Information about Velvet Pile Carpets

A lifetime carpet

Despite the great swing towards twist pile carpets, velvet pile carpets are still the choice of a reduced, but devoted clientele, who believe that no carpet, other than a fine velvet Wilton, is truly carpet. This is the hugely expensive carpet that mother bought, and expected to last for the whole of her married life: and sometimes it did.

The carpet world has changed. Few people expect to live out their lives in one house, so the market for this very high quality material, that was considered to be a lifetime’s investment, has dwindled. It’s a great shame, because there is nothing quite so beautiful as a properly fitted, high quality, velvet pile carpet: it suggests impeccable taste, and an eye for perfection. The better qualities have a habit of lasting for a generation or more, and when they do eventually wear down, they do so with a sort of dignity that allows them to hang on for years, in a state of faded grandeur. That sounds pompous, but the effect is well known among those who prefer an ancient cashmere sweater with holes, to a shiny new British Home Stores version. The down-side of this up-market part of the carpet world, is price. Top quality wool Wilton carpets were always very expensive: in fact they are cheaper now (relatively) than ever before, but they do seem to cost much more than other carpet styles.

There are several very good reasons for this:

  • The manufacturing process, which is slow, and fairly labour intensive.
  • Raw material costs, because only the better grades go into these top quality carpets.
  • No economy of scale. Because this is a small part of the market, the manufacturers are not able to produce long runs of a single colour, or width: and when the carpet is made, they have to allow for the expense of having a great deal of capital tied up in rolls of carpet, sitting in the warehouse, awaiting a buyer.

What does all this mean in practical terms?

If you decide to buy a velvet pile, it is very important to understand that for a given amount of wearability, you must expect to pay more. If you pay the same as you would for (say) a twist pile, you are likely to be disappointed with the appearance, within a short time.

Shading and Pile Reversal

The term shading, describes the colour change, or watermark effect, seen when the pile of the carpet changes direction due to regular use patterns.

We are all creatures of habit, and although we don’t necessarily realise it, we tend to place our feet in the same position each time we walk from room to room, so the same tufts of pile are being encouraged into a certain position on each occasion that someone walks over them. The result is a ‘shot’ or patchy effect – shading. It’s an effect that some love, and some loathe. In the experience of the writer, in high quality carpets it looks casually elegant, but in cheap velvets, (of which there are many) it looks bedraggled. It’s fair to say that many cheap velvets shade or flatten within weeks, and then seem to wear like iron; which means that they go on looking bedraggled for a long time before they wear out.

Some of the effects of shading are directly attributable to incorrect planning before the installation. Many long-established carpet-planning laws are ignored by or unknown to newcomers to the carpet trade. In some cases, with modern carpet construction, the result may take some years to manifest as shading or premature wear, but velvets are not forgiving of such a lackadaisical approach – the problem will show up very quickly. The planning and installation of velvet carpets are of critical importance – both must be perfect.

Pile fibres

Old Wilton carpets were made of wool, which lasted for years and years. Folks in those days wore leather soles on their shoes, which tended to polish the pile surface rather than scuff it. Rubber soles are the best thing that ever happened to carpet manufacturers: their tremendous skid resistance offers wonderful grip, but it also pulls fibres from the carpet Today, 80/20 wool/nylon is the usual mixture, although some of the very finest carpets are still made with 100% wool pile. 80/20 certainly provides more abrasion resistance.

Although there aren’t many of them, 50/50 wool/nylon velvet carpets offer some of the ‘pop up’ resilience of wool, with the abrasion resistance of modern man-made fibres. They are less expensive than carpets with a greater wool content, and when new, look pretty well the same. Without the super resilience of all wool, the construction of the carpet becomes more important. Look for short and tight pile, which falls over less than long and loose pile.

Man-made fibres. Be careful: the best are marvellous, in some ways better than wool, the worst are dreadful. They will stain easily, attract dust due to static build-up, and will flatten completely within weeks.

Intec® Stain-resistance treatment

Many clients have asked about this treatment, and we are now able to offer it as part of our fitting service. When done properly, it is not a cheap addition to the quotation, but it offers greatly increased stain and soiling resistance, and, particularly in the case of light-coloured materials, greater peace of mind. We will be pleased to quote for it as an optional extra.

Light Protection

With the improvement in modern dyestuffs, carpets are very much more resistant to colour fading than they used to be. Nevertheless, no manufacturer offers an absolute guarantee against fading in sunlight. This is perhaps more of a concern when dealing with high quality carpets which may be in place for many years. Sun blinds help.

Velvet pile carpets at John Cooper Carpets

Although the market for velvets has diminished markedly over the past twenty years, we have supplied this material to hundreds of clients who have been delighted with the result. We have the expertise that is essential in the planning and fitting of fine finish piles.

After more than thirty years in Lymington, many customers already know that we also offer the very best quotations. We are not only match the prices of the big city stores: we beat them, and at the same time offer a standard of advice, service, and fitting which is unbeatable. You can shop in the community, and save money at the same time.