Exploring the History of Velvet with Valley Forge Fabrics

Photography Courtesy of Valley Forge Fabrics

A supremely soft and sumptuous textile that adds a touch of decadence to any design, velvet holds a long history of use across an array of interior applications from residential to hospitality. “Velvets have always made a distinct impact on the world of hotel design,” says Katy Daly, Vice President of Hospitality Sales at Valley Forge Fabrics.“Use of this textile instantaneously makes the guest feel a sense of luxury and lends itself to an elevated travel experience. At one time incredibly cost prohibitive and not always suitable for high traffic environments, today’s velvet market has evolved into one of budget friendly, durable textiles while maintaining that signature high end appearance.” A leading decorative textile supplier to the international hospitality industry, family-owned Valley Forge Fabrics is esteemed for its environmental stewardship and innovation. With comprehensive collections of interior upholstery textiles, Valley Forge Fabrics vouches for velvet’s enduring value as they build on the material’s luxurious and lasting appeal.

Photography Courtesy of Valley Forge Fabrics

Construction and Characteristics

Characterized by a piled surface with raised tufts of yarn, velvet is woven with short loops that are worked into a fixed set of warp or weft threads that catch the light to create a luminous luster while lending the fabric’s signature soft shine.The vast variety of velvet types can be distinguished by weft-pile or warp-pile forms. Warp-based velvets can be constructed using either a loom—with three basic ground weaves that include namely tabby, twill, or satin—or with a knitting frame form. Velvet’s diverse array of distinct ground weaves gives an indication of when and where a particular piece was constructed.

Photography Courtesy of Valley Forge Fabrics

Origins and Historical Overview

Though the lineage of linen fabrics with their looped piles can be traced back as far as ancient Egypt, the practices used to fashion silk velvet emerged more recently in material history. It is understood that the craft of velvet-making originated during the thirteenth century in China, while Italy was the first to create an entire velvet industry unto itself. Velvet’s status and success spread throughout the country, and a stiff competition soon emerged between major velvet weavers in the cities of Venice, Florence, and Genoa, which subsequently supplied the material to most of Europe. Similar success was also seen in the manufacturing of the material across Turkey, Persia, and India. Ubiquitously incorporated into decadent designs from furniture, upholstery, and curtains to clothing and wallpaper, velvet’s vast popularity remained on the rise for centuries to come.

Photography Courtesy of Valley Forge Fabrics

While velvet’s opulent and sumptuous status was once only associated with wealth and luxury, velvet production processes became mechanized during the Industrial Revolution. Speedier and simplified construction allowed the material to become more widely available, while the introduction of new machinery saw the development of synthetic fabrics. Many velvet textiles on the market today are woven with polyester or rayon yarns, which deliver durability for high performance ratings.Velvet soon became synonymous with fashion during the twentieth century, notably during the 1920s and then again throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Covetable fashion collections featured velvet in many forms, from corduroy to crushed velvet and devore.

Vacation Velvet Collection (Left) and Valley Forge Fabrics Founders Dan and Judy Dobin Wearing Velvet Suits (Right). Photography Courtesy of Valley Forge Fabrics.

Revered Reputation and Rising Popularity

Velvet maintained a strong presence across the theater world as well. Sought out for use in opulent opera houses and theaters, many American-made velvets can be spotted across stage drapes in an assortment of public spaces such as school auditoriums and performing art centers. “Quite fittingly, Valley Forge’s first main product offering in the 1970s was flame-resistant velvet made in the USA,” says Diana Dobin, CEO & Chief Sustainability Officer of Valley Forge Fabrics. “Velvet fabrics were used for theatrical drapes primarily. Still, as the hospitality industry moved toward being more of a theatrical experience, the richness and soothing texture of velvet found a new home in hospitality.” With an upsurge in specifications seen across hospitality settings,Valley Forge was contacted to supply 3,000 yards of fire-retardant brown velvet to the MGM Hotel in Las Vegas, after the introduction of fire codes in hotels during the early 1980s. “Following this enormous lead, my mother Judy Dobin resituated herself to Las Vegas in the mid-1980s and built Valley Forge’s reputation with the new MGM Grand and the expanded Caesar’s Palace,” says Dobin. “Both iconic hotels fully embraced the use of gorgeous velvet fabrics in the guestrooms.”

Photography Courtesy of Valley Forge Fabrics

Contemporary Velvet Collections

With a comprehensive catalogue of decorative textiles, Valley Forge Fabrics continues to build on this revered reputation. Valley Forge’s vast array of velvets include Vacation Velvet, Ocean Tide, and Sheen City, amongst others. Vacation Velvet is part of Valley Forge’s Crypton Upholstery Vol. II collection, which features a Crypton finish to offer the cleanability and extra durability desired in high-traffic areas. Printed with an abstract aesthetic of hand-painted patterning, Ocean Tide is a unique textured velvet with an eye-catching shimmer that shows the details of grandiose brush strokes, while Sheen City evokes an alluring speckled appearance with kaleidoscopic colors. Valley Forge Fabrics features contemporary velvet collections that meet modern design needs while maintaining a reverence for velvet’s time-honored heritage.