Cotton corduroy is a great, versatile fabric that’s perfect for Fall/Winter sewing. Corduroy is essentially a type of velvet with a tufted ridge or “cord” that gives it durability and a unique texture.
The width of the cord is called the “wale” and refers to the number of cords per square inch of fabric. This number ranges from a zero wale with no cords (also known as velveteen), all the way up to 20+ cords per square inch, which we would call a modern “pin-wale”. The standard wale for corduroy today has around eleven cords per inch. The higher the wale number, the smaller the cords appear, and the more numerous they are per inch.
Notice that “pin wale”, as described in the 1943 advertisement above, is 14 wales per inch which is closer to what we would call a standard corduroy today. When I think of modern pin wale, I think more along the lines of this very tiny 21 wale cord. Just something to think about when trying to accurately recreate 1940’s styles.
Corduroy is an excellent choice for many 1940’s style day dresses with simple skirts and structured bodices. Cord fabric is also a wonderful choice for WWII Farmerette attire and casual menswear.
The higher wale corduroys are the more pliable of the cord fabrics and are great for day dresses, button up shirts, and baby clothes. The wide wale cords are great for more heavy duty, utility weight clothing.
Keep in mind that velveteen and most corduroy fabrics will have a “nap”, or a direction, that you should be aware of. When you run your hand along the corduroy, you will notice the fibers feel smooth in one direction, and rough in the other (think of when you pet an animal’s fur in the wrong direction). For example: when cutting out a pair of pants you’ll want to make sure the nap is going the same direction as you run your hand down each pant leg. Corduroy with a very wide wale needs to be treated like a directional stripe, and you should take extra care to make sure your cords match up at the seams. It is likely that you will need to buy more fabric than what your pattern calls for to allow you match up your cords and the directional nap.
For more in depth reading, and some fantastic tips for sewing with corduroy: Check out this article in Threads Magazine.
Are you using corduroy for your Fall For Cotton project? (It’s still not too late to join us, by the way!) Have you sewn with it before?
(photos from the 1943 Fall/Winter Sears and Roebuck catalog via ancestry.com)