Thursday, November 4, 2010

Fiber Friday -- Denim

"Forever in Blue Jeans" by Maria Dryfhout
Aw…denim. Reliable, sturdy, comfortable, wear-it-anywhere, do-anything-in-it denim. What would our lives be without it? Good question, huh? I really don’t want to know, do you? Let’s not go there and instead focus on its presence and uses.
Long known for its strength and durability,
denim began as a humble work fabric for gold miners in California
as well as railroad workers and sailors of all nationalities.
Anywhere hard labor was a factor,
the need for strong, durable fabrics was a must.
Denim fit the bill.
Now, denim is a fashion staple, a wardrobe must have.
Mostly found in the way of pants or “jeans” as they are commonly referred to,
denim finds its way into
formal wear
and it is even found in interior design.
It is dressed up,
 dressed down
and goes with absolutely anything and any color.
Name a color that just doesn’t work with denim, I dare ya!
Here are some facts on denim I found in my search to know this fabric and its uses a little better.

* 40% of the world’s textile trade is cotton which is what denim is mostly made of.
* You can get 225 pairs of jeans out of 1 bale of cotton.
* Denium comes from the French name “serge de Nimes” and shortened to denim.
* Levi Strauss developed “jeans” using denim to fill the need for strong, durable clothes for miners during the California Gold Rush. These were made further desireable for long wear due to the copper rivets found at the pocket stress points. About that same time, railroad workers wore a similar fabric called hickory cloth that was denim with black and white contrasting threads creating a stripe. It was called hickory cloth as it was thought to be “as tough as hickory wood.” Just as a side note, Levi Strauss’ name was originally Loeb Strauss and had migrated from Bavaria. After he obtained his citizenship and went to San Francisco to court the gold miners of the Great Gold Rush with his denim copper-riveted pants, he changed his name to Levi. Interesting reading on Levi and the history of the Levi Strauss company can be found at the Levi Strauss website at
* The term “dry denim” refers to denim that has not been washed after the dying process. I think it safe to say that all denim used to be dry denim. Remember those good old days when new jeans meant lots of washing, drying, pounding, bleaching or any other method one could come up with to remove that extra dye and make them soft and comfortable? Fortunately, today much denim is prewashed to gain that desired softness and color that many folks demand in their jeans. The old days of “breaking in the jeans” are replaced with off-the-rack style and comfort. Jeans even come with holes to give it that worn look. That, I should say as a veteran of patching the knees of many pairs of jeans, is something that I continue to shake my head at. But, what fashion demands someone will make eventually do. Beats taking them out and shooting B-Bs at your jeans for the desired effect (yes, I really knew someone who did that regularly).
* Most denim is made of a twill weave as the two examples show below. Look closely at any denim and you will see similar weaves.

* Denim will last for years with the proper care. Though denim can stand up to hot water washings and high heat drying, if you want your denim to last, use care in laundering them. Wash in cold water with a non-bleach detergent and line dry. Of course, most denim washes and wears very nicely without too much fuss. Even shrinkage is at a minimum now and stay true to size even after many, many washes.
* Denim fabric is mostly cotton but can be blended with other fibers such as polyester and, of course, Spandex, the later of which is a really blessing to those of us who need a little give in critical areas of fit. Polyester can aid in giving denim less shrinkage and less wrinkling. However, in my experience, it takes away some of the softness and absorbance which are a couple of reasons why I like denim clothing. But, that’s a personal matter, I suppose.

So, here’s a challenge for you. Watch for denim in your everyday life. Pay attention to who is wearing it, what it is made up into, the different colors of denim, etc. You will be amazed as to its variety.

Sew Happy,


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