Corduroy fabric has always been considered a very timeless fabric, first becoming popular back in the seventies, but has recently made a comeback in high street fashion. Often being made from cotton or a mixture of cotton and polyester, corduroy is often used as a transitional fabric between summer and autumn, with its velvet-like appearance and cosy feel. At Fabrics Galore, we are experts in a wide range of fabrics, so we have put together this guide to highlight exactly what you should know about corduroy fabric.
History of corduroy fabric
Although the corduroy fabric we know today was manufactured in 19th century Manchester, this textile actually dates back to ancient Egypt in 200 BC, where the heavy cloth fustian originates. With a raised, sheared nap, this fabric was very similar to velvet or moleskin, eventually becoming popular throughout Europe hundreds of years later. Fustian was brought to Europe by Italian and Spanish merchants, often being used in the 16th century Tudor court, lining gowns for warmth and providing a fashionable padded look.
Fustian did not transform into the corduroy we know and love until the 18th century, where the textile was used as a modern and practical choice of fabric, used in the creation of working garments for the lower classes. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first recorded use of the word “corduroy” was in 1774. By the Victorian age, corduroy was being mass-produced in factories all over Europe and America, seen as the ‘poor man’s velvet’.
Corduroy’s popularity continued into the 20th century, becoming well-known as a children’s fabric, and for military wear in World War I throughout Europe. Its popularity peaked in the 1970s, becoming a symbol of anti-establishment protest, famously worn by icons such as Woody Allen, Bob Dylan, Pablo Picasso and Wes Anderson.
What is needlecord?
Corduroy fabric is a ridged material, made up of woven pile-cut yarn, which are cut into cords, or wales. These are the vertical ribs that give corduroy its unique texture, and the width of the wales on the fabric defines the texture of the garment. Check out our guide to corduroy wales for advice on wale width.
Unlike normal corduroy fabrics, needlecord has much finer ribs, making it a more lightweight fabric compared to regular corduroy. As it is so fine, needlecord is the perfect choice for garments such as dresses, skirts, waistcoats, dungarees and more, with a much shorter pile than regular corduroy.
What can corduroy fabric be used for?
Depending on your sewing project, the number of wales will impact the overall finish, so it is important to choose the right material for your specific requirements. Corduroy fabric can actually be used for a variety of different dressmaking projects including, but not limited to, trousers, shirts, jackets, skirts and dresses. It’s also the perfect fabric to sew, as it’s stable and doesn’t require special handling, so it’s a wonderful choice for beginners. To give your dressmaking project a unique touch, you can even use printed corduroy fabrics, and we have a wide variety of patterns available on the Fabrics Galore website. From printed floral needlecord to bright plain colours, corduroy would be a great choice.
In general, corduroy is not a fluid, drapey fabric, so it is best used on more fitted garments and designs. If you are looking for a finer variant, it’s important to note that the higher the wale, the finer the cord, with pincord being considered the finest and elephant or jumbo cord the thickest. Wide wale is more commonly used in trousers and furniture upholstery, whereas, medium, narrow, and fine wale fabrics are usually found in garments worn above the waist.
With the ability to trap air between its fibres, corduroy is incredibly warm and the perfect fabric for keeping the cold out during the winter months. As it’s also so hard wearing and durable, there is no surprise why it was the go-to choice for workwear among the working classes in the 19th and 20th century.
Find your perfect corduroy fabric
Available in a wide variety of weights and patterns, here at Fabrics Galore, we have a new range of printed needlecord fabric available alongside our regular corduroy and jumbo cord for you to purchase. No matter whether you are looking to work on a new dressmaking project, or if you need furnishing corduroy for some scatter cushions for your living room, corduroy is the perfect fabric choice. We stock both the needlecord variant, chunky corduroy and normal corduroy in various colours - so it is completely up to you which type of fabric you choose.
To learn more about our corduroy fabrics, or another line of products on our website, you are more than welcome to get in contact with the Fabrics Galore team. You can chat with the team by calling 020 7738 9589, and we would be more than happy to help you and answer any questions.