Fabrics 101: Embroidering on Corduroy
Fabrics 101: Embroidering on
Corduroy is a parent's best friend. It takes a
licking from rough-and-tumble play, is easy to
care for, and keeps little ones warm in cold
weather. You can't walk through a Minnesota
school from November through March without
hearing the squeaky swish of corduroy rubbing
As well as being durable and hearty, corduroy
also has a sleek sophistication that appeals to
adult. Corduroy is found in suits for men and
women, pants, jackets -- even vests!
produced in Manchester, England
during the early 19th century.
Manchester was a textile hub in the
1800s. A high number of cotton mills
in that area gave the town its
nickname of "Cottonopolis."
Thought of as the "poor man's velvet,"
corduroy was worn primarily by mill
workers, laborers, and those of
lesser means. But by the
20th century, children's clothing
and school uniforms were being made
from corduroy too specifically
because of its sturdy quality.
its origin is from England, corduroy is actually
a French term for "Cord of the King."
After being used for soldiers uniforms in World
War I, corduroy continued to find its way into
wardrobes and homes. Today, corduroy is also
used for a large variety of items including
dresses, pants, jackets, bedspreads, draperies,
and upholstery, to name a few.
Corduroy has made its way into pop culture as
well. I grew up reading the children's story
about Corduroy, a stuffed bear, who lives in an
department store. He wears a pair of green
has a steadily growing fan-base as witnessed by
the creation of the
Corduroy Appreciation Club.
Their mission statement reads that they are, "a
social club which wishes to cultivate good
fellowship by the advancement of Corduroy
awareness, understanding, celebration, and
commemoration of the fabric and all related
What makes corduroy so unique from
other fabrics is its ridged surface.
Called 'wales,' the raised lines are
soft nap or cords made from cotton,
rayon, and other textile fibers. The
grooves that have been cut out of
the fabric are called 'channels.'
The fewer wales a type of corduroy
fabric has, the wider the wale.
Small and narrow ridges are referred
to as "pinwheel corduroy," while
"wide-wale corduroy" is the name
given to fabric with, well, wide
Besides making the textile strong
and warm, the distinctive texture of
corduroy also makes it soft - the
closer the wales, the softer the
fabric. It is also able to absorb
and release moisture quickly, and in
turn lets the corduroy breathe.
Martha made her corduroy shirt all the marvelous
with addition of the letter 'M'.
One downside to corduroy is the flattening of
the wales that naturally occurs with wear.
Garments often will show "shiny" spots on the
elbows, knees, and seat areas where the most
wear tends to happen. Unfortunately, the effect
usually can't be corrected.
embroidering on corduroy, the size of the wale
that will determine what type of design you will
want to use. Pinwale corduroy will handle any
type of design, but it will drape better with a
light and airy design. Redwork or vintage-stitch
designs are good choices.
wide-wale fabric, it is necessary to choose a
solid-fill design. The complex stitches will
prevent the design from sinking into the
channels of the corduroy.
Your choice of
stabilizers will also depend on the wales of
your corduroy. Different weights and wales will
require different stabilizers, and in some
cases, I would recommend pairing up two types of
stabilizer. I will further explain which types
to use or pair together as you read on.
I stitched all of
the examples below with a 75/11 sharp sewing needle,
which will efficiently push aside the threads
and pile without cutting them. A denim needle
will also work nicely for heavier weight
embroidering on wide wale or
deeply-ribbed corduroy, hoop the
fabric with medium weight cutaway
stabilizer that has been sprayed
with a bit of temporary adhesive.
Smooth the fabric on top of the
stabilizer and then hoop them
Next, hoop or lay a piece of
stabilizer, like Sulky Solvy, on top
of the fabric. This will prevent the
stitches of the design from sinking
down into the corduroy.
deeply-ribbed corduroy, you may want
to use a heavyweight water-soluble
stabilizer to prevent the stitches
from sinking into the deep channels.
I use Sulky Ultra Solvy stabilizer
as a topping and get excellent
Boot and Hat design is a good,
solid-filled design that will not
get lost within the fabric's
Although the wales on this corduroy
are wide and large, the channels are
not deep. I followed the same steps
as mentioned above, but this time
used a lightweight, water-soluble
stabilizer on top of the fabric when
stitching out the
and Bow with Frame design. The
detail on the solid-filled design
stitched out crisply and did not
sink into the fabric.
embroidering on narrow wale
corduroy, hoop the fabric with
medium weight cutaway stabilizer
that has been lightly sprayed with a
temporary adhesive. There is no need
to add a water-soluble stabilizer on
top of this type of corduroy
Aspen Leaves (Redwork) design
is so light and the wales of the
fabric are so close together.
design will work well on narrow
wale, low pile corduroy, but it is
best to consider light and airy
designs to allow for better draping.
geometric square design is a good
choice, as it has plenty of open
space within it.
Not all corduroy is
the same, so it is always important to follow
the recommended care instructions on each item.
For instance, some 100 percent cotton corduroys
may wrinkle badly and shrink if they are dry
cleaned. Most corduroys are made from either 100
percent cotton (or a close percentage) and can
be machine washed. However, I would recommend
using caution when washing dark-colored corduroy
like deep reds, blues, and blacks - color
bleeding is quite common.
For removing stains,
only blot the fabric with a wet cloth. Harsh
brushing or rubbing of the wales will compromise
the look and texture of the corduroy.
If the label
permits ironing, always iron the corduroy on the
reverse side. The iron can be set at a high
temperature, but make sure to use a light touch
- pressing too hard will flatten the wales.
Avoid ironing over seams, hems and pocket edges;
the iron may leave permanent marks.
If you are interested in
embroidering on a certain
type of fabric and would
like me to address that
fabric type in a future
Fabrics 101 article, please send me
an email, and I'll be happy
to do that. My address is
Stitching tips for corduroy:
sharp needle; an embroidery needle
may also be used.
narrow wale; for wide wale, choose solid-filled designs (avoid
running-stitch or Redwork designs).