Corduroy is a cut pile fabric with a lustrous and soft, fuzzy surface. It is popularly used to make casual pants, jeans, jackets, skirts, jumpers, vests and hats. The cut pile appearance of corduroy is that of tufted cords placed parallelly in rows with regular channels placed in between resulting in a ribbed surface. In informal language, the fabric is also called ‘Cord’.
Corduroy fabric is very similar to velvet because of its cut pile surface, but for the ridges along its surface. This cut pile surface is a result of extra yarns which are cut and brushed and placed in rows at regular intervals on a plain or twill weave base – these are also called wales. These wales which run parallel to the selvedge, give a casual and elegant texture to the fabric that is very unique.
It is considered a reasonably durable fabric – but sometimes this is not the case. The piled surface may wear out – ie the pile will just disappear in places. But generally Corduroy is hard wearing (the reason why work pants are made of corduroy) and easy to care for – you can machine wash and dry it. If you feel that the color may run, give for dry cleaning for the first one or two washes. This is especially for very brightly colored corduroy fabrics – some very vibrant colors are available in this fabric and they may run.
How to buy your corduroy fabric
The fiber content of the fabric is the most important consideration. It can be pure cotton or blended with manmade fibers like rayon. For eg you can buy Corduroy with a composition of Cotton(75%), Viscose Rayon(25%) . Cotton polyester blend corduroy is also there.
Corduroy is also available with stretch – spandex fibers may be added to give it this stretch which makes it very suitable for form-fitting clothes – not just the loose pants of yesteryears.
The different variety of corduroy is distinguished by its wale counts. The look, texture, and weight of corduroy can change with the number of its wales per inch – which is indicated by a number when you corduroy. If the number of wales per inch is low the fabric will be thicker – because each wale is thicker than those of a higher number wale fabric.
So if your choice is a 4 wale corduroy vs 22 wale corduroy, decide on how thick you want the fabric to be. 22 wale one will have narrow wales resulting in a more elegant look and lighter weight. 4 wale corduroy will almost look like velvet with very few channels in between and will have a bulky appearance.
For jackets and coats and pants corduroy fabric starting from 8 wales per inch can be used. Corduroy with the wale number around 10-16 is considered standard (to be precise 11 wale) and is used for making pants; but for dresses, a finer and less stiffer fabric is preferred. A 14 wale corduroy is a popular option for dress making. A Needlecord with 15-18 wales per inch is used to make dresses and blouses which need a better drape. Micro-wale corduroy or Pinwale corduroy or baby corduroy has even finer wales (upto 22 wales per inch).
Sewing with corduroy
Though the fabric is soft it has somewhat of a stiff drape, especially if the wale count is low. Pinwale corduroy may be used to sew soft draping clothes.
Prewash the corduroy before sewing like you do any other fabric, because it will shrink.
The wales appear in the warp direction. You have to consider this in cutting the fabric. You may even have to buy more fabric because you have to consider this napped direction. If you ignore this, you will get clothes which look different in different places.
When pressing corduroy keep the fabric face down. If you press on the right side you will crush the pile. You can keep two corduroy pieces together right sides to the inside and press on the back – this way the other piece will cushion the pile adequately. You can also use a towel this way.
Corduroy fabric will unravel a lot at the cut edges, so finish the edges.