Machine Embroidery on Corduroy
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Corduroy is a polarizing fabric. Some people love it, some hate it. Me? I’m in the former camp. I LOVE corduroy. Maybe it’s because corduroy reminds me of my preppy uncles who all wear candy cane embroidered corduroy pants around the holidays. The texture of embroidery on lush corduroy fabric was, and still is, so rich and appealing. So, you can probably imagine that when I first got my embroidery machine, machine embroidery on corduroy was one of the first techniques I wanted to try.
Why corduroy can be challenging to embroider on
What makes corduroy so appealing is also what makes it a challenge to embroider on. Corduroy has texture! Stitches can get lost inside the hills and valleys of the corduroy fabric. Therefore, we need a way to flatten out the material underneath the area of embroidery to allow the stitching to sit on top.
Corduroy comes in different “wales.” There is wide wale corduroy which means that the hills and valleys are quite thick. You typically see wide wale corduroy in men’s trousers and upholstery. Fine wale corduroy has thinner hills and valleys and is more commonly used in apparel. With finer wale corduroy, there is less opportunity for the embroidery to get “lost” within the valleys of the fabric. Consequently, the wider wale variety is even more challenging to embroider on.
Another factor to consider when embroidering on corduroy is stretch. Many of the corduroys now sold in fabric stores has a bit of stretch to it which can present a challenge when hooping or floating the fabric on the embroidery hoop. You don’t want to overstretch the fabric when embroidering otherwise the design will be distorted when you remove the fabric from the hoop.
Where to buy corduroy
I, personally, love the wider wale corduroy but can never find it at my local Joanns. Fortunately, you can order beautiful wide wale corduroy on Amazon. There are also a few Etsy sellers who have a great variety of corduroy fabrics.
- Impression Fabrics has some beautiful, vibrant wide wale polyester corduroy and cotton corduroy
- Fabric Made has vintage flowered cotton corduroy
- Land of Oh has a nice variety of fine wale cotton corduroy.
Why you might want machine embroidery on corduroy
Corduroy is a super durable fabric that comes in bright colors which makes it a perfect choice for children’s clothing. A personalized jumper for a little boy or girl makes a great gift that is suitable for dressy occasions.
Because corduroy is so durable, it makes a great material for a tote bag. I love the boho feel of these Corduroy totes from Amazon. You can easily add a name or a monogram to make the perfect personalized gift.
Corduroy’s durability also makes it suitable for upholstery. In fact, my sister recently recovered a favorite chair of my grandfather’s in a wine colored corduroy. You could easily use corduroy to recover a seat and add some embroidery for embellishment.
Corduroy is also great for a lot of women’s clothing. Although I’m too old to pull off a monogrammed ruffled corduroy jumper, I do like corduroy clothing. And I have used embroidery and appliqué to give my clothing a second life.
How I’ve upcycled my corduroy skirts with embroidery
Because I love corduroy so much, I have a tendency to buy corduroy skirts. But over the years, they can start to get old and a little dated. Machine embroidery and appliqué is a great way to spice them up.
For example, this tan corduroy skirt was a real dud. It got plenty of wear back in the early 2000s but for the past couple of years, it has sat helplessly in my sewing room cabinet, begging for a makeover. So what to do? Add some embroidery.
When I did this project a while back, I was a little nervous about embroidering on corduroy. I was worried that the embroidery would get lost in the hills and valleys of the fabric. So, instead I decided to add some funky flower appliqués.
For appliqué, of course, you need fabric for the appliquéd piece. I decided to go with this light green home decor fabric that I bought as a $1 remnant at Joanns, and I did the stitching in a dark brown. Finally, To make the skirt slightly a bit more modern, I hemmed it to make it hit above the knee.
Here’s another one of my skirt makeovers that I did by adding some new buttons and appliqué to a corduroy skirt.
How to embroider on corduroy with your embroidery machine
Machine embroidery on corduroy is easy if you follow the appropriate techniques.
Here’s what you need.
- Cut away stabilizer
- Tear away stabilizer (either adhesive-backed or regular tear away)
- Temporary adhesive spray (if you are not using adhesive-backed stabilizer)
- Embroidery thread
- An appropriate needle – a regular embroidery needle (75/11) is fine if the corduroy is quite thick, then you might need a more heavy duty embroidery needle. For stretchy corduroy, I would recommend a ballpoint needle.
- Water soluble topper
How to embroider on corduroy
Before you begin…
If you are embroidering on a lined jumper, it would look nicer if you embroidered only through the corduroy front and not the lining. If that is not possible, you may want to hand baste the lining to the corduroy to keep it together while you embroider on the garment.
If you need to iron the corduroy – be careful! An iron will leave a mark so always iron your fabric with a towel in between your iron and your corduroy.
If you are applying appliqué to your corduroy, be sure to wash and dry both your corduroy and your appliqué fabric. Most corduroy is cotton and it can shrink a lot. So before you attach your appliqué to your corduroy, make sure that both are preshrunk. This is arguably the MOST important tips when it comes to machine appliqué with many different types of fabrics.
Now let’s do it!
The method I’m demonstrating is a floating technique. I try to avoid hooping corduroy because the hoop can leave a mark on the fabric which is called hoop burn. To me, floating is easier and I rarely get any puckering.
Hoop a piece of adhesive-backed stabilizer, score it with a pin around the inside edge of the hoop and peel the paper off, exposing the sticky surface of the stabilizer. If you are using regular tear away, then simply hoop the tear away stabilizer and spray it with some temporary adhesive.
Adhere a piece of cutaway stabilizer to the back of the corduroy fabric underneath the spot where the embroidery will go.
Stick the corduroy (and the cutaway) to the hooped adhesive backed stabilizer. To position it properly, follow the centering method described in this post.
Before you start stitching out the design, you should add a layer of water soluble topper on top of the corduroy.
Once the stitching is done, dissolve the water soluble topper and trim your connecting strings and you are done!
So – are you ready to embroider on corduroy? Don’t let the peaks and valleys of the fabric scare you. Corduroy is a versatile fabric that looks great with machine embroidery and appliqué.
Helpful shopping links
Note: thank you to Becky Allen Cox of Beck’s Monogram Applique and Embroidery for letting me use her photo in this post