Velour – This is a velvet like fabric, slightly stretchy with a high pile (cut, not loopy). Generally commercially available in plain colours, occasionally printed and often hand-dyed. Available in natural (bamboo, cotton, hemp) or synthetic. The natural versions often have a small synthetic component – where the backing is polyester to give strength and durability (the pile being natural).
Cotton velour – A little softer than Hemp velour, not as soft as Bamboo Velour. Often has 20% polyester, though 100% cotton velours can be purchased. These are often dyed plain colours.
Organic Cotton velour – In my experience a little less soft than a cotton velour. Some people have found it to be less durable than cotton or other velours. Normally in unbleached natural, may be dyed with plain colours
Bamboo velour – Commonly abbreviated to “BV”. Lush! Usually a longer pile than the others (which can leave it looking a bit messy/wavy), but there is also a shorter pile bamboo velour that looks almost identical to cotton velour. This is super soft and slightly shiny. Usually a “Bamboo Velour” is actually about 70% bamboo and 30% cotton. It can also have around 2%-4% polyester to add stability to the base fabric. Bamboo Velour with organic cotton is commonly abbreviated as “OBV”, meaning “Organic Bamboo Velour” – Personally I find the term “OBV” to be misleading, since it is usually the 30% cotton component of the fabric that is organic and not the 70% bamboo component, as the term would seem to indicate. So the majority of the fabric isn’t organic. As well as there are people who simply call all Bamboo Velour “OBV” regardless of whether there is organic fabric in there or not.
Hemp velour – Not commonly used, but this is normally an undyed fabric, the least soft of the velours I find.
Synthetic velour – This would be 100% synthetic, so combines the nice feel of the velour with the stay-dry and stain-resistance of a synthetic fabric.
Advantages of Velour as a pad top:
- Feels very soft and nice against the skin.
- Can feel drier than flatter fabrics (such as flannel or jersey) because of the “pile” of the fibres allows more airflow and space between the skin and the wetness.
- Can help quickly grab the flow and allow it to absorb into the pad to avoid leaking, good for “gushy” flow.
Disadvantages of Velour as a pad top:
- Can feel sweatier as it can trap more heat than flatter fabrics
- Sometimes more expensive than other options
Velveteen – Like velvet/velour, this fabric has a fluffy pile, which feels soft but not as soft as velour. Slightly shorter pile than Velour, and generally not stretch, and is more dense than velour. A cotton Velveteen will be absorbent. The pile seems to make the top feel dryer than a flatter no-pile fabric. Not commonly used, though it is more readily available in fabric stores than a natural velour so is a good choice for DIY pads if velour cannot be found.
Advantages and disadvantages – Much the same as velour but not as soft and not as textured (so not as good at grabbing flow). May be slightly cooler than velour due to the shorter pile.
Sherpa – Sherpa is a soft fabric that feels a bit like polarfleece, but has a “bally” type appearance, a little bit like a sheepskin. It is generally a Cotton or cotton blend (20%poly) fabric. It has the advantage of being soft and absorbent. It is also somewhat thick, so it adds absorbency. Generally available in plain colours, and can be hard to find.
Advantages and disadvantages – Much the same as velour but not as silky-soft. May feel hotter as it may trap more heat.
Terry (“Towelling”) – This is the fabric towels and washcloths are usually made from. It has a high loopy pile, so is very textured and great for trapping a “Gushy” flow. It can look messy compared to nicer pad toppings (think how a shaggy looking towel looks after a while), but it makes a nice soft and highly absorbent pad topping.
Advantages and disadvantages – Much the same as velour but not as soft. Higher pile and greater texture makes it a good choice for a gushy flow, but it can look “ratty” quickly.