Sewing with Corduroy

Corduroy is such a durable fabric, fairly easy to sew and perfect for colder day garments

All about corduroy

The fibre content can be 100% cotton or a poly/cotton blend. The fabric on the left is all cotton, and it’s very comfortable to wear.  The one on the right has a synthetic backing.  It never creases and is very durable – it may have been designed for upholstery.

Corduroy combines beautifully with…

Leather and Suede
Cotton Shirting
Glossy Fabrics
Liberty florals
Bias Binding, Piping and Ric Rac

This fabric is described by the size of the wales, which are the soft ribs in the fabric. It’s important to pick the right weight corduroy for your project. For example, use pinwale/needlecord/babycord for dresses, shirts and children’s clothes, mid-wales for skirts, jackets and trousers, and wide wale/jumbo cord for coats and outerwear.


Most corduroys will shrink when they’re washed, so definitely pre-wash the fabric.  Some will shrink up to 5% in length, which is a fair bit.  While this isn’t too much of a problem for skirts, it can make trousers unwearable; a leg is about a metre long, so 5% shrinkage can mean it’s 5cm (2in) shorter.  For trousers, I add an extra 2.5cm (1in) onto the leg length when I cut them out in addition to pre-washing, as sometimes the fabric can continue to shrink over the next several washes.

Directional Pile and Colour

When you cut out, decide which way the pile is going to run.  Run your hand along the length of the fabric as if you’re stroking an animal – it will be smooth in one direction and slightly rough in the other. Orient your pattern pieces so they all run in same direction.

See the difference in colour? It’s the same fabric. The fabric will look different depending on which way the pile smooths.  Have the pile smoothing up for a richer colour ordown for a softer one.

Aligning the grainline

When you align the pattern’s grainlines on the fabric, go by the ribs in the fabric so they’re all straight.  It helps to cut with the fabric right side up so you can see them better.

Fold the pattern piece along its grainline (you might need to extend the grainline with a ruler, so it runs the whole length of the piece), align the fold with the rib as shown , then flatten the pattern piece onto the fabric.

Topstitching Tip

If the cord is chunky, make sure any topstitching isn’t too close to the edge. The velvety surface creates an indistinct edge and it’s very easy to stitch off it. This old pair of children’s overalls has stitching 6mm (¼in) away from the edge.

Pressing Corduroy

Use a light touch with the iron as the pile can easily be squashed with too much pressure. 

Press on the wrong side if possible with out pressing hard. However, If you need to press on the right side – try using a square of the same fabric as a press cloth, putting it right sides together with the garment so the fabrics cushion one another.

Or press lightly just using the tip of the iron and a few breathy puffs of steam.

Liz Haywood
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