Velvet can be made from many different kinds of fibres. It is woven on a special loom that weaves two pieces of velvet at the same time. The two pieces are then cut apart and the two lengths of fabric are wound on separate take-up rolls.
Velvet's knitted counterpart is velour. Velvet was very expensive and was considered to be among the luxury goods together with silk. Corduroy and velveteen were considered the "poor man's velvet" when they were first produced.
Velvet is difficult to clean, but in modern times, dry cleaning is used.
Panne is a type of finish for velvet which gives it a special shiny look, similar to many velours.
Velvet is made, ideally, from silk. Cotton can also be used, though this often results in a slightly less luxurious fabric. More recently, synthetic velvets have been developed, mostly polyester, nylon, viscose, acetate and mixtures of different synthetics, or synthetics and natural fibres (eg. viscose and silk). Velvet can also be made from fibres such as linen, mohair and wool. A cloth made by the Kuba people of the Democratic Republic of Congo from raffia is often referred to as "Kuba velvet".
A small percentage of lycra is used sometimes to give stretch.
The peculiar properties of velvet, the splendid yet softened depth of dye colour it exhibited, made it fit for official robes and sumptuous hangings. The most magnificent textiles of medieval times were Italian velvets. These were ornamentated by such techniques in silk, with uncut pile or with a ground of gold tissue, etc.
The earliest sources of European artistic velvets were Lucca, Genoa, Florence and Venice, and Genoa continues to send out rich velvet textures. Somewhat later the art was taken up by Flemish weavers, and in the 16th century Bruges attained a reputation for velvets which was not inferior to that of the great Italian cities.