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Correct direction of pile for corduroy ?

woodsculpting | Posted in General Sewing Info on

Hi there folk,
I have been sewing my own clothes since my teens in the late 50s and still learning more and more about the subject!
I have been going to classes on pattern design and construction for the past 18 months and enjoying the challenge.
I was interested to learn that when making up velvet garments the pattern pieces need to be placed so that the velvet pile runs uphill in order to get a richer appearance to the fabric. I’d been making them with the pile running down the garment as I liked the feel of this when wearing the clothes.

I bought a length of pinwale stretch cord yesterday and have pre-washed it ready to cut out a pair of slacks for myself and wondering if the same rule applies to corduroy when it comes to placing the pattern pieces on the fabric – ie with the direction of the pile running UP the garment?
Could someone throw some light on this so I don’t fall into the trap and have the pile going the wrong way!
ps I’m interested in a wide range of handcrafts and art but primarily a woodsculptor – hence the name I ended up with here!


  1. starzoe | | #1

    A really knowledgeable teacher I once had gave us this rule: fabrics with nap are cut with the softness of the pile running up and I have followed that rule for the last forty years. Using it that way gives a richer look to the fabric and shows less wear, and with pants that means that the fabric on the back where you sit will look not squashed and will match the rest of the pants.

    1. woodsculpting | | #6

      Hi folks,Thanks for all your excellent and prompt replies - I finally found another suggestion in the series of "Golden Hands" books which came out in the mid 90s on a number of handcraft and dressmaking topics as weekly booklets which had a very useful section on velvet and corduroy.The writer did state that the pile on fashion garments normally runs up the body (for all the reasons given in your replies about it looking richer/plusher etc) but there was another comment that when making garments that will be worn frequently or are going to take a fair amount of 'punishment' then having the pile run DOWN the body is better as with the pile pointing upwards dust particles tend to get caught in the fibres and the appearance be marred as a result whereas with the pile running down the garment this doesn't happen.I DID cut the pattern pieces out with the pile running upwards anyway - I draped the fabric over the edge of the table and noted how much nicer the fabric looked with the pile running upwards than the other way and made an 'executive decision'!! I guess I won't be living in these pants as much as my trusty jeans anyway so a good brush down between wearings will keep the pile clear!Cheers
      Ainslie - woodsculpting.

      1. starzoe | | #7

        I am happy that it turned out well. As for the Golden Hands book - when was the last time you got dust in your good clothes? That series is pretty old, not sure how old, but maybe people didn't wash their clothing that much 'way back then! I must take a look at a pair of corduroy rtw pants I have had for at least a decade and see which way it runs.I had my living room soft furniture recovered a couple of years ago and had to convince the people who did the work that the pile had to run up instead of down, no matter what they thought about it. No problem with it at all, it still looks very good and no one has commented on the pile running up instead of down.However, just looked at Sandra Betzina's Power Sewing and she says the nap should run down....it guess it just depends what pleases you.

        Edited 8/3/2008 12:07 am ET by starzoe

        1. woodsculpting | | #8

          The Golden Hands series (out of the UK) may be slightly dated but they still have valid information and as I was taught by my sewing teacher at secondary school in NZ (in the late 50s!) that fashion does a 50/60 year rotation so I guess that brings it right back up to date again!!I'm doing a weekly pattern design and construction course one night a week and the younger students are wanting to get hold of my older Burda magazines (my collection of these go back to the 1980s)so that they can be 'up to date' with current fashion trends!Cheers

        2. woodsculpting | | #9

          Re your comment "not washing clothes all that often back then"!!!
          Actually we were all probably washing freaks in that era - hey and its not ALL that long ago ! -
          I live in Adelaide, South Australia, which is known as "the driest State; in the driest continent in the world" and where global warming is a fact that is becoming all too much of our daily conversations and our way of life. We're on permanent water restrictions and our beloved garden plants are dying for want of rain or watering but we still manage to wash our clothes regularly!
          The comment in the Golden Hands book was aimed at normal wear clothes - not the sort of clothes you wear on special occasions ie dinner dates, parties, weddings, formal functions etc. As these pants are for general day in and day out they'll be getting a fair amount of 'wear' which was why I hesitated to cut with the pile running uphill - however when draped over the edge of the table the more 'luxurious' appearance of the pile running uphill 'won me over' to hell with the dust collection!

          1. starzoe | | #10

            I thought that the "dust collecting" was a bit over the top as a reason, yours for finding the most luxurious look was right on.I live in a rain forest on the west coast of Canada (Vancouver Island) so dust is not a problem here, with the breeze straight off the Pacific Ocean. However, we are also subject to water restrictions but certainly not as severe as yours. My front yard is completely planted in drought tolerant perennials (bee, bird and butterfly friendly) and except for the odd newly planted items does not need watering at all. It certainly cuts down the work but looks lush and green and quite different from the ordinary work-intensive garden.One of my sons spent three months in N. Australia visiting a friend who works up there - he spent a couple of weeks motorbiking around to see what he could. I almost married an Australian fifty years ago - wonder where he is today? If could remember his name...............

          2. sewslow67 | | #11

            Say Starzoe; I just spent several days on your fair isle and that is where I had my accident.  Wouldn't it be a hoot if you were the lady who ran out of her house and called the ambulance for me?  The last time I was in Victoria was in 1954 and I loved it then ...and love it still.  What an absolutely piece of heaven on earth.

            Edited 8/3/2008 7:57 pm by sewslow67

          3. starzoe | | #12

            I would have called the ambulance for you if it had been in my neighbourhood - but I am not right in Victoria. There was a survey recently about which cities have the most people who would help someone and Victoria was not first but was in the running. Sorry for you to have those bad memories of our beautiful part of the world. If you come again, email me through my profile and I will run down to meet you.

          4. woodsculpting | | #13

            Hi folks,I finished the pants this morning and they look (and feel) great!
            Just as well I did finish these so quickly as I was wearing a pair of black stretch cord pants I made twelve months ago (that I've been getting a lot of wear out of) and was on the phone chatting to my daughter who lives in Sydney when she called to thank me for sending the first of three pairs of black pants for her and I was standing up chatting away on the mobile phone when, without thinking, I happened to run my hand down over the back of my pants and discovered a tear in the seat section!!! Luckily I've been wearing my sweaters fairly long and the jackets I wear out are well below the level of the split or I'd have been getting some strange looks from the passing parade!!!!!!
            Darn it - those were my favourite pants - now I have to get cracking and run up another pair (of black ones)
            Thanks for all your help - and if you are over this way again, do give me plenty of warning so we can catch up.
            BTW I reckon many of us have stories of 'the one that got away' !!

        3. MaryinColorado | | #16

          I'm in my fifties, I've  always thought people were much more fastidious about cleanliness "in the old days" when women were home and had "time" to keep everything "perfect".   They took pride in cleanliness and "keeping up with the Joneses".   I remember having to iron even my dad's permanent pressed work pants and hang them on these strange contraptions that "held the crease", horrors!  My mother still has my grandmother's irons that had to be heated on the stove and displays them with pride on her glassed in front porch with several other "antiques".  They are great conversation pieces and the kids end up appreciating how much "easier" chores are today. 

          I remember thinking that most women were so obsessive and neurotic about thier appearance that it was all vanity.  I was always being criticized for my patched jeans and straight hair unencumbered by Aquanet hairspray because I wanted to be a "natural woman", ha ha.   

          Sorry, I'll get off my soapbox now!  oops  It's funny that Sandra Betzina says to have the nap go the opposite of the other experts.  Guess it's all a matter of personal preferance.  Thank goodness that these days we are applauded for our individuality and uniqueness! 

          1. starzoe | | #17

            I think I probably mislead everyone with my comment about cleanliness, really what I wanted to say was that it was a pretty lame excuse that "dust gets into the corduroy". I agree that women spent a good amount of time cleaning and washing, even boiling clothes. I remember the old gasoline-engine wringer washers,(no electricity in the country) and earlier still a half-circle tin affair with a handle that had to be rocked from side to side. And I learned to iron with those that were heated on the kitchen stove.In the summers I lived at the logging camp and the bachelor men who worked there wore the same clothing all summer long - once in a while they would walk into the creek fully clothed and that counted for (1) a bath and (2) laundry!

          2. MaryinColorado | | #18

            I think it's great that you stimulated the conversation.  Although we have gotten off track regarding the nap up vs nap down. 

            These are some great memories we are sharing~I have a young friend who works on the helicopters that lift the logs to the trucks.  He was commenting on the limited space for supplies and food.  He was in Alaska when they were called to work with the firemen in California.  He had to go out and buy new leather boots, even though he has a huge wardrobe at home.  He's Mr. Clean, I can't imagine what it's like for him when he's at some of the camps, let alone doing what those men had to do!  Just think of the soldiers too, what it must be like for them. 

            It must have been interesting to live at a logging camp, what an adventure!  You must have seen some of the most beautiful scenery!  And wildlife?  I love going into the woods but am not as brave as I used to be.  We were on a hike last week end, I turned and went the other direction when I saw fresh bear tracks!  To think I used to camp out under the stars and just accept them as part of the experience.  Now I'm chicken little I guess. 

          3. User avater
            JunkQueen | | #19

            Seems to me you may be older and wiser, Mary. Besides, I believe wild animals are more dangerous now with the encroachment of man into their habitat. That's just my opinion, of course.About the corduroy, it's been an interesting exchange. I was always taught to sew with the nap running down, but as I matured and experimented, I've done it both ways as well as combining the two on a couple of occasions.

          4. User avater
            JunkQueen | | #20

            Starzoe, we had one of those tin "washing machines" when I was a young child. We moved to another state here in the US during WWII when I was just a toddler and my dad was working in the oil field. There was no electricity in this community, and we had none until after the war was over, because all the resources were used for the war effort. Anyway, my mother had to start using wash pots, and then we graduated to the tin machine you mentioned. As soon as the war was over and we got electricity, we got a wringer washer and a refrigerator. We'd been using an ice box and would buy huge chunks of ice which were separated with ice picks and put whole in a chamber in the ice box to preserve our milk, butter and eggs which came from our own livestock. My job was to churn the butter. By the same token, we took good care of our clothes, and we did not wear our school and Sunday clothes to play in, and once we got home, we changed into play clothes. Our Sunday clothes, particularly, were not washed every time we wore them. Our underwear was hand washed every evening, as well as our socks. Each washing their own. So, the good old days weren't all that good so far as I could tell..... :-)

          5. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #21

            In these days of so many modern conveniences, it is easy to forget that some still only fairly recently have even got indoor plumbing. When I grew up, we spent our summers at a cottage that had no electricity or running water. Hand cranked washing machine, kerosene lamps, woodstove for cooking, outhouse. It was our job as children, to carry potable water back from the neighbours pump to drink and cook with. I learned to split and stack wood also. My dad hated hauling my treadle sewing machine back and forth every summer. It amazes a lot of my country friends that I know so much about rough country living, because I lived in the city. bye the bye, how long do I actually have to live in the country before I lose the city kid moniker? Cathy

          6. starzoe | | #22

            I learned when I attended the 30th high school reunion of my grad year that I was still the "country kid" although I had travelled more, done more interesting things, lived all across the country and in Europe, knew some influential and interesting people, lived a lifestyle well above the norm. I didn't let them know all about this of course. We never outgrow it and I think it gives me a unique perspective on life in general. Their lives were so-so and many of them had not done anything challenging or interesting.About the wildlife: just this week in a suburb of Vancouver, B.C. one woman was attacked by a black bear while working in her yard and a few days later a bear got into a basement suite which luckily was unoccupied. This happens because building is moving into the territory of the black bears and city people do not take seriously their responsibility to contain their garbage and remove tree fruit from their yards.

          7. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #23

            We are beginning to run into problems here where I live. What was once a very rural area is becoming rurban. As the city comes closer to us, animals are becoming displaced and more visible. Deer and coyotes are backyard problems. Bears, which have not been seen in this area in almost 50 years are being seen regularily now. I have a problem with "drop off" raccoons. City born raccoons are being trapped and dropped off illegally in the country. These animals cannot survive here. The first thing they head for are homes and garages. They cannot feed themselves in the country, they do not know how. They get into my house and we have to trap them and dispose of them. They are already familiar with traps and hard to catch. They are sick and starving. We contacted the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) about them. MNR said they have had a lot of complaints in our area. A company is illegally releasing them in our area and they are aware of it. Raccoon rabies is a problem in some areas, not our yet thankfully, but this type of behavior contributes to the spread. The MNR has asked us to keep our eyes open and report to them if we see anyone dumping animals, or the company trucks out this way. Cathy

  2. User avater
    JunkQueen | | #2

    woodsculpting -- I think it is a personal preference, just so long as you get all of them running the same way -- unless it's a design decision, of course. Frankly I like to run the nap down the garment.

  3. victoria0001 | | #3

    I run the nap down for corduroy, velvet, etc.  I prefer the look & feel.  Running the nap up does something to my stomach - must be a texture thing.  I also agree  that wear shows less when running the nap down.

  4. User avater
    ThreadKoe | | #4

    Both you and your teacher are correct. With Pile fabrics like corduroy, velvet and velveteen, you do get a richer colour and better wear if you run the nap running upwards. However, as a designer, you may run the nap in which ever direction you choose, as long as it is all in the same direction for the main body parts. Running certain pieces in the opposite direction can have a very attractive design feature. Most Teachers will teach you to run the nap upwards. Cathy

  5. SewingWriter | | #5

    A pile fabric that brushes down feels better when your run your hands down your body, but one that brushes up is more slimming.  It has to do with how the pile reflects light.  Hold the yardage up in front of a mirror to see if the difference matters to you.

  6. moira | | #14

    This reminded me of the green cord trousers I made years ago but forgot to use a with-nap layout, so they looked like something for a court jester to wear when they were finished.I read this thread this morning and searched for it tonight, only to find a similar discussion from years ago. It was funny to see the names of the subscribers - I don't think I see any of them on today's posts. I wonder where they went, and if we'll still be part of this forum in a few years' time.

    1. woodsculpting | | #15

      Hi Moira,Just love your description of the trousers with the varying pile direction -!!!!
      People come and go from lists over time - I was on a woodcarvers list back in the mid 90s but it got too big and took too long to scroll through all the messages while I was on dial up. Too many messages which came in were just 'me too' type replies to someone who wrote in about a particular topic that it was taking too long to go through them all!
      I still write to most of the original 'crew' of around 20 of us - I was the only Australian on the list for a couple of years or more and everyone wanted to know more about my country and the lifestyle etc.
      While my husband was terminally ill they all rallied around and helped me through some very difficult times and when I finally had a visit to the US I stayed with many of these people as I travelled around. We still correspond but the list has become too big and non-carving topics are now taboo!BTW My one-sleeved cape I made out of a knit fabric using a knitting pattern from a recent Burda magazine came out really well.
      The directions in the magazine for knitting it had a diagram of the two pieces with the measurements along each edge of the pattern pieces so it was fairly easy to draw this up on tissue paper to make the pattern.
      I couldn't get a matching braid to stitch to all the edges - and boy did that fabric want to fray madly after I cut out the pieces!
      I ended up sticking strips of sticky tape over the edges until I could get some iron on facing tape then I folded all edges to half the width of the tape then using a zigzag stitch on the sewing machine I ran this over a silk-like cord which is about as thick as size 20 crochet cotton along all edges and then 3/8th inch away.
      I tried the basic zig zag stitch and overlocking the edge but this didn't look 'finished' enough.The bonus with using the knit fabric was I didn't have to get the knitting needles out and spend the next couple of weeks knitting it!

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