the time I was there to contrast from the others who were using wool. That eventually yielded this hanging.
I was not able to buy or find cream/beige and so had to settle for crushed white stretch velvet; I dulled it with tea but it didn’t really take the tea dye, but that intrigued me to think about dyeing stretch velvet. I had been experimenting with dyeing wool, thanks to my good friend Kris McDermet encouraging me to try the Primary Fusion method which uses only 4 basic colors to create 58 shades.
The road to dyeing polyester velvet has been long and somewhat frustrating, and I am still experimenting, but I have found ways to dye what I am able to find in off white stretch velvet locally. I have dyed and made several braided and braided/hooked bowls out of the dyed velvet and have sold a number of pieces to my hooking guild and at conferences. I find it fun to try to imitate the mottled, dipped dye and contrasted look one is able to obtain with wool. Here are three bowls using the velvet and some various yarns in the hooking. The all braided bowl on the right used a braiding technique I have taught as patterned hybrid, by cutting and braiding the velvet at exactly the same position in the three strands. When the velvet has been dyed in a dipped, consecutive fashion, the braids match and when the sides are attached in butted rows, the pattern can be maintained. Similarly to these wool patterned bowls you have seen before:
It was fun, almost addictive, trying different color combinations and techniques to yield 1/3 yd pieces which can be hooked and/or braided into bowls, mats, hangings. I can’t wait to try them out! If you are interested in exploring velvet, realizing it is ‘fussy’ but worth it, let me know and I will share some of my efforts. I have thought of reactivating my Etsy site selling the hand dyed stretch velvet under the name “Velvet Touch” but it is difficult to photograph well because of the sheen so that is still a work in progress. Stay cool!