Open-end denim, unsinged denim; regular, super-regular, comfort, slim, tapered, boot-cut fits; overdyes and vegetable dyes. The days of a pair of jeans just being a pair of jeans are long past so here is a guide to telling your ringspuns from your ring-rings and everything else that goes with it.
The A-Z of Denim
Achieved by various processes, most common being stonewashing, or combined with bleach for a paler, more broken down look. An alternative is a tinge of colour with the bleached for an antique look, perhaps yellow or green double ring natural indigo giving a worn-out effect. Aged-in creases are achieved by roller pressing during treatment.
Bleached: Bleached clothing is an alternative to pumice stones. This is known as acid washing where dry clothes are bleached then placed in a washing machine. Granulated pumice is soaked in hypochlorites and is also put in the washer so the jeans are treated chemically and mechanically. Then the granules of pumice are removed and the denim is washed again. This second wash neutralizes any lingering hypochlorites on the clothing and stops the stone wash on the apparel. The clothes are then dried after the second wash
Enzyme Wash: Is used as an alternative to stonewashing. Biodegradable chemicals are used to give a similar salt and pepper effect, and are easier to control than stones. It also softens the fabric for a cleaner alternative when a garment is desired to be stonewashed. A non-harmful and organic substitute, enzymes, known as biostoning, are safer for the environment when compared to the methods of pumice stones or bleach when stone washing clothes. More control is granted when using enzymes and a variety of stone washes are achieved.
The enzymes are applied to a wash with clothing, and the drum distributes the enzymes during the wash cycle. Fabric and equipment are not abraded. The enzymes digest cellulose, a component of cotton, loosening dye from the denim, and are biodegradable. Clothing is softer when enzymes are used when you learn how to stone wash with this biostoning method. Pumice stones and bleaching cause the clothing to be rougher because of the use of abrasives to remove dye in clothing.
Denim: The noun denim, is a corruption of “serge de Mimes”, a hard-wearing 2 x 2 twill in 100 per cent cotton, woven originally at around 12 to 15 ounces to a yard. Used as a sail cloth for “genoas”, it evolved into a clothing fabric, and “genoa” was corrupted to “jeans”. When the warp yarn was indigo-dyed for overalls it assumed the classic blue appearance. Although a stiff cloth when new its popularity derived from its hard-wearing character and unique fading property. Modern technology and finishing processes have radically altered what today’s wearers understands as “denim”.
Highly Constructed Denim: Convoluted name for more tightly twisted yarns, giving a flat surface effect similar to gabardine.
Indigo Denim: For that authentic, old style look which has two types of dye cast – red or yellow. Red gives a much deeper tone to the blue, apt for the darker dye tones; yellow gives a greyer, almost lilac tinge for an aged appearance.
Left Hand Twill: The twill has a Z twist so that the weave runs from left to right. This gives the fabric a softer handle than right hand twill, and although science cannot account for it a lighter feel, light also reflects differently giving a different cast.
Open-end Twill: So-called because both warp and weft threads have been spun on the old open spinning system. The demand for new, softer fabrics has pushed the product down market.
Overdye: Dyed denim, be it brown, blue or black, is treated to a second dye process either in the piece, or after making-up. The process achieves a much more intense, deep colour.
Piece-dyed Denim: This is where the denim is dyed in the original piece, before making-up. (If the warp yarn is pre-dyed this is seen as a method of over-dyeing). Piece-dyed cloth tends to grey faster than yarn-dyed cloth, thus hastening the aged effect.
Right Hand Twill: This gives an “S” twist to the yarn spinning process, working from left to right; used for the standard denim weave.
Ring-ring Denim: Both warp and weft yarns are ring-spun.
Ringspun: Describes the spinning of the carded and drawn cotton straight onto a ring tube. Most modern spinners use this system, which produces a sorter yarn than the older open-end spinning system. Jean companies have recognised the market for softer denim and “ringspun denim” is therefore a currently fashionable quality.
Sandblast: Sandblasting is exactly that. The finished garment is hung up and blasted with a high power jet of sand. Used in the 70s for those cute little white spot patches on the bum and on the knees. Today’s sandblasting gives a more all-over appearance, used on the front of the jean or the front of the thigh. The effect is to remove the graininess of denim, giving a smooth, ready worn-in feel. It is a highly expensive process so again, sold at a premium price point. An alternative is to treat denim with potassium permanganate for a similar aged appearance.
Selvedge Denim: The original weaving construction, usually using ring-ring yarns. With selvedge denim, the edges are nicely bound (hence “self-edge”) and this reduces the likelihood of the ends/edges unravelling whereas non-selvedge denim’s edges are not crisply finished and thus can easily fray. Originally denim was woven on 29″ width looms (modern looms weave 45″ widths) and so because a garment-cutter needs to go into the selvedge (the sewn up of edge of the cloth) to get the most out of the narrow width, the jean manufacturer had to weave fabric all the way to edges, which were consequently bound. The “self-edge” would be done in various colours (red being the most common), a practice fabric mills follow to differentiate between fabrics.
Stonewash: Denim abraded with stones, usually pumice, for a “worn” look. Pumice stones were the original technique to create the stone wash look. Clothes that are desired to be altered are placed in a washing machine, pumice stones are added, and the wash begins. The pumice stones are abrasive and move through the apparel like sandpaper. Dye particles are removed from the yarn surfaces. Different characters are obtained by the length of the process. As an example the classic mid-wash look has a three hour stonewash, used denim takes five hours, aged has a six hour treatment and the damaged and used effect takes eight hours. The length of time stonewashed has an effect on the longevity of the garment! Stonewashing with bleach gives a paler, more broken down effect.
Sulphur Dyes: used originally in the 50s when indigo was too expensive. Sulphur is cheaper, and gives a more grey-blue aged appearance whereby the white fill does not come through.
Unsinged Denim: The natural hair on the denim is not burned off as in ordinary denim, giving a textured hairy surface effect. Tends process is used in deep dyes to show off texture. Sometimes the hair is then removed through stonewashing.
Yarn-Dyed Denim: Yarns for both weft and warp are dyed prior to weaving, whereas most ordinary denim qualities are woven with a dyed warp yarn and a white weft, achieving the ridged look. An unbleached weft gives an ecru tone. The advantage over piece dying is denser colour.