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Devoré Velvet Fabric: How to Make Burnout Textiles

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Raye loved playing dress-up so much that she went on to study costume and makeup for her BA, then got an MFA in surface design.

Learn how to create the devoré technique on velvet.

Learn how to create the devoré technique on velvet.

What Is Devoré?

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.

You Can Make Your Own Burnout Fabrics!

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.

Burnout velvet always is a mix of fuzzy pile areas and sheer fabric areas.

Burnout velvet always is a mix of fuzzy pile areas and sheer fabric areas.

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.

  • Keep Your Pattern Well-Spaced: 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.
  • Reverse the 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.

What to Do Before You Burn Out Your Velvet

Here are some things to do before you get started on making your own burnout velvet fabric.

  • Decide if You Need to Sew First or Burn First: 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: 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.

Tutorials and Paste Recipes

  • Shop Talk: Dévoré By Holly Brackmann
    In 1995 I was introduced to dévoré and since then have created many art pieces with the technique.
  • Devore | Dyeman
    Devoré or burnout (fabric etch), describes a process of chemically destroying a component of a composite fabric.

How to Make Burnout or Devoré Fabric

Use these instructions along with the helpful resources linked above.

Step 1: Make the Paste

In 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.

Step 2: Check the Fibers

You also need to make sure the fabric you are using has 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.

Step 3: Apply the Paste

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.

  • Front: 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.
  • Back: 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 too small or too elaborate as that can cause problems with the paste application.


Amelia on June 22, 2019:

I have a very pretty purple scarf and always wondered what magical process was involved in making it. Thanks Rae, now I know and I'm going to give it a go!

Maggie on November 26, 2018:

Thanks for this going to try a velvet cushion burnout now....

Louise Angell on September 16, 2017:

Alot of information to take in but I'm going to give it a go! Very exciting.

Raye (author) from Seattle, WA on September 12, 2014:

I used to think it was more complicated than it is, and it turns out I was right about that.

Mona Sabalones Gonzalez from Philippines on September 11, 2014:

Devore is so pretty. I used to wonder how they did it, now, thanks to you, I know. Nice, useful and informative article.

Margaret Schindel from Massachusetts on August 24, 2014:

Rae, that sounds like a great idea! Let us know how it turns out.

Raye (author) from Seattle, WA on August 24, 2014:

Margaret, I'm going to do some pre-sewn scarves for my test pieces because I can try a lot of design variations on that size of a piece of fabric.

Margaret Schindel from Massachusetts on August 24, 2014:

Rae, like you I've long been a devotee of burnout velvet and own quite a few scarves and blouses made from it. I read an article about how to burn out patterns in velvet some years ago and always meant to try it. Reading your article just now makes me want to go find where I put those detailed step-by-step instructions and finally give it a go!

Consolacion Miravite from Philippines on April 05, 2014:

Great hub! I like how this was written -- breezy and entertaining!

Firoz from India on July 05, 2013:

Great hub on Making Your Own Burnout Textiles. Voted up.