Machine Embroidery on Corduroy

By on April 6th, 2020
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how to embroider 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.

corduroy different wales
Corduroy comes in different wale – meaning the thickness of the bumps in the fabric.

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.

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.

monogrammed corduroy jumper
Corduroy jumper monogrammed by Becky Allen Cox of Beck’s Monogram Applique and Embroidery  and photo used with her permission.

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.

old skirt - before makeover
This ugly corduroy skirt was dying for a makeover

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.

machine applique on a corduroy skirt

Here’s another one of my skirt makeovers that I did by adding some new buttons and appliqué to a corduroy skirt.

corduroy skirt
Corduroy skirt I bought for $4 at a thrift store.
applique on corduroy
Corduroy skirt with new buttons and custom appliqué.
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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.

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

hooped stabilizer

Adhere a piece of cutaway stabilizer to the back of the corduroy fabric underneath the spot where the embroidery will go.

cutaway stabilizer on back of corduroy
I stuck the piece of cutaway stabilizer to the wrong side of the corduroy using temporary adhesive spray

Stick the corduroy (and the cutaway) to the hooped adhesive backed stabilizer. To position it properly, follow the centering method described in this post.

corduroy stuck to stabilizer in hoop

Before you start stitching out the design, you should add a layer of water soluble topper on top of the corduroy.

water soluble topper keeps the stitches from getting lost in the valleys of the corduroy

Once the stitching is done, dissolve the water soluble topper and trim your connecting strings and you are done!

monogram on corduroy

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.

Happy stitching!


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how to embroider on corduroy

Note: thank you to Becky Allen Cox of Beck’s Monogram Applique and Embroidery for letting me use her photo in this post

2 thoughts on “Machine Embroidery on Corduroy

  1. Hi. I was wondering if by any chance you know of someone who could make me a pair of 3T boys corduroy pants with adjustable waist that are black or navy with embroidered rockets( like the ones shown dinosaurs, holiday, etc.).

    1. I might – send me a message through the contact page.

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