Denim fabrics are one of the most popular fabrics currently available. Denim is favored for its stylish, faded look while still retaining its strength and durability. The fabric's construction is based on the twill weave whereby the weft is noted to pass under two or more warp threads. From their construction, denim fabrics are easily identified by diagonal ribs on the reverse face of the fabric. This aspect of the fabric helps distinguish denim from cotton duck fabrics.
Traditionally, denim fabrics were colored blue with indigo dye. Presently, the practice is to use indigo/blue yarn as well as white yarn to manufacture denim fabrics. As such, the indigo yarns form the warp or lengthwise threads of the fabric while the white yarns which run across the width of the fabric make up the weft threads.
The yarns making up denim fabrics are twisted tightly to ensure the fabrics' durability. However, the twisting process affects their color. The indigo-dyed yarns are twisted so tightly that the dye is only present at the surface; the center of these yarns is left white. As such, the indigo threads form the outer sections of the denim fabric while the white threads form the inner regions. Frequent wear will cause the indigo-dyed surface to lose its color and the fabric starts to fade.
While denim has been traditionally made from 100% cotton yarn, it is quite common to find manufacturers of such fabrics blending cotton yarn with polyester. This helps control shrinkage noted with a number of fabrics that are made from 100% cotton yarn. Moreover, the yarn may also be blended with Lycra to provide extra stretch.
When discussing denim fabrics, it is crucial for one to learn more on some of the terms commonly associated with the fabrics. Some of the terms you might come across include stone-washing, river washing and Tate-Ochi
Stone-washing refers to a process through which jeans and stones are set to rotate together for a specified duration. The main aim of stonewashing is to physically remove color and add more contrast to denim jeans. The final color will depend on the length of time set. River washing is a process which gives denim jeans a vintage look and feel. The process involves the use of pumice stones and cellulose enzymes to produce the natural, aged look. The term, "Tate-Ochi" simply refers to the presence of white/faded threads along the vertical lines in vintage denim.
There are many types of denim fabrics on the market. The common types include dry denim and selvage denim. Dry denim are denim fabrics which are not subjected to washing once they have been dyed. Such denim fades over time, a trait that is considered desirable by many. Selvage denim refers to denim fabrics which have clean, natural edges which do not unravel. Such fabrics are bought in their raw, unwashed state. Because of its unique edges as well as its durability, this type of denim fabric is considered to be one of the more expensive denims available.