My granny had a beautiful Victorian lounge suite, which was upholstered in deep royal blue. It was a showcase piece, and we weren’t allowed to sit on it as kids. The velvet upholstery used to make all sorts of patterns when we snuck into the “forbidden” room to jump on the sofas or bounce off the chairs.
Later, as an adult, I realized how priceless those velvet upholstered sofas and chairs were. Yet, they had outlasted our childish fun because they had been made to a superior standard and used the best practices of velvet for upholstery.
Today, the upholstery trade has evolved, but there are still a few fundamental principles that need to be used to ensure your velvet upholstery remains pristine and has longevity.
5 Best Practices When Using Velvet for Upholstery Fabric
When you have chosen your velvet fabric to use for upholstery, it is essential that you follow these best practices to ensure you achieve the look you are after. When velvet for upholstery is incorrectly applied, it can lead to poor wear patterns and just look ugly.
1. Protect the Velvet Pile
The first and cardinal rule when upholstering with velvet fabric is to always protect the pile from being damaged by the pressures of the upholstery process. To do this, apply a protective layer of 100% cotton fabric or even cheesecloth to cover the pile.
When applying a protective layer, cut the cotton about half an inch larger than the panel of velvet you will be working with. Ensure the cotton stays in place against the surface of the velvet. If necessary, use sewing pins to secure the two layers together with the pinhead on the cotton side of the layers.
Remember to leave the outer edges of the velvet accessible for the upholstery securing process. Remove the sewing pins and the protective cotton or cheesecloth once the full upholstering process is completed.
2. Avoid Using Synthetic Fabric as Protection
Never use a synthetic fabric like polyester sheeting for protection when working with velvet. The static generated by the synthetic fibers will damage the velvet pile. This is also why you should never work with velvet for upholstery on a plastic or PVC table. Wood top tables are much better work surfaces.
3. Choose Shorter Pile Velvet for Upholstery
While longer pile velvet may be truly luxurious, it is also the type of velvet that most easily becomes damaged and loses surface quality. When upholstering with velvet, it is better to opt for a shorter piled plush velvet. The shorter pile will retain shape much better, and the overall surface quality will remain protected and in good condition for much longer.
Bear in mind that the longer the velvet pile, the more surface nap becomes disrupted with people sitting on the furniture or sliding objects across the surface. Nap is when the surface pile is pulled in the opposite direction of the manufactured pile. This shows surface discoloration due to the light reflective qualities of velvet.
With a shorter pile, the nap remains facing the right direction more correctly than when the pile is longer. It is also advisable to “hang” or lay the pile in the direction of the seater. This means the nap or direction of the velvet fibers should face toward the front of a chair.
When someone sits on the fibers, there will be minimal disruption to the velvet’s surface reflection as the nap will remain facing as intended. In curtains, this method is called “pile down” where the nap faces downward, giving a smoother finish to the velvet.
4. Padding Is King
While velvet for upholstery is a good choice, velvet fabric isn’t the most durable of fabrics when it comes to rubbing. Areas of your furniture that often sees wear will eventually thin out and wear through. Specifically, the hand areas on the armrests of your velvet sofa, the back of the sofa where the head rests, and the center of seat cushions are susceptible to wear and tear.
Adding some extra padding or layers of sponge will help reinforce the velvet upholstery in these areas. When velvet upholstery fabric has a soft backing, it is less inclined to wear through.
5. Clean Velvet for Upholstery Correctly
While some of the more resilient velvet fabrics can be washed, it is best to dry clean velvet fabric. This can be a challenge when you’ve just upholstered your four-seater oversized sofa with velvet, and your three-year-old spilled juice on one corner. It’s not like you can just haul the velvet couch out the door to the dry cleaners for quick service.
Luckily, most of today’s velvet for upholstery fabrics are resilient and have been treated with a stain guard to help prevent saturation from spills. Keep some clean, lint-free microfiber wipes handy to instantly dab up spills. If you can clean before the spill turns into a stain, you can prevent liquid spills from turning into stains.
Depending on the type of velvet for upholstery your upholsterer used, you may also be able to use clear water and a mild cleaning solution to wipe up stains. However, you should always test the solution in an out-of-the-way area to check the colorfastness of the velvet upholstery. The bottom of the furniture is a good place to try out a cleaning solution before using it on the spill.
The Final Velvet
Velvet for upholstery fabric is a great choice. It is a luxurious splash of opulence in your home that will create a natural talking point while smothering your furniture in comfort. Yet, velvet as an upholstery choice is only as good as the care taken while upholstering, during use, and while cleaning the velvet fabric.
The best practices for using velvet for upholstery include protecting the pile, never using synthetic fabric (even if velvet may sometimes be synthetic), relying on a shorter pile to improve wear, and padding up your rough areas for a more durable velvet use.
Finally, cleaning your velvet upholstery should always be done after consulting the manufacturer’s guide. If you’re not sure, speak to your local upholsterer who may be able to guide you in cleaning velvet upholstery. My personal choice is to speak to the very helpful consultants at Kovi Fabrics. Who do you ask about your velvet for upholstery choices?