In Fall For Cotton

Winterize your wardrobe with Corduroy


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


  • Lindsay Snyder

    Thanks for posting the Threads article on sewing with corduroy. I’m set on making a Sewaholic Robson in a wide wale corduroy but I just can’t find the right color. Any tips for where to find corduroy?

    • I really like Robert Kaufman cords ( has a pretty good selection though not as many wide wales) and usually has lots of corduroys in different wales and colors πŸ™‚

      • Lindsay Snyder


  • Love corduroy πŸ™‚ I made a winter skirt from it last year, which I very much appreciated!

  • Mmm i love corduroy – it brings me back to being a kid – we always had corduroy play pants! LOL But the finer wale corduroy is what I’d wear nowadays – I’m thinking of making a dress this winter in some I picked up last year πŸ™‚

  • misscrayolacreepy

    Thanks for the tips with corduroy! I am about to venture into it soon!

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  • Gosh, this took me back… I miss corduroy! I think I spent most of 1994 in a pair of beige corduroy pants. I had completely forgotten about it so thank you for reminding me to use it! : )

  • Pat

    The financial nerd in me had to find out how much the Velveteen would cost if I was to purchase it today. $22.28 a yard. The green jumper I am eyeing: $80.75.

  • Terrific post, Rochelle! Corduroy is one of my very favourite fabrics and will feature heavily in my cool weather sewing.

  • Oh goodness, I’m seriously dying over that green corduroy jumper! I may need a red version of something similar in my life. The brown corduroy I used for my Wearing History trousers is such a fine wale that it’s almost velveteen, and they’re so soft and lovely. The only thing I don’t like about it is pressing!

  • Karen

    If you want something really yummy and warm for the winter make sure you fully line your corduroy trousers with flannel.

  • I am using baby cord for my 40s FFC dress. I am very happy with it, and although the choice of fabric was a bit “accidental” it is just perfect for a snuggly fall dress. Still a long way until the dress is finished, but I think it will get a lot of use once it’s done πŸ™‚

  • BΓ©a

    Oh my! That black dress with the little white ruffle edging is making me swoon!

    I have yet to try sewing with corduroy. But I keep thinking back to a corduroy dress my mother made for me when I was maybe 12 or 13, which I have an irrational urge to recreate in some way now that I’ve come back to dressmaking. It’s on my long term project list!

  • O dear, this isn’t good for me as a former corduroy addict. When I was around 14 – 16 years old, I had a heavy corduroy addiction. For about two years I wore no other bottoms then corduroy and velveteen pants. It even included my first vintage garment: a pair of green corduroy men’s slacks that had the Camel cigarette brand on them. Now I’ll have to sew 40s corduroy dresses and jumpers!

  • I do love a bit of corduroy! Not something I’ve sewn with in a long time though, and mostly things for my daughter when I have.

    One tip when searching for it online: the term baby cord (or babycord) is often used for the higher wale or lighter weight corduroys, at least here in the UK. This often brings up a lot of printed corduroys with floral or spotty patterns too, if you wanted a patterned fabric, as those are often sold more for baby wear. They tend to be very nice for shirts and dresses as they are generally more flexible and a bit thinner than a standard bottom weight cord might be.

  • Carolyn

    I really like the look and feel of corduroy- however it seems to pick up fluff and lint so easily! Any tips on keeping it looking pretty all day?

  • I have always love the feel and wear of corduroy. It is nice and warm and it is so easy to take care of.

  • I love corduroy! Velveteen even more so and because its cotton its so much easier to take care of. This compared with say a silk and rayon velvet. So much easier to sew with too. Love the images here too – what a great use for corduroy. Thanks for the Threads link – I’m a Threads maniac and its always nice to see articles I haven’t read before.