Male Pattern Boldness is proud to be the world's most popular men's sewing blog!

Sep 23, 2010

The 10-Day Corduroy Suit Challenge!

Can this be done?  I think so.  Anyway, I'm going to try.

Yesterday morning, I made a quick trip to the garment district.  I looked at some wool suiting at trashy old H&M on 39th St.  They had some OK stuff for $10/yd, but nothing that blew me away and it was more than I wanted to spend on something that may turn out to be little more than a glorified muslin.

Then it occurred to me: why not try cotton corduroy?  It will be easier to work with than wool, and even a little rumpled can look cool and casual.

I remembered there being another fabric store on 39th Street that had a lot of corduroy, and while I never did find that one, I stumbled upon another -- Chic Fabric at 225 West 39th -- that had beautiful, vibrantly-colored corduroy at just $5/yd for 60-inch bolts.  I bought three yards but may return today for three more.

I'm not sure how this reads on your screen but it's a rich cranberry (Michael says, Merlot), very soft and velvety.  I've already laundered and dried it and it came out lovely, with nary a wrinkle.

I've been reading a lot about corduroy and how to work with it.  Initially I thought I'd pick up a velvet needle board and swung by Steinlauf & Stoller.  Do you have any idea what these things cost?  Try $175!   Even online, they're amazingly expensive.  Anyway, after doing some research it sounds like I can get by without one.  I'm certainly not ready to make that kind of investment.

I've been experimenting with light pressing, stitching, serging, etc., and so far, so good.  You just don't want to sit a hot iron on it as that will crush the nap.

I visited Sil Thread on 38th St. and found perfectly matching thread.

I also found real pocketing!

And at the FIT bookstore (the independent one, not the Barnes & Noble) I treated myself, at long last, to a sleeve board, which I've been wanting for some time.

When I got home, look what Michael had found in the paper recycling:

Friends, if you've seen one of these old Sixties-era sewing books, you've seen them all, but this one had something special inside -- an ILGWU bookmark! 

Now that's something to treasure!

Anyway, I'm very excited to get started.  I'm going to do the pants first, which shouldn't be too hard since I've already had some success with pants.  By then I should be more accustomed to working with the corduroy and will tackle the jacket.  (I'm not entirely sure how much inner construction a cotton corduroy blazer requires/warrants.)   If I finish all this in time for the dreaded event you know where (belch), great.  If not, that's fine too.  I can certainly wear the pants with either a blue or gray jacket.

OK, on your mark, get set -- To the Corduroy!

Happy Thursday, everybody!


  1. This will be fun to watch! A classic suit is perfect for your, um, event, but the fabric and color are totally you. :-) Good luck! As for corduroy tips, I have none other than beware the iron, which you already know. Top-stitching may be your friend since you can't press too hard or hot.

  2. Yay! I love the merlot corduroy! So much more your colour/style than the grey. I'm holding thumbs that you can sew the suit in ten days!

  3. Hmm. I've always had good success ironing velvet and things like that nap down over a fluffy towel. Obviously not pressing like crazy, but it worked just fine.

    Terribly excited watching here, since I've been too sick to do much of anything myself at all this week.

  4. Oh Peter, I just love the color, especially for you. It is absolutely perfect!

    Just in case you have not read about ironing napped fabric like corduroy or velvet; place a piece of the corduroy, nap side up, on the ironing board and place the piece to be ironed face down on top. This nestles the nap as you iron. A lot cheaper than a velvet needle board!

    Corduroy has so much body that you could get by with iron on interfacing. You would still need the sleeve heads and shoulder pads. And the lining could be partial or full.

    I can't wait to see a picture of you in this suit. Just lovely! So perfect for the unmentionable.

  5. Gorgeous fabric, very you, very seasonal too. You are clever! I looked into getting a velvet board a while back (like you, the price made me raise an eyebrow). I found a Velvet Ironing Mat on www(dot)morplan(dot)com at £21.50 (about $30, I think). But I own a cotton velvet skirt and some cord trousers, and I wash and iron (inside out) them endlessly. I wonder, is it only silk velvet that needs such care?

    Good luck with your speed tailoring - the result is going to be fabulous.

  6. That fabric is an excellent choice for you! Also, I think you'll get more wear from it after the "event" too ;)!

    The only thing I can think of might be that things like waistbands might need 1/4inch more in width perhaps - to account for the extra thickness of the corduroy maybe?

    P.S. Cousin Cathy could borrow the jacket afterwards - she'd look very smart wearing it over a bow-front slouchy blouse & some smart wide-leg trousers (camel coloured maybe)? Very Lauren Hutton a la 70's me thinks?

  7. That will be fun to watch, but looks quite challenging! :O But then again, challenges are always good :))
    I'd be glad if you found the time to visit my blog - if you like it (and I hope you will), feel free to comment and follow of course (Who would have thought, huh? :)))

  8. Gorgeous colour! You'll look great in it! I envy you the shopping choices you have in NYC.

    Agree with Doreen; that's the way I was taught back in the dark ages. Also the reverse: use a piece of the fabric nap to nap when pressing, i.e., seam to be pressed up and fabric scrap nap side down over it as a pressing cloth.

    I've also had success with sliding a piece of thin card, like file folder thickness, wider than the seam between the body and the seam when pressing so the seam line doesn't mark the body. I usually just cut two pieces a few inches wide to side under the seam when pressing. You can also use a piece of dowel with a cloth tube around it for pressing seams in tight places. Think big, unpainted broomstick planed down on one side to keep it from rolling off the ironing board.

    If you can find the old (60s/70s) Vogue sewing book, there's a chapter on common fitting problems for men's clothes. I've heard the new one isn't as good, but don't know.

  9. Love the fabric and can't wait to see your suit!

    However, I am most excited about the bookmark.
    Coming from a long and distinguished line of union members, I love relics from a time when unions were strong.
    Great find, Peter!

  10. Gorgeous color on that corduroy! I always iron corduroy, even the bulkiest, face down on a thick, plush, terry towel. The loops prevent the pile from crushing, and the towel is nearly as handy (for grabbing) as the ironing board itself. You WILL want to use a light hand, though, of course.

  11. This post got me all excited. I love corduroy and I love that cranberry/Merlot color (you're so much more creative than I am in color description :-). That is going to be a great suit, can't wait to see it! You will look great at your H.S. reu -- err, dreaded event you know where.

  12. LOVE the corduroy! That will be perfect. The color is gorgeous. Can't wait to see it go together.

  13. OH don't be silly! $175 is too much for.. a glorified bath towel. The one in your bathroom will work just as well, promise.
    On the other hand, you could quote Mark Twain to yourself and note that any new activity that requires $175 is probably not worth it.

    As to corduroy being easier than wool, good luck. It's just the opposite imho. But then I tend to buy real wool :-). Corduroy is just more 70s, which is very nice too. It looks pink from over here, but if you say merlot I totally approve.

  14. You are brave! That's quite a deadline.

    However, I'm one to speak. I'm making a mother-of-the-bride dress, for myself, for my daughter's wedding in 2 weeks. Mine is a sheath dress in gorgeous tone-on-tone charcoal Armani fabric with a silk charmeuse lining.

    Bring it on!

  15. Hello from one of your lurkers…

    I also have the McCalls sewing book, (on loan from my mother-in law.) You and Cathy may enjoy the section on wardrobe needs for various occasions, (pages 12-14.) It is a blast to see how much our clothing culture has changed since the 1960’s.

    The corduroy suit sounds perfect for you – a strong balance of traditional, (it is a suit after all!,) and a non-traditional color scheme.

  16. Now this I LOVE, Peter. The colour is sensational and will look terrific on you. As a bonus, won't it be interchangeable with your floral suit?

    You are going to knock 'em dead at The Event That Shall Not Be Named. :)

  17. Be a friend Peter and post as many sewing-in-process pics as you can, help out the rest of us beginners, eh?
    I was just going to tackle my first ever lined jacket, but now I think I'll wait to see how yours turns out;)

  18. Good luck and have fun!

  19. Quite the challenge, will you be treadling away or using electricity based on the deadline?
    Corduroy itself is very stable and thick, so I don't think you need much inner construction.
    Btw will you be doing the traditional way...padstitching and all?

  20. I love your style Pierre! A cranberry corduroy suite sounds simply marvelous, I wish I'd thought of that! I have a Bill Blass corduroy jacket, unlined and it stands up just fine.

  21. You set yourself quite a deadline... I'll just add my advice. I'm with Doreen on the issue of ironing.
    I'd like to add: don't be tempted to do topstitching. Its lines will cut through the wales of the corduroy and it will definately not look good.

    As far as structure for the jacket is concerned, aren't corduroy jackets always supposed to be 'softer' and more casual? This means you won't want it to hold its shape all by itself (like a traditionally tailored jacket would).

  22. Well, since you didn't listen to me, I have no choice now but to urge you on to success.

    Can't wait to see it finished. :-)

  23. Thanks, Christine! I didn't mean to be defiant.

  24. I love to wear corduroy, but I do think that wool is amazingly forgiving if you just give it a bit of steam. I just made corduroy pants and skirt and had no real problems, even with the ironing and top stitching ( besides having bits of lint all over my bedroom after cutting.)

    Another ironing hint: According to one of my vintage sewing books, if you can find a remnant of that stiff mohair upholstery fabric (like theatre seats used to have) its almost as good as a needle board.

    Can't wait to see the result!

  25. Try a June Tailor Velvaboard for a less expensive alternative to the needleboard (which I have, bot in the 70's by me, and I'm calling the insurance company to get a rider right now). A velvaboard is like a perky synthetic deep velvet, that can assist with not crushing napped fabric. I know you didn't ask, but wool is SO much easier to work with than almost anything, including corduroy, I think you are certifiable...but in a loving way. :-)

  26. The corduroy is lovely, and so original! When sewing corduroy I tend to hover the iron over the seams and finger-press, never touching the iron to the fabric.
    I can't remember if it's cord or velvet where you can use a scrap of the fabric face-down as a press cloth, so the nap-fibres are facing each other? Worth a try anyways. Good luck getting it done in time!

  27. Sounds perfect! Don't forget about nap when you lay it out; everything has to point in the same direction, and if you are making a suit I don't think 3 yards will do you. You need at least 2 yards for the pants alone.

  28. The cranberry corduroy is definitely you. Don't forget when you're cutting it to pay attention to nap. The color looks scrumptious with the nap up but cutting with the nap down will keep you from having a shiny seat on your pants.

    Your ILGW bookmark reminded me of the "Look For The Union Label" commercials of the late 70s. Do you remember those? I was working in the garment district back then, maybe that's why the tune has stuck with me for so long.

  29. Gosh you will cut quite a figure in that outfit! A flowery shirt would look fantabulous with it...perfect for the thing that must never be mentioned in name :)

  30. Leslie, I remember that commercial perfectly (a lot of good it did though)...

    I bought 2 more yards today -- not to worry!

  31. Wow! A genius solution -- and the color is a scintillating choice for such an event. You will feel buoyed by its deliciousness. I've successfully used the towel trick as many others here have pressing corduroy. And of course, I'm all eyes and ears for the unfolding of this project. Buona fortuna or maybe I should say buon viaggio . . . keep us along for the ride!

  32. I, too, am preparing to work with corduroy. I'm making, of course, little girls' dresses. Evie grew! And I think, though it wouldn't work for your project, that I outdid you on this one, Peter! 'Cause I bought some pale lavender pinwale corduroy for a winter dress for Evie for $1.53 a yard! (It's got multicolored butterflies embroidered on it, too.) While pinwale corduroy isn't as luscious as yours, it'll make a lovely, washable, soft dress for the baby and it's easier to work with (and cheaper) than velveteen or velour.

    The color on yours is gorgeous, though! One thing you want to watch with corduroy is the nap, though. There's a direction to it. And you need to sew with all the nap going in one direction or it'll look weird.

  33. Love the color! I was planning on making a suit jacket for my husband out of corduroy, too. Hehe.. I'll be intently following this series!

  34. Ooh, that is a luscious color -- I think that will look great on you. What color shirt will you wear inside? White? Tie? (OK, maybe the styling should wait till AFTER you've finished the suit!)

  35. Yes Yes Yes! Just be sure that you get the nap of the corduroy petting UP! If it pets down, you'll look all shiny, not velvety. I swear. Go get 'em! -Kimbersew

  36. OMG, that gray suit at top is to die for! Good luck on your challenge!

  37. Oh this is perfect! I love the colour and I absolutely love corduroy. I made my fella a pair of black cord pants last year and they still look good after really regular wear. I used the old technique of using a piece of the same fabric as a pressing cloth and that allowed me to press the seams without ruining the pile. Have you thought about a shirt? I'm seeing a paisley or a big floral ... can't wait to see what you decide!

  38. |||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||
    Love, love, love corduroy.
    A suit in that colour is
    going to look amazing.
    Happy sewing!

  39. I agree with commenter Doreen. I made a velvet dress last year for a Christmas party and balked when I saw the outrageous prices for the press board. I did what she said; cut a piece of the fabric and lay it nap side up. Then press your garment on that, nap side down. It works like a charm. Good luck and god speed!

  40. In complete agreement with using a fluffy towel or piece of fabric to press on. I inherited a velvet needle board from my Grandma and only use it when I feel guilty for not taking advantage of ownership. The towel is just so much easier.

    Superb color choice. Unusual without being obvious, just quietly chic.

    And as others have already said, be aware of the nap. It should run down so the fabric feels smooth to you as you wear it. Also for hugs, which I imagine you will receive a lot of!

    Go get 'em Tiger!!

  41. Well, its second best to the flowered pants, I'll give you that.

  42. I always iron corduroy on a fluffy bath towel, or even two, to save the nap from crushing. Love that color, BTW! I'd take a yard for a skirt if I found it hanging around, no doubt.

  43. Hello,

    I find that corduroy, velvet, velveteen, ultrasuede and especially silk velvet and some heavily napped woolens are best pressed right side down over a needle board. It's a small-ish heavy canvas sheet with small wires poking up throught it, looking like a huge dog brush contraption. Deal is, the pile of the fabric is held up by the space provided by the needles so you can really get at the seam, dart, hem, whatever it is you're needing to press. Just be sure to go easy at it from the wrong side, or you can still flatten the nap. It's not foolproof but the needle board is a big help. One note, since it's a limited size, it has to be moved frequently to press a large area.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Related Posts with Thumbnails