Denim fabric is one of the most popular fabrics, but it can be tricky. This is particularly true if you’re working with stretch denim.
It’s also essential to pre-wash your fabric to help prevent any shrinking or color transfer issues. Here are five tips to help make working with denim fabric easier.
Pick the Right Fabric
Denim is built to work hard, whether you’re hauling tools on the construction site or screaming down the freeway with your throttle pinned open. But even the most rugged jeans need some loving care now and then. If you’re washing your raw-finish jeans (denim that has yet to be shrunk or faded during manufacturing), wash them with cold water in a clean bathtub, kitchen sink, or 5-gallon bucket to preserve the color and prevent shrinking. Avoid fabric softener as it can cling to the fibers and cause a dulling effect.
Rinse thoroughly to remove any remaining detergent, as it can wreak havoc on the color of your jeans and leave a filmy residue. Hang your jeans to dry in a cool, shady area to help keep their shape and prevent fading. If you must use the dryer, skip the high heat setting, as it can shrink and damage your jeans while accelerating the fading of bold colors.
It’s also best to limit how often you wash your jeans. Some denim-heads swear by soaking their jeans in vinegar to kill bacteria and odor-causing enzymes between washes. However, this doesn’t work and will only make your jeans stiff and uncomfortable. If your jeans are pre-sanforized, you can get away with washing them every three to five wears, but for those that still need to be passed, try aiming for every eight to 10 years.
Denim fabric is traditionally woven from cotton in a unique diagonal ridged pattern called a twill weave. Today, it’s common for denim to be made from a mix of cotton and polyester to help control shrinkage and wrinkles and add some stretch for more fitted garment styles. Some fabrics even have a small percentage of elastane to give them some elasticity.
While it’s tempting to want to get right to work on a project after a significant fabric shopping spree, you must take the time to pre-wash your new material. If you don’t, your finished product may not fit properly because the fabric shrinks after washing.
When it comes to denim, there are a few things that you should keep in mind when pre-washing the fabric. First, depending on the label instructions, you must wash the fabric in cold or warm water. This will help prevent the dye from running during the rinsing process, which can cause the denim to fade and lose its color over time.
It’s also a good idea to soak the denim in water and white vinegar before you wash it. This will soften the denim and make sewing easier without damaging the fibers. Additionally, soaking the denim in vinegar will help reduce the shrinkage after it’s washed.
Denim is not only hard-wearing, but it’s also really rewarding to sew. Sewing a garment from this fabric can be easy if you follow some tried and tested sewing denim tips.
Start by pre-washing your fabric – this will prevent bleeding and shrinkage. Then, you can begin to mark out your pattern and prepare the material for cutting. It’s essential to take your time and cut carefully. You don’t want your garments to end out of shape because you’ve twisted them or cut off the grain.
When constructing your garment, ensure you’re using the correct thread for the job. It’s best to use all-purpose polyester, but if your pattern calls for topstitching, switching to an upholstery or topstitching line is a good idea, as they’re thicker and more robust. A longer stitch of 3-3.5 mm will also give your seams a strong finish.
Another thing to consider is the type of closures your garments will need – denim can be pretty heavy, so it’s worth investing in some heavy-duty snaps or jeans buttons. You may even want to consider a mental zip for notably bulky areas of your garments. Also, don’t forget to press your seams regularly – it will help them to sit flat and give you that crisp finish that makes a professional look.
Once you’ve finished your jeans or whatever other garment you’ve made from the fabric, it’s time to take care of them. Washing your jeans in cool water and closing any zips will protect the garment from damage. Turning your jeans inside out before washing will also help prevent any premature fading from the dye. This is a good idea for all clothing, especially with darker colors like denim.
Generally, washing your jeans less often (around every ten years or so) is best. Airing and spritzing them with water in between will preserve the shape of the jeans as well as reduce the amount of microfibres released into the environment. If you cannot skip the wash altogether, always try and only wash your jeans when they are visibly dirty or smelly.
Another thing to remember is that, wherever possible, it’s important to support local and sustainable clothing production. When you buy your clothes from a retailer that prioritizes sustainability and fair trade, you can rest assured knowing that your money supports the communities who produce them and helps to reduce environmental impacts.