A Fabric Guide To Corduroy: What’s In A Wale?

I just love cord, it reminds me of autumn when the leaves turning golden and marching through the fallen leaves. It has that lovely cosy feel, cord is perfect in that transition period  from the heady carefree days of summer dresses through to snuggly woolly jumpers.

We’re delighted that our cord has been featured in Love Sewing Magazine! Check out the end of this post for more details.

Cord is a woven fabric which has raised ribs on the right side that run parallel to the selvedge. The ribs are formed by cutting the threads in one direction and the result is a hard wearing fabric that’s soft to the touch. The name originates from the French cord du roi and it was originally a popular fabric for French royal servants uniforms in the 17th and 18th centuries.


What’s In A Wale?

The ribs, or wales, are what gives corduroy it’s distinct quality and the number of wales lets you know what kind of cord you’re dealing with. When you see a wale number given it’s telling you there are that many ribs per inch so the higher the wale number the finer the wales will be. Classic corduroy typically has 14 wales per inch.

Needlecord has finer ribs and is typically 14 to 18 cords per inch which gives a lighter weight fabric and a shorter pile than regular corduroy. We have a super stock of needlecord and currently have 28 colours to choose from. Needlecord is brilliant for clothing and makes fantastic shirts, dresses, bags and children’s clothes.

Then there’s pincord or babycord which has a finer wale again, typically 18 to 22 cords per inch and has similar uses to needlecord and at the other end of the scale there’s constitutional cord which is also known as jumbo or elephant cord which is much thicker and heavier and typically has just 3 to 10 cords per inch.  We are due a lovely big delivery of Robert Kaufman patterned babycord in the next few weeks so keep your eyes peeled for their arrival.

Sewing With Corduroy

Cord is a lovely fabric to sew. It’s stable and doesn’t really require any special handling so it’s a great fabric for beginners. The only thing to think about is those parallel lines…. Make sure your cutting is accurate so when you sew your item together the wales are not on a slant. Also consider the direction that the nap is going and make sure it all runs the same way.

Use a 80/12 needle and a stitch length of 2.5mm. You may wish to loosen your top tension or use a walking for if you find the fabric is travelling a little – the nap might cause this to happen.

It’s advisable not to press the right side of the fabric, you can end up with unsightly lines from your seams. Use a pressing cloth such as a length of silk organza which can withstand very high temperatures and will protect your fabric. Check out Thread’s Magazine’s Guide to Pressing Cloths, I find silk organza ,makes a brilliant pressing cloth because it’s a little transparent so you can see what you’re doing thought the cloth

As Featured in Love Sewing magazine


And I’m super excited that our 16 wale needlecord is featured in this month’s Love Sewing magazine, there’s a feature on making this adorable cord pinafore as well as a skirt and appliquéd shirt.

LS07.P34-37 Owl dress, skirt and top2
LS07.P34-37 Owl dress, skirt and top

LS07.P34-37 Owl dress, skirt and top3

LS07.P34-37 Owl dress, skirt and top4


I hope you enjoy sewing with this wonderful cord as much as I do! What will you make from cord this season?

8 thoughts on “A Fabric Guide To Corduroy: What’s In A Wale?”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s