Fabric Facts: Corduroy

We are well into in Autumn, even if no one has told the weather, and along with the standard seasonal pleasures of conkers, cosy evenings and casseroles there is also corduroy! This fabric is synonymous with the colder months in Britain, and we can't wait to get our cords on.

Corduroy refers to fabric with a very distinct raised ribbed pattern. The ribs make this material very durable and warm, and as such became popular for British country clothing in the 18th century, with Manchester claiming the historical birthplace of corduroy. In fact, it has only been a global fabric since the 20th century with peak corduroy domination in the 1970's - think flares and pinafore dresses. (Which, coincidentally, are all over the fashion magazines this season too!)

Blue dress: The Avid Seamstress Raglan Dress | Orange Pinafore: Minikrea Spencer Dress | Brown Dungarees: Minikrea Unisex Overalls

It is a versatile fabric too - great for kids clothing and adult casualwear, but can look smart when used for a more tailored garment, and even with creased seams sewn in for a sharp look (see the culottes listed below)

Corduroy is usually mainly cotton or a cotton/polyester blend and comes in different 'wales'. The wale refers to the number of ridges per inch: standard cord is around 11 wales per inch, baby or needlecord has 16+ wales, whereas jumbo or elephant cord only has 3 or 4 to the inch. The lower the wale, the thicker the fabric - so jumbo cord is usually used in soft furnishings while needlecord is better for garments like shirts or dresses. It is not a drapey fabric and has little give so works best for outerwear or fitted items.

We have got a great selection of needlecord in stock ranging from muted greys, browns and navy to hot pink, lime green and purples. You can stay classic or go bold!

 

Once you've chosen your corduroy, what else do you need to keep in mind when you work with this fabric? Here are our top tips:

  • Prewash and dry your fabric. Corduroy, like most cotton fabrics, can shrink so it is important to wash first.
  • As well as the direction of the ridges, corduroy has a distinct 'nap' (the direction the fabric brushes) You can actually use it in both directions but if the fabric is brushing smooth up your body the fabric will appear darker, while down your body will mean the fabric is lighter and shinier.
  • Be careful when ironing or pressing as you can flatten the ridges. Many recommend using a scrap piece of corduroy as an ironing cloth and always press on the reverse side.
  • Take extra care when cutting your pieces out - line up the edges of patterns with the wales of the fabric. But don't forget you can also cut cross-grain for added interest or even on the bias to create diagonals. As the fabric is thick cut in single layers only.
  • You may need more fabric than the pattern specifies due to the careful cutting required. Treat corduroy like a directional print fabric and line up the ridges where possible.
  • Corduroy can shed fibres a lot while you are working so keeping a lint roller handy is a great way to keep tidy.
  • Seams can get bulky very quickly, especially with the larger wales, so consider overlocking edges and hemming by only turning up once, or using binding or a fell-seam for a smoother finish.
  • Sewing, especially top-stitching will need to be extra accurate as the line of the pattern will highlight any stitching that wanders off.
  • Use Universal sewing needles: 80/12 for big wales and 70/10 for babycord

Now you are ready to get sewing, here are some of our recommended patterns to try out with corduroy:

Merchant and Mills: The Dress Shirt

Burda 6613: Creased Culottes

Grainline Studio: Moss Skirt

Named Clothing: Maisa Denim Jacket

Victory Patterns: Madeleine Pinafore Skirt

 

We would love to know what you think about this super seasonal fabric - love it or hate it? Join in the discussion on our Facebook page or show us your corduroy creations by tagging your photos with #raystitch on Instagram.

 

 

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