Thursday, October 8, 2020

What Happened to Corduroy?

Fall is here.  Leaves are turning.  Pumpkin spice versions of everything is all over the place.  But where is all the corduroy fabric?

For ages, corduroy was the fabric of the fall season.  Pants, skirts, overalls, vests, dresses, coats - for all ages - were a staple in back-to-school and autumn fashions in stores.  Loads of home furnishings and accessories like bags, hats, pillows & poofs.  As a hard-wearing woven fabric, it's easy to sew, warmer the quilting cotton, super versatile and comes in a variety of weights, degrees of stretch and fine & wide wales.  Every autumn I'd find a slew of adorable corduroy prints in the fabric store and make all sorts of sweet things for my kids and self.
 This tiny trench coat using an Ottobre Design pattern:
My reversible Serena baby dress (get the free pattern here):
Sew Can Do Reversible Serena Baby Dress PDF Pattern image 0
and this Little Owl Baby Dress (get my free pattern here)

Even this fabulous Evelyn handbag (pattern by ChrisWDesigns): 
But I've come up empty when shopping now:(  It's nearly impossible to find.  As in, JoAnn Stores & Hobby Lobby doesn't even carry ANY on their websites.  And last time I was in a store they had maybe a just bolt of solid black and navy.  Most of the big online fabric stores have just a handful of solids - if that.  And what they do have is usually upholstery weight.  THAT'S IT.  
What the heck?!?

And the ubiquitous "well, Covid has impacted, blah blah" catch-all excuse (used to explain everything everywhere sucking this year) isn't the reason.  I noticed it last year and the autumn before that too.  After more than a century of being a mainstay fabric, corduroy has nearly gone extinct in fabric stores. 

The only excuse I could find, on one site, was "it's not in fashion anymore", but I'm not buying that explanation either.  I've seen loads of untrendy fabrics in stores for years.  Whole aisles even.  Sometimes entire stores.  LOL.  A lot of sewing enthusiasts aren't slaves to fashion trends so that doesn't seem like a legit reason to me.  Chevron print jumped the shark a few years back after insane popularity for a year or two, but you still can find it in stores.  
I just made this lined baby coat (free pattern & tutorial for it coming up btw) using some corduroy I bought about 5 years ago.  I feel like it's just as fresh & contemporary as anything I've seen in stores this year:

My only consolation is that a few years back, when I was at peak fabric hoarder/impulse buyer, I'd bought a bunch of corduroy prints and they've been sitting on my craft room shelf the past couple of years. 

So I broke some out of my fabric museum to recapture corduroy fashion love this autumn:

It was also impossible to find non legging or jeans for my size 12 daughter this year (or last year for that matter).  Those sausage casing tight styles in stores never fit right & the bigger kids get, the pricier those ill-fitting clothes become.  It's even a challenge to find non-legging, non-pajama pants patterns for her size too.  The age when fit is the hardest is when everywhere just stops offering options.  It's really weird.  So I grabbed a retro pants pattern my mom had given me from her 80s stash, McCalls 2947, (the one with the crossover back top every mom seemed to have back then):
and did a little tweaking to make these lovelies:
And these:

The pattern was quite wide compared to today's pant styles, so I slimmed them down about an inch in width on both inside & outside of each leg.  Relaxed enough to probably get 2 years of wear, but not elephant baggy.  Perfect for her changing, middle-of-a-growth-spurt tween shape. 

I added 4 rows of shirring at the hems with elastic thread in the bobbin to give them a cute harem style. 

Much more comfy & adds a longer fit span than the usual store stuff that's practically too small as soon as you wash it.
Thankfully I'd bought several yards of this fall floral print way back then.  I think I'd planned to make myself something with it but never got around to it.  I just loved the lively color combo and how the non-directional print offered so many uses:

I'd originally used it to make this Bubble Romper (Pattern by Seamingly Smitten) when my big girl was a toddler.  Gah!  She looks so little here:
With some careful pattern layout planning before cutting, I was able to squeeze out the new pants for my 11yr old and a mini pair for her 8 month old sister out of what was left.  

For the baby version I used a versatile pant pattern from the Kwik Sew for Babies book I love and stretched a piece of 1/4in wide elastic (cut 1 inch longer than her ankle measurement) to add a cute gathered look on hers too:
She's clearly a fan since she can wiggle away in them:

And my big girl loves matching clothes with her baby sister.

I was thrilled how they turned out because they look so cute together in them, but also a bit sad since this print is so versatile and easy to match with solids and now there's none left for future projects.  

Finding another like it seems near impossible now....
So what to do corduroy lovers??  Well, for the moment we can make do with the handful of solids available at some of the bigger online shops like MoodFabrics, Children's Corner Store and  Not ideal, but at least something.  Maybe add some embroidery or appliques to jazz them up a bit.  And it couldn't hurt to ask for them to start carrying more.  From small acorns spring mighty oaks and all that, right?

And for corduroy prints?  This is what I really crave so it's super frustrating coming up empty in search after search, but I've found a few tiny options.  Clear Creek Cottons has a few charming prints like I used to find and at the prices I remember paying.  I'm jumping on getting some before they disappear.  Individual sellers on Etsy and eBay also have a few winners - obviously stock is limited there so it's a buy now or miss it forever with most of those.

I'm going to continue to keep my eyes open.  That's one of the perks of owning a fabric shop - I do hear a lot of fabric manufacturer news and releases (even for stuff that doesn't work for my shop's niche theme).  So if something crops up, I'll definitely share it.  In the meantime, feel free to share anything YOU discover or if there are some other fabrics or notions you feel are hard to find.  I may put my detective cap on for chasing those down too! 


  1. I love corduroy and do agree there is a lack in the shops these days. It can't be because it's out of fashion because, i don't know what it's like in the states but here in the UK cord is really popular, dungarees and dungaree dresses and jackets are advertised everywhere. I'm hopeful the fabric stores will catch up soon. These trousers are adorable and super practical too!

    1. Here in the US it is REALLY hard to find in retail clothing stores, which is so odd to me, as it had always been everywhere this time of year until about 4 years ago when it just disappeared. I'm glad it's still in clothing stores in the UK. Gives me hope it will return to fabric stores some day!

    2. where are the manufactures of corduroy? did they go out of business, find it too expensive to make or have we all gone to blue jeans and leggings and stopped buying it, can't buy it if not on the racks.

    3. Exactly! It looks like Cloud9 (an organic fabric manufacturer) DID come out with a fairly cute corduroy print collection in Oct 2020: that is still available, but I only just discovered it since it didn't seem promoted very much. I might buy some & hopefully encourage them to to come up with more collections.


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