One of the eight possibilities for the alternative fabrics category of the Rug Hooking Merit Program is to hook a 100 square inch mat in a "unique" fabric. So for one of my panels in my alternative fabrics rug, Got Wool?, I chose to hook velvets, including crushed velvets and regular velvets that have no stretch to the fabrics. Here is my evaluation.
Cutting ease: on a scale from 1 to 5 with "1" being "Cuts like butter; easy as wool" and five being "So terrible don't bother," velvet gets a "4." Why? There are some velvets that tear easily and others that don't, so you have to experiment carefully with each piece. The crushed velvets I vetted were great in terms of tearing across the selvage (opposite what we do with wool) about 3/8" strips (something between an 9 and 10 cut wool strip). But torn strips meant velvet dust like nothing I have ever experienced before in terms of wool dust (which I always thought was bad until I encountered velvet dust!) and threads galore. I had so much velvet dust that I felt like I needed to wear a mask and carpenter glasses and wash my face thoroughly after hooking. The velvet dust got in my nose and eyes, it got in my pockets, it got under my feet, it covered my chair, and it was all over my hooking. This meant I had to pull out some of the white yarn I had already hooked and rehook it after I was done with the velvet panel. So if you use velvet in a piece, try to hook it before you add any other materials to the mat, just to keep your hooking clean. Some of the velvets I used wouldn't tear at all, so I had to cut strips by hand and prayed they would come out even. My Bliss machine wouldn't cut the velvet at all, it just chewed it up. Also, regarding the threads. I discovered that the backing of crushed velvets did not always match the front in terms of color. My yellow velvets, for instance, came with a bright pink backing. So when torn, teeny pink threads stick out the edges of the strip, and when hooked, the pink shows through the yellow velvet at the top of the loops.
Hooking ease: on a scale from 1 to 5 with one being "Hooks like a dream; easy as wool" and five being "Why am I trying this?", velvet gets a "2". The strips were thinner than I like to hook with, but because of the wide width of the strips, there was plenty of bulk. The velvet pulled easily into loops, although I found myself having to carefully pull each loop up fully and straighten them out in order to manage the width properly. I did try hooking a couple of smaller widths strips I cut by hand, 1/4" wide, but these didn't have enough bulk to hold their shape well.
Overall look: on a scale from 1 to 5 where one is "gorgeous like hand-dyed wool" to "bad look even for a bad hair day", velvet gets a "4". The loops look bulky and heavy to me, and put me in the mind of those awful velvet paintings sold out of the back of trucks at flea markets. The loops hooked up as individual kernels rather than as soft waves.I liked being able to choose from a wide variety of colors, but missed the ability to shade or add subtle interest through mottling. In the end, the panel feels stark and primary.
Average evaluation: 3.3 out of 5 or "Do I really need to hook with this fabric?"