Happy Tuesday, friends! And happy beginning of fall. What kind of projects are you working on for the new season?
I finished up a corduroy Chi-Town Chinos skirt last week and I am LOVING it. I’m wearing it here with my black gingham Cheyenne Tunic (blogged here). The fabric is this gorgeous micro wale corduroy in merlot from Style Maker Fabrics. (Side note: they are quickly becoming my favorite place to shop for apparel fabrics! You honestly can’t go wrong with ordering from them.)
Corduroy is a perfect fabric for this skirt! It will easily style over tights and boots with a sweater on top, transitioning it beautifully into winter.
I’m finding that a lot of people have never sewn with corduroy, so I thought I would bring you my top seven tips. It can be a sort of fussy fabric, but you shouldn’t worry about that. Let’s jump right in!
1) Pre-wash and pre-dry. Corduroy will handle a cold wash and low heat tumble dry just fine. Before cutting the fabric, I recommend a full wash and dry cycle to take care of any shrinkage that will occur. Once your final garment is made, I recommend a cold wash (turn the garment inside out), and air dry–but, if you dried the fabric before cutting, your garment will definitely be okay going into the dryer, too. To increase the life of a garment and its fabric, I recommend air drying what you can.
2) Find the nap and pay close attention. Corduroy is a fabric with a “pile” or a “nap”, meaning it will look different from different angles. The nap looks one way when smoothed down, and another way when fluffed up. Unless you’re going for a creative approach, you’ll generally want the nap pointing down the body. Running your hands down the garment would smooth the nap. This means that ALL pattern pieces need to run the same direction when cutting them out, which brings me to…
3) Order additional fabric. For the Chi-Town Chinos pattern, I was somewhat generous with yardage calculations. When laying out all of the pieces, I rounded up to the next 1/4-yard to account for shrinkage and small cutting errors. I also grouped the five smaller and five larger sizes (because I wasn’t about to create or make you scroll through 10 pages of cutting layouts), so if your size is on the smaller end of one of those ranges, you’ll probably be safe to follow what I’ve already recommended. Pay attention to the cutting layouts I’ve provided, too–since all of the pattern pieces need to run the same direction, you can see what changes you’ll need to make to the cutting layout, and therefore how much it will affect my yardage calculations (it might not affect it much at all). If you’re nervous about not having enough, err on the side of ordering a bit more.
4) Cut in a single layer. Treat corduroy like you would any striped or directional fabric. You’ll need to pay special attention to the grainline (which will run between the napped cords). It is easy for the cords to slightly shift when cutting in a double layer, so cutting everything in a single layer is very important. (And, again, make sure your pattern pieces are all running the same direction.)
5) Press lightly–or not at all. Corduroy does not respond well to the iron, so avoid it as much as possible, finger-pressing where you can. It is generally not recommended to use fusible interfacings on corduroy because the weight and pressure of the iron and steam will crush the nap. For that reason, I recommend using sew-in interfacings. For the Chi-Town Chinos, I still did use fusible interfacing on the cut-on fly, but was careful to stay on the interfacing, and was very gentle along the edge. I chose to do this because the cut-on fly gets turned under and isn’t visible on the final garment. For visible places like seams, hems, front pockets, very gently use the tip of the [low-heat] iron, never resting the full weight of the iron on the fabric. You do not want iron marks on your finished garment!
6) Reduce bulk anywhere you can. Because of the nap, corduroy can be a very bulky fabric. For the Chi-Town Chinos, this comes into play mostly at the front pocket facings and adding the waistband. (I didn’t even attempt to add belt loops. You definitely can, but 1) it wasn’t the look I was going for, and 2) I didn’t need the belt loops.) In the instructions, I say to grade the seam allowances once you’ve attached and understitched the waistband facings, and this definitely helps. Another easy way to reduce both bulk and ironing is to trim and bias bind the lower edge of the waistband facings (see above), which is an option in the pattern. If your corduroy is very heavy, you can also consider shaving the nap off of the seam allowances; this would be time-consuming (and messy!), but could potentially make a big difference.
7) Keep a scrap of corduroy to “revive” your garment. By brushing your corduroy garment, against the nap, with a scrap of corduroy, you can refresh nap that’s looking a little flat and tired.
I hope these tips are useful and take away any fear of sewing with corduroy. The worst that can happen is a few iron marks, really–so I hope you dive in and learn by experience, too!