What is Corduroy Fabric : (Tips for buying and sewing)

Updated on November 16, 2022 by Sarina Tariq

corduroy fabric

Corduroy is a cut pile fabric with a lustrous and soft, fuzzy surface. It has the appearance of thin stripes on the surface because of “wales” or “ribs” which are woven into the surface and these give the special texture to the fabric. 

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.

Wales of the corduroy fabric

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.

corduroy shirt

Corduroy is usually used for making pants and also for overalls and shorts. Shirts made of corduroy have a special vibe. It is more of a casual look.

Because of its thickness it is also considered for making winter jackets, and other clothes.

How to buy your corduroy fabric 

The fiber content of the fabric is the most important consideration when buying corduroy. And also the number of wales per one inch. 

Different types of Corduroy fabric

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 with a plain back is called Tabby back corduroy. Sometimes corduroy is woven with a twill back – it is then called a Genoa Back Corduroy. 

Pincord corduroy is one with very fine wales. Needle cord is the next bigger size wale cordutoy. The thicker wale corduroy is called Elephant cord (Reference : The sewing book by Alison smith)

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.

corduroy fabric

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 (lengthwise). 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.

Sewing Tips :
  • Sewing machine needle to use with corduroy : Regular machine needle of size 12. Use a thicker jeans needle (size 16) for heavy weight corduroy seams.
  • Thread to use with corduroy : Polyester thread

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.

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.

Caring for corduroy

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

Related posts : What are Textiles ; How to buy fabric ; Qualities to look for in fabric.

Reference: GLOSSARY OF TEXTILE TERMS. By H. P. CURTIS, Member of, the Council of the Textile Institute, U.S.A. 

Which Corduroy to buy? What are the considerations?

Other than the type of fiber the fabric is made of you should also consider the wales on its surface.
 
Corduroy fabrics are 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 given on 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).
 

Is coduroy long lasting?

Generally it is considered as a durable hard wearing fabric but the fuzzy surface on it can be destroyed or distorted with careless maintainance. The color also can fade. So even if the fabric lasts, it may look the worse for wear.

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author-sarina

Hi, I love sewing, fabric, fashion, embroidery, doing easy DIY projects and then writing about them. Hope you have fun learning from sewguide as much as I do. If you find any mistakes here, please point it out in the comments.

1 thought on “What is Corduroy Fabric : (Tips for buying and sewing)”

  1. shopping spouse…189.00 for corduroy shirt. another magazine 49.00 ! do the number of wales per inch determine the price difference?

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