Denim is denim, right? Well, no, not really..... here's a run down of some of the things you should consider before selecting denim fabric 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.
- 6oz denim is similar to a heavy weight chambray and great for shirts, dresses and shorts
- 9oz denim is normally the starting weight for jeans. This is a very versatile weight as it is light enough for structured dresses and skirts, but also heavy enough for light weight jeans.
- 11oz - 12oz denim is probably what you are used to seeing in the stores for your 'average' pair of jeans.
- 13oz denim is thick and sturdy denim, a great option for hardwearing jeans and bags.
- 15oz denim is really thick!
RIGID VS STRETCH DENIM
- STRETCH CONTENT: This refers to the amount of lycra/elastane/spandex yarns used in the weaving of the denim. Normally this will be somewhere between 1% and 4%.
- STRETCH PERCENTAGE: This refers how far the denim fabric will stretch across the grain, or from selvedge to selvedge. You can easily calculate this at home by taking a 10cm square piece of fabric and stretching it across the grain as far as you can. For example, if you can stretch your 10cm piece out to 14cm, then the fabric has 40% stretch: ((14cm-10cm)/10cm) x 100
LOOMSTATE / RAW DENIM VS SANFORIZED 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
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
If you do choose to pre-wash your denim fabric, consider the following:
- Place the denim loosely in the washing machine. You are almost always guaranteed to get dye leach from your denim - this leaching contributes to the wonderful and unique patina of your ol' trusty worn jeans. If your denim is too cramped in the machine, the dye may leach unevenly leaving permanent marks where you probably don't want them.
- Consider washing the denim in small batches. You could cut your denim fabric into smaller pieces to ensure a loose fit in the washing machine. Check against your pattern pieces first to ensure you will still be able to cut them all out!
- Use the bath tub! If your machine just won't handle the bulk of a large piece of denim - simply soak in the bath tub instead. Make sure you leave the denim for some time to really soak through.
- Use a wash temperature and cycle as you would wash your finished garment.
- Iron when dry. Use the iron setting that you will use during construction or what you will iron the finished garment with - whichever is the hottest.
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...