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How is Denim Made?

by 顺之 聂 08 Oct 2023

It can be quite difficult to find someone who has never worn or bought a denim product. Everyone knows what jeans are, but not everyone has any idea what fabric is and how is denim made.

This fabric has become loved by people of all countries and has become so widespread that almost every man, woman, and child has at least one pair of pants made of this material. Denim clothes are ideal for work in production - it is dense and durable, and they do not adhere so much to pollution in the form of dust or metal shavings. It could easily be brushed clean, and unlike traditional cotton clothing, it did not absorb moisture well. They were very durable, lasting several years for miners and cowboys.

Depending on the type and style of the garment, the choice of denim can vary greatly. It can be decorated with printed patterns, and colored cross stripes and fabric can look worn and also, there are types of fleece denim and, of course, the original indigo-colored fabric. But in any case, it is a great material that will provide durability and comfort to your clothes, furniture, or accessories.

Today, jeans production has grown proportionately to meet demand. The fashion industry is increasingly thinking about environmental issues. However, denim production remains a major environmental concern. Keep reading this article and we will tell you everything you need to know about denim.

What is Denim?

Versatile and durable denim is a cotton twill fabric characterized by wafting under two or more warp fibers to form diagonal ribs on the back of the fabric. The fabric woven using warp and weft yarns of different colors is characterized by its surface being dyed in different colors. The best example of this is indigo denim, where the warp is dyed blue and the weft is dyed white. The result is a textile that is dyed blue on one side and white on the other. This results in the scuffs that are the trademark of blue jeans.

According to the classification, denim is classified as medium-weight (12 - 16 Oz). The density is 12 - 16 ounces per square yard, which is more than 400 grams per square meter. Traditionally, indigo blue pigment is chosen as a dye. To obtain a black color, sulfur-based dyes are added. Originally, the fabric was made of high-quality cotton. Today, manufacturers add synthetic fibers to fabric varieties.

The Origins of the Name ‘Denim’

The professionals believe that the word jeans is a corruption of the Italian city of Genoa, which came into English from French. In French, Genoa (Gênes) is pronounced Gin. In English, the word evolved into Gins, which meant "Genoese." Gradually, the French word Gênes became the English word jeans.
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History of Denim Fabric

Denim is a coarse, dense twill woven fabric. In the Middle Ages, this strong and coarse fabric was mainly used for sails and tarpaulins to cover cargo on deck. Later it was used to make upholstery, pants, and tents. This fabric can be found in museums, attics, antique stores, and even archaeological digs. Denim was a symbol of hard and honest labor. Legends say that the sails of Columbus' caravels were made of "denim" fabric. In the 18th century, this fabric was used to make men's work clothes, which were valued for their cheapness and durability even after many washings.

The first consumers of these clothes were just Genoese sailors. The English with their special accent slightly distorted the name of the city "Genoa", turning the pants into "jeans". At the height of the gold rush in America, trousers were in demand by prospectors – thick, made of cotton rather than leather, so denim could be washed, and with three large pockets, two in the front and one in the back, and a small one for watches.

At the same time, Levi Strauss and his partner Jacob Davis combined work pants with five pockets and rivets. In May 1873, they received a patent for making versatile and durable jeans. From then on, the history of jeans began. Initially, brown pants were made from "jean" fabric, and blue pants were made as work clothes for farmers. Both "jean" and "denim" fabrics were similar. The main difference was that the jean fabric was woven with threads of two different colors, white and blue, dyed with indigo dye, while the denim fabric was made from threads of a single color.

Indigo dye, when dyeing coarse cotton fabric, does not give durable coloring, and this is the cornerstone of denim originality! It is precisely the fragility of indigo dye that provides a kind of aesthetic to the appearance of jeans.

In the 1930s, Hollywood began making movies about cowboys, when the screens were filled with westerns, and cowboys (as well as their clothes and weapons) actors who wore denim, imitating the idols of ordinary Americans. became a national American symbol. The rise in the popularity of denim clothing was interrupted by World War II: the production of jeans fell. But at the end of hostilities at air bases in Japan and Southeast Asia, American soldiers quickly changed into jeans, so that the legendary blue pants learned about the legendary world.

Soon Vogue magazine featured denim jeans on its cover, introducing the idea that this article of clothing was not just for working men, but perhaps they were fashionable for everyone to wear. At the beginning of the hippie era in the 1950s, as young people began a social revolution, jeans as casual wear reached new heights. In 1958, a newspaper article noted that 90% of American teenagers, regardless of where they lived, wore jeans everywhere except in bed and church.

What is Denim Made of?

Almost every modern person in the closet has at least one denim item. Such products not only look stylish but are also worn for a long time. What is this fabric, and what are they worth? According to the description, denim is a fabric of the type of dense cotton with dyed warp threads.

In denim fabric, the base is natural cotton. Other components can appear in the composition, but classic one can only be cotton. Cotton threads are increasingly added to elastane, polyester, and other fibers. This affects the characteristics of the material and expands the scope of its application. Dense denim goes into the manufacture of clothing for off-season and winter. It not only protects against cold but also improves wind resistance. Super soft and thin fabric is made from 7 ounces of cotton, while traditional one is twice as dense.

Replacing cotton in the composition of the fabric is lyocell. This is a cellulose fiber that goes into the production of Tencel fabrics. You can not call the material lyocell denim, but the appearance, properties, and scope of application are comparable.

In the original, the weft threads are not dyed, resulting in a characteristic grainy pattern and a pale canvas on the bottom. The color of the denim implies blue or blue, and indigo dye is used. It is possible to get dark tones when using dyes based on sulfur. In order for the product to be of high quality and retain brightness for a long time, the fabric is treated several times in baths with dye. After dyeing, the fabric is passed through hot rollers made of rubber. This helps increase the density of the denim. The material treated in this way does not shrink after washing.

This fabric is loved by designers, it is for its practicality. From it sew jeans from fashion brands Levis and Wrangler. Composition and other components may appear, but classic denim pants can only be cotton. This is the rule followed by leading clothing manufacturers.

In addition to durability and color fastness, denim has other pros.

1. Versatility. Products made from this material can be worn in both cold and heat. Stylish denim jeans or jackets can be picked up by people of any type. They can fit into both classic and modern styles.

2. Durability. A quality thing made of denim can be worn for 5-10 years without losing its external attractiveness.

3. Air permeability. Despite its density, the material transmits air perfectly. It also shows up perfectly in bad weather. The material quickly absorbs excess moisture.

4. Practicality. It is very easy to care for products made of denim. They do not get dirty for a long time, which means they do not need to wash too often.
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What are the Different Types of Denim?

Time does not stand still. In addition to classic denim, there is a wide variety of fabrics of all kinds of colors, compositions, density, textures, and weaving techniques… Let's go through each type separately and understand what to do.

Denim
The classic variant was used as a benchmark. Often used for designer items. Does not contain any impurities. Sometimes there may be white fluff on the surface, which absolutely does not spoil the appearance, but gives it originality.

Ecru
The name speaks for itself. The name is of French origin and means "unbleached", or "undyed". This is a dense denim fabric that is not subject to dyeing and has the color of linen or silk. It has the natural color of cotton. In the presence of prints, the trim looks stylish.

Genie
It is the budget option. Material with the addition of cotton of lower quality. In fact, a dyed version of denim, thinner. It is made of cotton fibers, but polyester or viscose may be present in the composition. It is used in factory production, mainly to create budget jeans and pants.

Chambray
Unlike twill, this material is very thin and soft, I would say, flying. Chambray is definitely a summer fabric! The fabric is different from the standard one. The weft-to-warp ratio is 1 to 1. Because of the particularity of the material, it is better not to use it for sewing narrow denim pants, shorts, or pants. But for dresses, shirts, jackets, sundresses – it fits perfectly.

Stretch
Cotton fabric with the addition of elastane. The composition of this denim fabric includes elastic additives - lycra, and elastane. It is mainly used for sewing women's outfits that fit the figure, emphasizing all the advantages of the silhouette. It is characterized by special flexibility, which allows you to sew the product exactly to the figure. It is from this that the popular skinny jeans and jeggings are made. Designers even create swimsuits out of denim with elastane! Apparently, for avid denim lovers. It must be pointed out that stretching comes in different degrees of density. So here the choice depends entirely on your preferences and the future product.

Broken twill (chevron)
It is distinguished by a peculiar pattern. The blush has a reverse direction. Its peculiarity is a characteristic woven "herringbone", because of which the denim fabric has a relief structure. The material is quite dense, and sewing something on the figure will be problematic, so it is better to use twill for sewing free-cut products.

How Does Denim Fabric Impact the Environment?

It is well known in the sustainable fashion community that cotton is a water-intensive crop and a major consumer of pesticides. The 700 gallons of water required to produce a t-shirt is often mentioned when discussing water loss in garment production. What is rarely talked about is that it takes 2,900 gallons to produce a pair of denim jeans.

The final processing of denim products – giving them a "vintage" finish, scuffs, and "fading" – also has its own environmental implications. Traditionally, denim was dyed blue with an organic dye called indigo. It was derived from the leaves of the indigofera plant. Now natural dye is rarely used because of the high cost. It has been replaced by synthetic analogs (for example, to dye jeans in black color using pigments based on sulfur). All these dyes are required in considerable quantities, and after dyeing, the residue is washed into the wastewater of factories.

However, the biggest culprit for denim's unsustainability is the amount produced each year. In 2018, more than 4.5 billion pairs of jeans were sold worldwide. (For reference, there were approximately 7.6 billion people worldwide in 2018.) Denim is a $93.4 billion dollar industry, and due to the rise of casual wear, unfortunately, it's still a growing market.

The industry is still growing rapidly, and to really improve overall sustainability, the huge amount of fabric produced each year must be reduced. Various brands are trying their hand at producing sustainable denim. It seems that denim is moving towards a more sustainable future.
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