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velvet

velvet, fabric having a soft, thick, short pile, usually of silk, and a plain twill or satin weave ground. The pile surface is formed by weaving an extra set of warp threads that are looped over wires as in Wilton carpet, the rods being withdrawn after the weft thread is placed, leaving a row of loops or tufts across the breadth. The loops may remain uncut, forming terry velvet, or be cut, automatically in machine weaving or by a special tool in handlooming. The fabric may also be woven double, face to face, then cut apart. Velvet is supposedly one of the silk weaves developed on the ancient shuttle looms of China. The most beautiful weaves, such as brocades, are still done by hand. India has produced velvet from remote times, often richly embroidered, for the furniture and trappings of royalty. Many fine velvets were made in Turkey, and Persia was famous for its beautiful designs and colors. Magnificent velvets were used in Europe in 12th- and 13th-century religious and court ceremonials. Lucca and Genoa apparently were the first cities to make fine velvets and excelled through the 16th and 17th cent. Genoese velvet was notable for designs formed by contrasts of cut and uncut pile. Venetian and Florentine fabrics were sumptuous brocades, floral designs on contrasting grounds or on cloth of gold. Utrecht made a rich, heavy velvet used for wall and furniture coverings. Modern velvets are of many types and grades. Lyons velvet has a stiff ground and erect pile. Transparent velvet has a sheer foundation. Panne velvet is a long-napped weave, pressed. Plush and velveteen resemble velvet and are sometimes used as substitutes; the weft loops, rather than the warp loops, form the pile on these substitutes.

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velvet

vel·vet / ˈvelvət/ • n. a closely woven fabric of silk, cotton, or nylon, that has a thick short pile on one side. ∎  soft downy skin that covers a deer's antler while it is growing. PHRASES: on velvet inf., dated in an advantageous or prosperous position.DERIVATIVES: vel·vet·ed adj.vel·vet·y adj.

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velvet

velvet velvet revolution a non-violent political revolution, especially the relatively smooth change from Communism to a Western-style democracy in Czechoslovakia at the end of 1989.

See also iron hand in a velvet glove, little gentleman in black velvet.

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velvet

velvet fabric of silk having a dense smooth pile XIV; soft downy skin of a deer's horn XV. — OF. veluotte, f. velu velvety — medL. villūtus, f. L. villus growth of hair.
Hence velveteen XVIII.

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velvet

velvet •davit • brevet • velvet • affidavit •civet, privet, rivet, trivet •private • covet • aquavit • banquet •halfwit • peewit • dimwit • nitwit •exquisite, visit •requisite • perquisite •closet, posit •apposite • opposite • composite

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Velvet

VELVET

Velvet is a pile fabric in which an extra warp (lengthwise) yarn creates a raised uncut loop or cut tuft on the fabric surface. Velvet is first encountered in low, uncut pile examples in Chinese silk qirong jin or rongquan jin that date to Warring States (403–221 b.c.e.), Qin (221–206 b.c.e.), and Western Han (206 b.c.e.–23 c.e.) dynasties. More consistent with velvet's allure of tactile seductiveness are the resplendent, late-medieval cut-pile velvets of Italy and Spain made possible by the rapid development of draw loom technology supported by discerning patrons. Parallel achievements were seen in Ottoman Turkey, Persia, and later in Mughal India.

The prodigious repeat sizes and lavish use of precious materials—fine and dense silk, and, for the most sumptuous versions, added gilt-silver wefts (yarn running crosswise) worked flat or in loops—are pervasive in fifteenth-century European depictions portraying sacred and secular elites dressed in vestments, gowns, and mantles of giant, serpentine pomegranate and artichoke designs. The velvets of Bursa and Istanbul made for fifteenth-century caftans, cushions, and tent panels for the sultans display similar splendor. In Persia, by contrast, where cut velvet seems to have originated, the long reign of the Safavid dynasty favored narrative designs of hunt scenes and literary genre figures, the rich coloristic effects made possible by intricate pile-warp substitutions.

The European capital-intensive velvet industry was closely allied with merchant banks and the courts, and flourished first in Italy (Florence, Genoa, Venice, and Milan), then elsewhere, particularly in France (Tours, and above all Lyon). Closely controlled velvet qualities developed, and were assigned dozens of specialized French terms to distinguish the types—some are still current. They ranged from plain velvets, sometimes given added value by stamped designs and other finishes, to patterned ones by varying pile heights and introducing two or more pile warp colors.

In the early modern period, wealthy patrons continued commissioning large-scale custom designs for special occasion outfits, while stock styles of smaller repeat patterns were used in standard dress velvets. A number of them were woven for Western customers in China, where interest in the structure had reawakened, and spread to Japan. Great numbers of these small-scale designs survive in art and textile fragments and show floral sprig, bird, and animal motifs subordinated into lattice-type patterns.

From the middle of the eighteenth century and into the next, silk velvet appeared in men's apparel (especially waistcoats) and luxury carriage interiors, but women's fashion abandoned stately velvet in favor of lighter fabrics. Through the nineteenth century, Lyon in particular, produced elaborate, fine velvets woven by hand on Jacquard looms, designed to win prizes at world fairs, and promoted in fashions of the emerging Parisian couture houses.

Plain, patterned, and printed silk velvets and the longer-piled relation, plush, were featured in glamorous opera coats during the early twentieth century. Cotton and rayon frequently substituted for scarce and expensive silk, and most plain velvets are now woven double on power looms, creating two fabrics sharing a pile warp, subsequently separated by horizontal cutting blades. In the late twentieth century, China exported quantities of inexpensive silk velvets, and innovative textile designers eagerly applied new looks with earlier methods, such as burn-out and resist dyeing for fashion accessories.

See alsoChina: History of Dress .

bibliography

Becker, John. Pattern and Loom: A Practical Study of the Development of Weaving Techniques in China, Western Asia andEurope. Copenhagen: Rhodos International Publishers, 1987. Meticulous descriptions of early textile structures and their possible loom technologies.

Burnham, Harold B. Chinese Velvets: A Technical Study. Occasional Papers 2. Art and Archeological Division, Royal Ontario Museum. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1959. An in-depth analysis of seventeenth-century velvets of East Asia.

Fauque, Claude, ed. Le Velours ou la force de la douceur. Paris: Syros, 1994. A cross-disciplinary survey touching on history, technology, ideologies and design that includes, in the French understanding of the term velours, weft-pile structures as well.

Geijer, Agnes. A History of Textile Art: A Selective Account. London: Pasold Research Fund, 1979. The indispensable reference for historic textiles, their trade, cultural exchanges, and context.

Hardoiun-Fugier, Elisabet, Bernard Berthod, and Martine Chevent-Fusaro, eds. Les ƒtoffes: Dictionnaire historique. Paris: Les editions de l'Amateur, 1994. Richly illustrated reference work, with comprehensive listings of velvet terms.

History of Textile Technology of Ancient China. New York: Science Press, 1992. Fundamental text on Chinese textiles and their materials although technical terms are at times at variance with Western accepted standards.

Janssen, Elsje. Richesse de Velours Brussels: Musee du Cinquantenaire, 1995. An exhibition catalog covering early examples to contemporary Belgian velvets.

King, Monique and Donald King. European textiles in the Keir Collection 400b.c. to 1800 a.d. London and Boston: Faber and Faber, 1990. A catalog establishing important developments in design and interactions between cultures.

Mackie, Louise. The Splendor of Turkish Weaving: An Exhibition of Silks and Carpets of the 13 Centuries. Washington, D.C.: The Textile Museum, 1973. A fine hand list of the TMO's Turkish velvets.

Santangelo, Antonino. A Treasury of Great Italian Textiles. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1964. A still useful standard in the literature on textiles.

Sonday, Milton. "Pattern and Weaves: Safavid Lampas and Velvet." In Woven from the Soul, Spun from the Heart: Textile Arts of Safavid and Qajar Iran 16th–19th Centuries. Edited by Carol Bier. Washington, D.C.: The Textile Museum, 1987. Detailed structural study and diagrams of Persian velvets.

Stack, Lotus. The Pile Thread: Carpets, Velvets, and Variations. Minneapolis: The Minneapolis Institute of Art, 1991. A succinct and comprehensive guide, with good illustrations of the technology, design, and context of velvet.

Désirée Koslin

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