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Repairing Moth Holes in Velvet -- Is it possible?

Discussion in 'PUBLIC Vintage Fashion - Ask Questions Get Answers' started by BGVintage, Nov 21, 2022.

  1. BGVintage

    BGVintage Registered Guest

    Hi Everyone,

    Hope everyone is ready for the holiday season!

    I have a 1930s black velvet dress that needs to be repaired. I've attached photos, please excuse the bad lighting. It is so hard to properly photograph black + velvet -- I was trying to show the areas of concern. There are areas where the velvet is missing its 'pile' but the fabric still has the backing - possible moth damage to the bodice of the dress.

    Just curious if anyone has had this before and had an idea of how to repair or mend it.

    Thanks so much!


    Attached Files:

  2. Jonathan

    Jonathan VFG Member

    Moths don't eat rayon or silk or cotton, so its probably carpet beetles, but the resulting holes are the same... I have no creative solutions for you - velvet is so finicky and shows every issue.
    BGVintage likes this.
  3. denisebrain

    denisebrain VFG Vice President Staff Member VFG Past President

    I don't have any solutions for this either. Has anyone ever tried dabbing a little permanent ink in this situation? I don't know if it would help or just call more attention to the spot.
    BGVintage likes this.
  4. Vinclothes

    Vinclothes Alumni +

    Maggie, I wondered the same thing. I think it might work on a skirt, but perhaps not a bodice?
    Be sure to use fabric markers. The ink in writing pen often has some kind of metallic shine to it, that makes trying to conceal a blemish more noticeable. I have used fabric pens successfully on light spots and faded areas. It's aways a guess and a gamble, but you may be able to salvage something you love.
    denisebrain likes this.
  5. poppysvintageclothing

    poppysvintageclothing VFG Board Member Staff Member VFG Past President

    The only other thing that I thought of was to perhaps camouflage it with a beautiful large silk flower sewn onto the dress.

    Unfortunately in this case it probably would not work as there appear to be too many areas that have been affected.
    BGVintage likes this.
  6. thevintagebungalow

    thevintagebungalow VFG Member

  7. dollsntrolls

    dollsntrolls VFG Member

    Moths actually do eat silk - silk is a protein animal fiber, the same way that wool is, and both silk and wool are delicious.

    For improving the nap, you could use a needle press board specifically meant for ironing velvet and bringing the nap back where it has squished. But, that will only work if the nap is still there, not for a bald spot. I would try to resurrect first with the velvet board, and then, hopefully, it would be fewer spots that need to be colored in with fabric markers. Maybe test a fabric marker on a less conspicuous spot on the skirt, before working on the bodice.

    And, then - there are always rhinestones, trim, soutache, embroidery, beads, chainstitch... all the embellishments to make it unique and still in the vintage style. And, a lot of us wear imperfect vintage, I know I feel less bad if I spill or bust a seam while dancing.
  8. bycinbyhand

    bycinbyhand VFG Member

  9. BGVintage

    BGVintage Registered Guest

    This is a great idea!
  10. BGVintage

    BGVintage Registered Guest

    Love the idea of soutache or embroidery! All of these might be a nice way to hide the imperfections.

    I also like to wear vintage that has some imperfections -- I find that I am not overly carful while wearing and can be more at ease with these pieces.
    Retro Ruth likes this.
  11. Jonathan

    Jonathan VFG Member

    Moths only eat silk if nothing else is available. It's bread and water compared to Prime rib... We had a moth infestation thirty years ago that came in on a military uniform. We caught it early, but it was interesting to see their preferences. White, soft furs like white fox and rabbit were definitely the lobster at the buffet... next came soft (cashmere) light coloured wools, then dark furs and dark soft wools. Then finally hard spun wools, colour didn't seem to matter, were barely touched. Silk was completely untouched, but I have evidence of minor moth activity in old silk pieces that have come into the collection - but it's always minimal - all they need to survive and then get out and move on to tastier futures.
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2023
    Rue_de_la_Paix and Vintagiality like this.
  12. Hi Jonathan, I'm sorry to disagree but I've seen more moth infestations than I'd like and while they do prefer soft wools like cashmere and merino, they're not fussy when times are tough. I've seen many serious silk and rayon infestations and even found them munching away (incredibly) on acrylic and Crimplene. In fact the worst infestation I've ever seen was on a wardrobe of 1930s rayon.
  13. Oh yes, they love fur! I'm currently working on a costume collection and so far have found infestations in six fine wool garments (including a morning coat) and a fox fur. One '40s silk printed dress was untouched but the shoulder pads had been eaten out - not sure what they were padded with, could be anything in WW2.

    I suspect that Australia, being generally hotter and more conducive than Canada, I unfortunately see a lot more insect infestations that you do.
  14. Brooklyn, this is a lovely dress and well worth saving. My advice is to get it dry cleaned, as there are likely more moth holes that you can't see yet, and you want to make sure that the moths have gone and are no longer doing their dirty work. Once it's clean, I would search for fabric scraps in seams and gently hand-patch from the interior. Velvet is quite good at hiding mends as long as you ensure the grain is all lined up - nothing worse than a patch where the pile announces itself because the it's going in the opposite direction.
    Retro Ruth and dollsntrolls like this.
  15. Vintagiality

    Vintagiality VFG Treasurer

    Nicole, maybe Australian moths enjoy a different menu than our Canadian friends :)
    Sorry couldn’t resist :)
  16. Oh yes! It's almost impossible to keep the critters away here, depending on where you are in the country.
  17. dollsntrolls

    dollsntrolls VFG Member

    Portland is damp 8 months out of the year. I have found nesting moths (and dried, dead nests) in garments that they would not be feeding to their young, but rather parked in the closet next to some delicious fur, wool or silk. I am in the habit of freezing and washing everything that comes into the house, to minimize risk to mine and my partner's wardrobes, and to keep the sale racks clear of danger. It can be exhausting after a big shopping day, but much better safe than sorry. What drives me nuts is when I get excited to go through a cedar chest and find that the original owner also tossed moth balls in. Poison on top of natural (lovely smelling) deterrent!

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