Devoré Velvet Fabric - Making Your Own Burnout Textiles
I love the style of velvet fabric known as devoré or burnout. The original French name is from the word meaning "devour." Because of how the fabric is made, which is with a synthetic base and a natural fiber pile (the fuzz), it's possible to use chemicals to eat away select parts of the fuzzy surface, leaving a mix of plush velvet and sheer backing that can be seen through.
I have several scarves that are velvet burnout and one fantastic black velvet shirt that has a pattern burnt out of the back. It makes for great holiday wear. One thing I've always thought when I see great devoré is that someday I'd like to do this myself so that I can pick the pattern that is burnt into the velvet. So here's a whole bunch of research I've done on how you can make your own burnout fabrics. I'm going to start out with making scarves myself and then hope to work up to making a robe or dress.
Designing for Devoré
If you are working on developing your own designs to do burnout velvet, there are a few things to keep in mind.
Be careful not to make the lines or details too small. The chemical paste you apply to the fabric needs to be able to be applied either by some sort of hand-painting or with a squeeze bottle or by some printing or screening method. You don't want the lines or edges of the design to be too close to each other or you run the risk of the paste running together and just burning out one larger solid area instead of your planned design.
If you are doing a design that is completely burnt out, you will be applying the paste on the back of the fabric, so if you are making a pattern or stencil to guide yourself, remember to reverse the design before you start.
Demo of FiberEtch
Before You Burnout Your Velvet
Here are some things to do before you get started on making your own burnout velvet fabric.
Is this material for a piece of clothing? If so, would it be better and/or easier to do the burnout process to the fabric before the garment is sewn or to the finished clothing item? This will take some thinking and planning on your part but depending on what you want to do, one or the other might be the way to go.
Do some tests first. Get a few scrap pieces of the right fabric or buy extra yardage and practice applying the chemical paste. It's better to mess up on a small piece than right in the middle of a big piece.
How to Make Burnout Fabric
In some of the links above there is info on how to make your own special chemical pastes for creating burnout fabrics. Those descriptions are both quite good. You also need to make sure the fabric you are using is the right types of fibers. You want a synthetic fiber for the fabric backing and a natural fiber for the surface texture. This allows the chemical to burn away parts of the fabric but leave the backing. Get this part wrong and you'll just wind up with holes all the way through.
For making the burnout fabric, you have some different options. If you are working with velvet, you have a choice of applying the etching paste to either the front or back of the fabric. Applied to the front, the chemicals often just burn down part of the pile, sort of like mowing a pattern into a lawn, and it leaves you with an effect much like embroidery where you have shorter and longer fibers. If you put the paste on the back of the fabric, it burns out the pile at the roots, which will leave a sheer area intermixed with the remaining fuzzy areas. This is the effect that most people have seen on commercial clothing.
The chemical paste can be painted on by hand, block printed or silk-screened. Be careful not to make the design you are burning out be too small or too elaborate as that can cause problems with the paste application.