Breaking Down the Different Types of Denim Fabric and Their Uses

Denim is a sturdy cotton textile that crosses all age and gender boundaries as one of the most popular fabrics in the world. Once the fibers are combed and spun into yarn, they are dyed indigo to create the iconic blue color we associate with denim jeans.

Then the fabric is woven on either a shuttle or projectile loom. Depending on the type of weaving, the fabric can have various characteristics.

Stretch Denim

A good amount of stretch in your jeans is important, especially if you want them to bend and move with your body as you do. Most of the time, this is achieved by adding a percentage of elastane to the denim fabric. This stretch denim is often used in jeans and jackets to create a more figure-enhancing appearance while allowing the wearer some flexibility.

This type of stretch denim can also be found in other clothing items like jeggings, which are essentially jeans that look very similar to tight skinny jeans and are designed to fit tightly around the waist. Depending on the manufacturer’s preference, these jeans can be made with either a cotton and elastane mix or a polyester blend.

Another popular option is 4-way stretch denim. This is constructed with fabric that stretches in all four directions, making it very comfortable and figure-enhancing to wear. This type of denim is usually mixed with cotton, elastane, or lycra to provide a flexible fit that retains its shape over time.

This unique weave style sets denim apart from other types of cotton fabrics. The weave is a diagonal pattern that creates a distinctive mottled appearance, making it durable and strong. This makes it perfect for work clothing such as overalls and jeans. 

Selvage Denim

Before the 1950s, most denim fabrics were made on shuttle looms. These machines produced tightly woven strips of one-yard-wide fabric with finished edges, preventing fraying, curling, or unraveling. The term “selvage,” or self-edge, was used to describe the tightly woven bands that ran along the edge of the strip.

As demand for denim increased in the 1950s, manufacturers started using projectile looms to make wider swaths of cloth and save money by weaving two sides simultaneously. These looms allowed for faster production but did not produce the tightly woven edges of selvage denim. As a result, the edges of selvage denim could unravel and had to be sewn or overlocked before they could be made into jeans.

In the last decade, selvage denim has experienced a resurgence in popularity as a result of menswear bloggers embracing Americana fashion and bringing back demand for heritage brands. The selvage edge of the jean is a telltale sign that you’ve invested in a high-quality pair, and it’s also possible to find jeans with a unique color ticker on the side seam to identify the mill responsible for the manufacturing process.

The edge of selvage jeans has a contrasting color twill running through it, and the woven strip can be seen when the jeans are turned up at the cuff. Because it is more difficult to produce and requires a higher-quality yarn, selvage denim is typically more expensive than other jeans.

Crushed Denim

Aside from being one of the most popular fabrics globally, denim is also highly durable and can be used in various garments. It can also be manipulated to create different looks and textures. This versatility makes it a go-to fabric for many sewing enthusiasts.

The unique diagonal ribbing from the material’s 3 x 1 twill weave differentiates denim from other cotton fabrics. This weave structure gives the fabric its characteristic look and feel.

Denim can be made from various yarns, including cotton, wool, silk, and synthetics. It is also made in various colors, including white, black, blue, and red. It can be dyed using natural or chemical methods.

Crushed denim is a type of denim that has been processed to give it a wrinkled appearance. It can also be treated with bleach or stonewashed to create a vintage appearance. This type of denim can be a good choice for jeans because it has a soft stretch.

Another denim style is selvage, also known as self-edged or Japanese selvage. This type of denim has edges that end with a colored orange or red band, which is a sign of quality. This type of denim is often used in form-fitting applications like skinny jeans.

Indigo Denim

Indigo is an incredibly unique dye that gives denim its famous blue tint. It’s unlike any other dye in that it only partially penetrates cotton fibers, which gives the fabric its iconic worn look. The color also fades with time, which makes it perfect for a distressed denim finish.

There are a few different ways to dye denim, but indigo is the most common. It’s made by soaking the denim in water and indigo dye, changing it from white to deep blue. In the past, indigo was extracted from plants, but now it’s manufactured on a large scale using synthetic methods.

Once the indigo has been dyed, it’s put on a jean and sewn together. Then, the jeans are washed and rinsed to remove any excess dye. They’re then rinsed again and hung up to dry, which gives them their classic washed look.

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