Denim is denim, right? Well, no, not really..... here's a run down of some of the things you should consider before selecting denim for your next sewing project. Hopefully this will help shed some light ...and if you still can't quite make up your mind, don't forget you can always order samples before committing to a project.
Denims range in weight from about 6oz through to about 15oz.
Rigid vs Stretch Denim
The denim you choose will either be rigid denim or stretch denim - you will need to refer to your pattern for what type you will need. As the names suggest, rigid denim is just that - normally 100% cotton. While stretch denim will have a lycra/elastane/spandex content. The percentage content of the spandex and the percentage stretch are the two main things to look out for when selecting stretch denim. Don't get confused between the two! Your pattern will have been designed with either a stretch content or stretch percentage - so pay attention!
loomstate / raw denim vs sanforized denim
When denim is manufactured at the mill it is first woven on looms, then often undergoes a treatment process called sanforizing. This process is essentially moistening, steaming and stretching the fabric repeatedly to remove most (if not all potential shrinkage). The result is often a smoother looking denim.
Loomstate, or raw denim, on the other hand, doesn't go through the shrinking process. We end up with denim fabric that is straight off the loom. This gives a slightly rougher, more textured denim. If you are using this denim be sure to take into account that the fabric will shrink when washed - normally 5-10%. Some people prefer the slightly more rugged look of this denim and choose to wear the denim without washing it first. If you choose this option - consider sizing up and your garment will shrink to fit after its first wash.
Selvedge Denim vs non-selvedge denim
Selvedge denim is denim fabric that has tightly woven edges (that don't fray) on either side of the fabric. The selvedge is normally a contrasting colour(s) and often used as a design detail in the finished garment. Selvedge denim is woven on narrow looms, where a continuous weft yarn snakes left to right and back again across the fabric. This continuous weft is what creates the finished edge. Non-selvedge denim by comparison has the weft yarn cut each time it reaches the edge of the loom, creating a frayed edge.
The important consideration when choosing between the two is to note the width of the fabric. You are likely to need more of a narrow selvedge denim which is often 70-80cm wide. If you are using selvedge denim to make jeans, you'd lay the pattern pieces out so that the outer leg seam sits on the selvedge, giving a great design detail when you turn up your cuffs.
pre-washing - shrinkage
You can choose to either prewash your denim or not before sewing. Except for the raw denims you are not likely to experience any shrinkage. BUT - I do recommend you check shrinkage first, and take this into account when sizing you garment. A quick way to check how much your chosen denim fabric might shrink is to cut a swatch (approximately the size of a post card), record its size, soak it thoroughly then dry with a hot iron. Compare the swatch size before and after. From here you can decide if you want to pre-wash or not.
If you do choose to pre-wash your denim fabric, consider the following:
The nature of denim is that the indigo dye will leach and rub off. And it will do so in a completely unique way to each wearer - one of the joys of wearing in a new pair of jeans or jacket! Do be wary though, that while sewing with new denim you may get some dye rub off - so watch out for that crisp white pile of linen sitting on the corner of your sewing table!
save it for later...
If you've found this blog helpful, you might like to use the image below to pin to your Pinterest account for reading later.
I've just finished a pair of jeans.. Ginger Jeans by Closet Case Patterns to be precise. I've made View A (mid rise stove pipe) in the organic stretch denim I have in the store. I'm pretty happy with the end result, but it's not to say there aren't things to improve next time.
The most time consuming part for me was getting the fit right - this is always a bit of a challenge as I vary so much across sizes, and sometimes I just want to give up and sew! But perseverance is rewarded - I am really happy with how these fit.
She has a thing for stacks of beautiful fabrics, delights in holding something made to last, and respects good craftsmanship. These are the driving forces behind the Miss Maude shop. And here are her musings.