How to sew with Corduroy
Corduroy is a wonderful fabric and one of my favorites and it has become increasingly popular which is great as it works so well with lots of our patterns.
It is a woven fabric that is pretty hard wearing and durable, and can be made in a variety of fibres, but most commonly cotton, sometimes mixed with polyester. Corduroy is easily recognisable by the ribs or ‘wales’ running down the length of the fabric.
These wales come in different widths, for instance a Jumbo cord will have wider widths while a finer needlecord or pincord will have narrower wales.
The number of wales is counted by the inch so if you see a fabric described as “3 wale” it will have only 3 ribs or wales to an inch. The number of wales can range from 3 to 21 per inch.
Because it is such a stable fabric it works well on lots of different styles of garments. Heavier corduroy works best for trousers, skirt, dungarees and jackets, while finer needlecord is wonderful for dresses and shirts.
So what do you need to know to sew Corduroy successfully?
#1 Pre wash your fabric
As most Corduroy fabrics will shrink a teeny bit on the first wash. So it is always a good idea to pre wash your fabric and allow it to dry naturally as flat as you can. Hongin on a washing line is ideal.
#2 Decide on the Direction of the Nap
Corduroy has a raised pile, a bit like Velvet, so it feels smooth when brushed one way and rough when brushed the other. So it is really important to decide which way to you want the nap to run and stick to it.
Traditionally the pile runs upwards to give a matt look to the fabric as the light shines dowards into the pile. However, I prefer to have it running downwards as that is the direction I tend to brush down the body. To be honest either is fine just make sure that you have all the pattern prices running in the same direction.
#3 Keep it on the Straight Grain
Be very circumspect in keeping the pattern pieces on the grainline. As the cord fabric has its own grainline in terms of the wales or ribs running down its length, to deviate from this is going to look very odd if not specifically intended. To make it easier cut on a single layer if you can, with the right side uppermost.
You can see the difference between these two samples with one cut on the straight grain and the other slightly off. Incorrectly cut pieces are much more noticeable on corduroy fabric.
#4 Use super sharp tools to cut.
Because of the raised pile on Corduroy when you cut through the fabric there will be a fair amount of lint and fluff flying around. To minimise this use a really good sharp pair of shears or a new blade in a rotary cutter to make sure that the edges are nice and cleanly cut to avoid any ragged edges.
#5 Keep the Corduroy straight when sewing
If you follow Tip #4 this will really help you as you will be able to sew along the lines of the ribs or wales to help you sew in a straight line. This is particularly so when top stitching pockets or collars. Stitch in the ditch between the wales to get a nice straight line.
#6 Use the right needle for the weight of fabric.
Lighter needlecord fabrics are fine with a universal 80/12, but heavier fabrics will be better with a 90/14. If you are sewing multiple layers of thicker cord fabric you may be better off with a specific Jeans needle as these have a thicker, stronger needle shaft for sewing through multiple layers without breaking.
#7 Try using a Walking Foot
As there is a pile or nap with Corduroy fabric it has the tendency to ‘creep’ when sewing two layers together as the pile rubs against itself. You can hand baste seams together to avoid this or you can try sewing with a walking foot. With the addition of a topset of dog teeth, both top and bottom players of the fabric are held securely as they pass under the presser foot to help eliminate any creeping.
#8 Minimise Pressing
Corduroy will suffer under normal pressing just as a velvet would as the pile will get squashed under the pressure of the iron. So only use the tip of the iron if you really need to and rely more on the steam from the iron and gently pat the fabric into place. If you have a needlebed pressing cloth you can use that or you can try using a square of corduroy fabric as a pressing cloth so the pile supports the pile on your garment as you gently press.
Again to minimise any pressing, use a lightweight sew-in interfacing instead of the usual iron-on so the pile of the fabric is not squashed during the process of attaching the interfacing to the fabric.
#10 Finish the edges
Due to the pile on corduroy fabric there is a fair amount of shed from the raw edges of the fabric, so it is always best to finish the raw edges of the garment if it’s going to be left unlined. If you have an overlocker that will give you a much more professional finish, but you can also use bound seams (Hong Kong seams) to add more interest and give it a more high-end look.
#11 Reduce the bulk in the seam allowances
The seams on a corduroy garment can get a little bulky as the pile on the fabric adds to the thickness of the seam. So make sure to clip carefully into any curves and to grade or layer the seam allowances to reduce any excess fabric.
#12 Keep a scrap of Fabric to use as a Clothes Brush
After a while the pile of corduroy fabrics can become a little dulled with just wearing the garment. You can use a scrap of cord fabric to act as a clothes brush. Just stroke the scrap against the nap of the garment to fluff up the pile and rejuvenate your corduroy clothes.
Now you have the 101 on sewing with corduroy here are some of our patterns that would work beautifully with Corduroy fabrics.
- Helena – Corduroy would really help you get the pintucks perfect
- Viola – Use corduroy as just the out longer skirt, maybe with a lining and zip instead of buttons
- Hero Trouser – Cord with a little bit of stretch will make super comfy trousers
- Beatrice – A corduroy beatrice would be really hard wearing but super stylish