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It isnt difficult at all to sew with supple, high-quality cotton corduroy. But you will get superior results if you use a few special techniques to prepare, fit, cut, and sew the fabric to ensure a smooth, non-bulky finish.
Corduroy comes in a wide array of basic and not-so-basic colors and prints, with the wales tiny or wide, colors subtle or bold, and prints sedate and realistic or playfully abstract.
It isnt difficult at all to sew with supple, high-quality cotton corduroy. But you will get superior results if you use a few special techniques to prepare, fit, cut, and sew the fabric to ensure a smooth, non-bulky finish.

It isn't difficult at all to sew with supple, high-quality cotton corduroy. But you will get superior results if you use a few special techniques to prepare, fit, cut, and sew the fabric to ensure a smooth, non-bulky finish.

Try patterns with simple lines
As with any fabric with a lot of surface interest, it's best to choose a pattern with uncomplicated lines. Doing so allows the fabric's main feature-its wales-to balance the pattern's design. Since corduroys vary so widely in weight, be sure to choose one that's appropriate for the garment and the amount of ease you want. Soft, fine-wale corduroys work well for dresses, vests, blouses, and softer skirts. For skirts, jackets, and trousers, I prefer medium-weight corduroys, with 11 to 15 wales/in. And for coats and other outerwear, jumbo- or wide-wale corduroys are great.

Since corduroy is a napped fabric-one whose pile looks different (that is, reflects light differently) when viewed from various positions-you'll need additional fabric to follow a napped layout, with all the pattern pieces lying in the same direction, as discussed below in Nap layout is essential. I suggest purchasing an extra yard of fabric to allow for shrinkage, nap layout, stitch testing, and creative ideas (like trying out some bias-cut pieces).

Ready the corduroy before cutting
If you're planning to wash the garment after sewing, always preshrink the fabric (plus any lining, zipper, interfacing, or underlining) before cutting. If you plan to dry-clean the completed garment, you may still want to prewash the uncut fabric for a softer, cushier texture.

Plan for a good fit-If a corduroy garment binds or fits too tightly, the fabric will show stress wrinkles, often at the upper sleeve, across the upper back, and around the front buttonholes. Avoid premature wear by adjusting the pattern's fit, adding enough wearing ease to prevent binding.

Establish the grainlines-Before cutting the pattern, check the fabric's grain by pulling a crossgrain thread and cutting along the line created. Place the fabric on a large table or cutting mat. If the crosswise and lengthwise grains aren't at right angles, pin the selvage and the cut edge square, then steam the fabric with a hot iron held just above it, gently urging the wrinkles in the fabric to flatten. This works quickly to straighten most corduroys.

Use "low-impact" pressing only
Whether you're preparing the fabric for cutting or maintaining a finished garment, press corduroy as little as possible. Allowing the weight of the iron to rest on a napped fabric can permanently crush it. Corduroys shed most wrinkles if they're left to hang for a day or two, or you can steam just above the surface.

During the construction of the garment, try a few "low-impact" pressing techniques to preserve the nap. First, apply only the tip of the iron where it's needed, lifting and lowering the iron in an up-and-down motion. To meld stitches after sewing a seamline, lay the seam on a thick towel (fluff the towel in the dryer if it flattens), and steam-press lightly along the stitching line so the tip of the iron barely covers the stitches and the body of the iron lies in the seam allowance. To press open a seam, lay it over a towel on a shaped surface (such as the edge of a sleeve board turned on its side), and touch just the tip of the iron to the stitching line. Avoid pressing seam-allowance edges into the garment, because they'll leave an impression on the right side.

Nap layout is essential
Before cutting out a garment, decide which way you want the fabric's nap to run. First determine the direction of the nap by stroking the nap parallel to the selvage. The pile feels smooth when you brush in the same direction as the nap and rough when you rub against it. With the nap running up the fabric, the corduroy looks darker; with the nap running down, it looks lighter and shinier (if you have trouble determining the direction of the nap, try draping the fabric around your shoulders and see which side looks darker). Skirts and pants wear better with the nap running down, which makes the seat area less likely to shine. Coats, jackets, and blouses look richer with the nap running up. Whichever nap direction you choose, cut the pattern following a nap layout, that is, with the tops of all pattern pieces (except those placed on the crossgrain or bias) toward the same end of the fabric.

Most wide-wale corduroys look best when handled like a striped design and the wales are matched. A good guideline is to match wales 1/4 in. or wider and to match corduroys with alternating thick and thin wales. To avoid fabric shifting when cutting a wide-wale corduroy, place it in a single layer, wrong side up. You can cut light- to medium-weight corduroys using a lengthwise fold, wrong sides together.

Check your fabric to see if pins leave marks; if so, pin in the seam allowance or use weights to anchor during cutting. Avoid marking corduroy with a tracing wheel, which can leave a permanent imprint. Instead, mark with chalk, temporary marking pens, tailors' tacks, or thread tracing.
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Comments (8)

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zappafrank22 zappafrank22 writes: Can anyone tell me how to find a "double-sided" corduroy with a thick wale? It must be corduroy on both sides. I have looked everywhere but to no avail. A few years ago a friend bought some online. I have a small sample, but I want several yards of this stuff.

Please email me if you know.
Posted: 3:57 pm on May 19th

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