Hurray for Corduroy Day!

I’m sure my announcement is anti-climatic what with the ribald festivities taking place in your workplace today but for the few who may not remember, today is Corduroy Day! November 11th is the only obvious choice, 11|11 being the date that most resembles corduroy. I can’t imagine how wild next year’s parties will be on 11|11|11 but better make party reservations now. [Please note you should use the pipe key {|} rather than the forward slash {/} when writing 11|11 since it looks even more like corduroy.] I’ll bet that even if you did know today was corduroy day, you might not have known that the official symbol of the Corduroy Appreciation Club is the whale; whale being a homonym of wale.

flax_flowerOkay, so this was a weak opening to what I really wanted to tell you about, that being linen. There’s a great broadcast quality video (sent to me by David, thanks!) about linen from start to finish. I had no idea the plant was so delicate and pretty (right). The video is about 15 minutes long and is a snap shot of the whole production cycle from dirt to shirt. Some of the equipment is quite fascinating. I promise it is much better than I describe it.

With cotton prices surging like crazy, maybe linen become a more popular sustainable option. Did you know there’s an EU confederation of Flax and Hemp producers? They paid (?) for the making of the film. Their site could be a resource for you if you’re trying to source the goods. The group also has a blog.

I’ve always loved linen, it’s probably my favorite fiber. It’s 2 or 3 times stronger than cotton, is cooler in summer and warmer in winter. It’s also smoother and softens in every wash. I have so much of it now I don’t let me buy anymore until I sew up some of what I already have. It really is a great choice for retro-styling that begs for crisper lines and finishing. Enjoy the film.

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  1. Seth Meyeirnk-Griffin says:

    I used hemp for a collection while I was in school (all of, oh, two years ago…). The biggest single problem is both grain and strength; because the staple fibers are both longer and stronger than cotton in a comparable weight you can’t tear it readily to get a straight grain/crossgrain line. It’s also a little weird to sew (again, compared with similarly weighted/structured cottons) because it has more movement to it. I get the feeling that the fiber doesn’t lend itself well to very tight weaves. I know that knitting with a home knitting machine is nearly impossible; the yarns that are readily available are ‘sticky’ and stiff, and don’t form easily around the needles. I expect that all of these issues are things that a production worker wouldn’t even notice.
    Anyway, carries hemp fabrics in a decent range of weights, weaves, etc. Sadly, their color selections are poor for many things I would consider staples, and prints are non-existent. Even for wholesale, prices are very steep; IIRC, a 12oz ‘natural’ warp faced twill runs about $12/yard for less than 100 yards, and drops only to about $10/yard for 1000 yards or more.

  2. Jody says:

    Very cool. I’ve always loved linen. It ages so well. I wonder if its production is easier on the environment than cotton in terms of the nutrients it requires/depletes from the soil (possilby requiring fertilizers) and its susceptibility to pest (which translates into pesticide use)? My guess is that it’s more eco-friendly than cotton, especially cotton produced in the US, where chemicals are relatively cheap and scary abundant. I really don’t know much about agricultural practices for textile production, but this film certainly impressed me with regard to linen. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Amy says:

    I couldn’t get the video to work. :( I’ll try a different computer. For me, unless linen is combined with another fiber, to prevent the severe permanent-crease-per-movement issue, the fabric is tempting but impractical and unwearable.

  4. Penny says:

    I with Amy… I couldn’t get the video to work.

    Ditto the hemp observations from Seth. I think the way to go is to mix hemp with other fibers, for instance hemp and tencel are a good mix. The tencel decreases the stiffness and gives it a more wearable quality. The antimicrobial quality of hemp is a huge plus! Especially for travel when you sometimes have to wear the same shirt for long periods of time. Hemp has a very interesting past… William Randolph Hearst was instrumental in sweeping the hemp industry under the carpet.

  5. Elaine says:

    What a seductive movie! I couldn’t get it to run yesterday, but it’s fine today. For slower internet connections, click on the colored HB symbol at the bottom right (it’ll turn grey)

  6. Jan sent a link to the key note speech presented to the Corduroy Club. Here’s an excerpt:

    I came to this beautiful hall in a soiled subway car, but I might as well have travelled in a grand carriage. As I walked down the street I drew sidelong glances. “Who is this man,” they seemed to say. “A man at home where-ever he travels. A man of refinement. A man of elegance. A man of corduroy.”

    But don’t get the wrong idea! This is not some fabric reserved for oily diplomats, or gentrymen of questionable morality. Corduroy is not weak! It is not effete or innefectual or elitist. Corduroy is a fabric built to take on the world. Tuck your corduroy trousers into your boots and feed the pigs. Roll up your corduroy sleeves and bring in the harvest. Put on a corduroy field jacket and go outside to build something.

    For a thousand years, corduroy has been our light against the darkness. It has served as bulwark; held the inky darkness back, kept the forces of evil at bay. For a thousand years, corduroy has battled on our behalfs, but tonight, we join together as one to cry to heavens that we stand behind our fabric.

    We join together because there is one danger so clear, so present that without the efforts of those tonight assembled we might be subsumed by evil. Consumed by that inky darkness.

    While I am hesitant to even speak this evil’s name, I must, and I will.

    Tonight, friends, we join together to battle velvet.

    Yes, it would seem that velvet is evil. And here we only thought it was knits.

  7. Yes, it would seem that velvet is evil. And here we only thought it was knits.

    No, no it’s not poor misunderstood knits … the real enemy of fashion is leopard print … I’ve seen how it works its way silently into every little niche of fashion … I’ve seen how it destroys the reputation of good and decent knits and their wearers. Yes folks we must make a stand against leopard print … it consumes the consumers soul … once worn, there’s no going back.

    I say this because today I saw the most vile atrocity commited against linen … I saw leopard print on linen, yes folks, on linen. Who would dare smear such a fabric’s fine reputation? A company called Couturious (I dont want to advertise it Kathleen so please delete this evidence and their name once you’ve seen it Leopard print must be declared an enemy of the state, it’s wearers rehabilitated and taught the benefits of clean, crisp, unprinted wovens (they shouldn’t be allowed access to knits until they’ve been clean of leopard print for at least 12 months).

  8. Marie-Christine says:

    FI often leads to weird places. Like this one: Can’t believe some jerk bought it before I found it.
    I adore corduroy, even though I’ve felt like I had to apologize for wearing it most of the last 3 decades. But combined with leopard print… yumm!! What’s wrong with you, Stuart, not enough Fellini in your formative years?!?
    There should be an ‘ode to corduroy’ by Pablo Neruda, don’t you think? If not, we should just write one.
    More seriously, linen is very labor-intensive, which is why production has fallen so much since wwii. Ive been led into temptation at my local market and have been wearing 19th century linen chemises as summer housewear, they’re amazingly comfortable, and the fabric quality is just unbelievable. The stuff can indeed be very closely woven, and wears like iron. It even drapes a bit when it’s been washed enough.
    Besides hemp (worse problems with modern quality though) you should also consider nettles. Another fine bast fiber, which can give lovely fabrics perfect for summer. And obviously not itchy at all :-).

  9. What’s wrong with you, Stuart, not enough Fellini in your formative years?!?

    Carlo or Federico? It’s more a matter of too much George & Mildred in my formative years, followed by Peggy from Married with Children, and then FashionTV … if I hear another model describe leopard print as being “so new and cutting edge” I won’t be accountable for my actions!

  10. Marie-Christine says:

    Federico, of course :-). Leopard print is neither new nor cutting edge, but it’s a classic. Just like pinstriped grey flannel, but for different occasions..

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