Denim is a durable cotton textile with a sturdy twill weave and distinctive diagonal ribbing. It’s often used to make jeans and other clothing.
Typically, classic blue denim is made with indigo-dyed warp threads and undyed weft threads. However, there are other shades and types of denim fabric available.
Type 1: Cotton
Cotton is a natural product made from the seed fluff of the cotton plant. It’s the world’s most common fiber, and it’s used in a huge range of clothing and homeware products, as well as industrial textiles like tarps, tents and hotel sheets. Its performance, durability and softness make it ideal for workwear and leisurewear, including jeans, shirts, dresses and tees.
A mature cotton fiber comprises a primary and secondary wall encased by the waxy cuticle. The cellulose molecules in the primary partitions are arranged into a helix, which gives the cotton its natural crimp, giving it strength and allowing it to be woven. The secondary wall is laid on top of the helix, with a periodic twist or convolution along its length.
Cotton can be woven in several different ways to produce a wide variety of fabrics. A tightly woven twill weave fabric forms diagonal ribs in the finished cloth. This is often seen in herringbone, houndstooth and Scottish tartan designs. Twill-woven fabrics are harder-wearing than plain-woven fabrics and tend to resist wrinkles better. They can be very light to medium weight, and some types of twill are also woven with elastane or lycra to make them more stretchy for use in leggings, hoodies and trousers/trousers.
Type 2: Polyester
This woven textile fabric uses polyester to help control the shrinkage and wrinkles associated with natural cotton. It is typically used in jeans and other garments that require stretch, like skirts and dresses. Occasionally, it’s used in denim jackets and other outerwear garments. It’s often mixed with other fabrics like elastane or spandex to give it the stretch needed for more fitted clothing styles.
Polyester is an artificial textile material made from petrochemicals or other artificial ingredients. Growing and manufacturing polyester releases many chemicals into the environment, which can cause health problems for plant, animal, and human life. Because of this, some people hesitate to wear denim because they worry it contaminates their bodies with these chemicals. However, if you are concerned about what you’re putting on your body, then there are at-home dye-fixing techniques you can try to ensure the denim you’re buying doesn’t contain any chemical contaminants.
Traditional denim fabric is a thick, sturdy cloth woven with a special twill design. The warp yarns are colored blue, and the weft threads are white, giving the classic blue color of most jeans. The twill weave makes the fabric extremely hard to wear. It can feel stiff at first but will soften and fade over time. It is also very easy to dye and bleach, which allows designers to create different washes and effects.
Type 3: Ramie
Ramie is a vegetable fiber and, like linen (flax), was used in ancient Egypt. It can add interesting characteristics to blends, including resistance to bacteria and mildew, a natural ability to absorb moisture, and a strength that increases with washing. It also dyes fairly easily, can withstand high water temperatures during laundering, and has very little shrinkage.
Despite these advantages, ramie has seen limited use in modern textiles, mostly due to the difficult and time-consuming processing needed to turn it from plant to woven fabric. The raw fiber contains sticky resins that must be removed, and the retting process is lengthy. As a result, ramie has yet to be widely adopted in areas outside of the orient.
One characteristic often used to identify ramie from flax linen is the scent; ramie has a distinct, fresh, woodsy fragrance. Combined with other indicators, it can be useful for distinguishing these two fibers. In addition, the fabric’s weave may be helpful: a tighter and coarser weave is often a sign of ramie. Lastly, a predominance of shorter fibers can present difficulties when drafting the yarn for spinning, but this can also produce interesting effects when blending and playing. For these reasons, ramie is sometimes used in a blend with cotton or wool to overcome its less desirable characteristics.
Type 4: Blends
While denim has been traditionally woven from cotton, it can now be made with other fibers. These include polyester and elastane, which can be added to help control shrinkage and wrinkles and give the fabric stretch for more fitted styles of clothing. Checking the fiber content when choosing the fabric for your projects is important.
Making denim starts with ginning, which separates the seeds from the cotton fibers. The fibers are then carded, spun into yarn, and dyed. The most common dye used is indigo, which gives the classic blue color that we associate with denim. The yarn is then woven on a loom into denim fabric.
Typically, denim is made as a warp-faced twill fabric. The weft threads run under more warp threads than they float over, creating the fabric’s diagonal ridged appearance. The material is then selvedged, meaning the edges are tightly woven to prevent fraying.
The most famous use of denim is jeans, which can be used in jackets, shirts, dresses, skirts, and more. It is a sturdy fabric that can withstand tough wear and tear. The fabric is also breathable, which makes it good for warmer weather. It is also a very durable material, meaning it can last for years.