Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Sewing review: stretch velvet vs. stretch panne

This is going to be quick because I'm not feeling too well. However, I think folks who sew ought to know what they're getting into.
The blue fabric is stretch velvet, the pink is crushed panne. You can see the depth of color in the blue picture, but the crush effect on the panne gives that fabric some depth, too.

Important notice for first-time or new sewers: Iron fabrics with a pile or a nappe (pile is the velvet fibers that stick out like a crew-cut and nappe is the way the fabric has a different look from different angles) on the wrong side of the fabric. Ironing on the wrong side ensures that you won't crush the pile or leave a permanent mark on the fabric that looks just like your iron plate.


  • Stretch velvet looks just like velvet. It has the same plush pile and is deep in color and contrast.

  • Panne looks very much like velvet, but it's cotton-based. It has a fabulous crush to the nappe of the fabric that gives the short pile more depth.

Advantage: Both are good. I like the look of either fabric. For a practice outfit, I'd use panne. For a program outfit, I'd use stretch velvet.


  • Many bolts of stretch velvet say Dry Clean Only; however, some say handwash and line dry. I chose the latter route and had good results.

  • Panne is machine washable and dryable.

Advantage: Panne. Who wants to visit the dry cleaner? Dry Cleaner Todd: don't get me wrong, I love you man. But I don't want to see very much of you.


  • Stretch velvet is fabulous to sew. The cut edges don't curl up as you stretch it to insert elastic around the leg openings.

  • Panne feels like cotton when you sew it, with the exception of stretching the leg openings. The fabric curls maddeningly and I want to throw it in the garbage.

Advantage: Stretch velvet. I want sewing to be fun and curling fabric is not fun.


  • I've found stretch velvet for $9.99 - $19.99/yard. Ouch.

  • Panne is generally $5/yard.

Advantage: Panne. Yeah. $5/yard for 60"-wide fabric is a deal.

Selection (at local fabric shops).

  • Stretch velvet has maybe five bolts to choose from. Not a great selection.

  • A rainbow of color exists for panne and fabric shops stock the rainbow.

Advantage: Panne. All those pretty colors. Oooh.

Overall pick: stretch velvet, if you can afford it. I know. That came from nowhere, right? Well, I'm of the opinion that how the material behaves in the machine affects my happiness, the look of the garment, the chances of my family having dinner that night, and the possibility of me ever sewing another stupid skating outfit again. I'd scour every fabric store, order online, and cut newspaper coupons to find and afford stretch velvet. Then I'd stick it in my washer on gentle and throw it on the drying rack. Which, of course, is what I have done.

Secondary pick: panne. No surprise here because I'm only reviewing two fabrics! Cost and selection make this fabric great for practice skirts where no one can see the leg opening elastic and you can just toss the buggers in the washer and dryer. :)


wilkinson family said...

this was really helpful to me, since i'm about to make some ballet costumes. best place i found online to buy stretch velvet is for $7-$8/yd. and for $8/yd. and both places have a HUGE selection in colors. just wanted to say thanks and an FYI next time you need to buy. oh and shipping at both places is pretty decent too.

Anonymous said...

I'm sewing a skating dress for my daughter in stretch velvet...I have a question, should I be lining it? And will the skirt get stuck to the slip underneath when she skates? (Should I make the slip in another fabric that won't stuck to velvet? I have 4 days before her dancing tests... It's only the second dress I sew for my daughter, the first one I used a stretch material that was really fun and easy to sew, but using velvet is my first time, I hope it goes well...thanks in advance for your answer if you have the time. Chantal

Ice Mom said...

Hi, Anony. I hope you get this in time.

I've made lined and unlined stretch velvet dresses. Ice Girl prefers the lined ones, but if you're pressed for time, you can skip it and have your daughter wear a dancer's tan undergarment (like a leotard).

I'll be honest: I've never made a dance dress. None of Ice Girl's dresses have a slip or lining.

Does the pattern call for a slip? Is this standard for ice dancing?

You can e-mail me: icemom.diane -AT-