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What is denim?

[Denim Tidbits]about denim(eyecatch)
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What is denim?

What is denim?”

[Denim Tidbits]about denim(Denim Articles)

Denim is a type of heavy woven cotton fabric.

Denim (denim fabric) is a type of heavy woven cotton fabric where vertical yarns of 10 or higher count are dyed with indigo, and horizontal yarns are left undyed (undyed yarn) and woven in a twill weave pattern.

[Denim Tidbits]about denim(twill)
Figure 1 Close-up of denim fabric (twill weave)

Figure 1 is a close-up of denim fabric.

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The warp yarns of 10 counts or higher are dyed with indigo, while the weft yarns are left undyed (natural color) and woven in a twill pattern.

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Jean-kun

Because the vertical threads are dyed with indigo, that’s why denim fabric has color.

What is yarn count?

What is yarn count?

[Denim Tidbits]about denim(thread)

The yarn count is a unit that indicates the thickness of the yarn.

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The yarn count varies depending on the material, with different numbers representing the thickness of the yarn. Even with the same yarn count, the thickness varies depending on the material such as wool, cotton, or linen.

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Jean-kun

For example, a yarn count of 10 in linen would be equivalent to 1488.2 in cotton.

Table 1 Yarn counts for the same thickness of yarn across different materials
MaterialsYarn count
Cotton yarn count10.0
Linen yarn count1488.2
Wool yarn count17.0

A yarn count of 10 in cotton, 1488.2 in linen, and 17 in wool all represent threads of the same thickness.

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Jean-kun

Be careful, the yarn count varies with each material even if they’re the same thickness.

Since most denim is made of cotton, if you come across a yarn count in denim, you can assume it’s referring to the cotton yarn count.

Yarn count and yarn thickness

[Denim Tidbits]about denim(thread)

Even with the same thickness, yarn counts vary depending on the material, but there are also similarities.

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In any material, the lower the yarn count, the thicker the yarn. As the yarn count number increases, the yarn becomes thiner.

[Denim Tidbits]denim(Relationship between yarn number and yarn thickness)
Figure 2 Relationship between yarn count and thread thickness

1 yarn count is the thickest, and as the count number increases, the yarn becomes thinner.

Yarn count and the texture of the material

[Denim Tidbits]about denim(Denim Articles)

I explained 1 yarn count has the thickest thread, and as the count number increases, it becomes thinner. However, the texture of the fabric also changes depending on the yarn count number.

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As the yarn count number increases, the thread becomes thinner, but the finer the thread, the smoother it becomes, resulting in a softer texture.

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Jean-kun

Yarns with higher count numbers are called thin yarn count (high count). When referring to quality fabric, ‘high-quality yarn’ is used.

[Denim Tidbits]about denim(Count and Fabric Texture)
Figure 3 The relationship between yarn count and the texture of the fabric.

The higher the yarn count number, the better the texture of the fabric and the more expensive it becomes. Fine count (high count) yarns have a good texture, but they may also be delicate and prone to wrinkling.

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When the yarn count number becomes too high, the fabric becomes delicate and prone to wrinkling, making it unsuitable for everyday wear.

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Jean-kun

Casual wear Y-shirts are often made with yarn count 80 cotton.

Table 2 The characteristics of thick yarn and thin yarn
Yarn countPriceFabric wrinklesCharacteristics of the fabricFabric texture
Thick yarn countinexpensivefabric is wrinkle-resistantThe fabric is thick and durablea solid, comfortable feel
Thin yarn countexpensiveThe fabric wrinkles easilyThe fabric is thin and delicateThe fabric has a soft touch and feels comfortable to wear

Denim fabric is often woven with 10 yarn counts or higher. However, when describing product features, it’s expressed in weight rather than yarn thickness.

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Denim prioritizes weight over yarn thickness. This is why denim pants are often described in product descriptions with a weight measurement, such as “◎◎ ounces (oz)”.

What is indigo?

What is indigo?

[Denim Tidbits]about denim(Indigo dyed yarn)

Denim fabric is made from yarn dyed with indigo.

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Indigo refers to a blue dye. Initially, natural dyes were used to achieve the indigo color of denim.

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Jean-kun

Dyeing with natural dyes is called ‘Aizome’ in Japanese.

The use of ‘Aizome’ dyed yarn in denim stems from these two characteristics.

The characteristics of ‘Aizome’
  1. Prone to friction
  2. Prone to color bleeding in water
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The vulnerability to friction and tendency to fade in water of ‘Aizome’ dyeing contributed to the unique hue of denim.

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Jean-kun

The natural dye ‘Aizome’ became gradually replaced by chemical dye ‘Indigo dyeing’ as it was expensive and challenging to dye with.

Two types of indigo dyeing

[Denim Tidbits]about denim(Types of Indigo Dyeing)
Figure 4 The two types of indigo dyeing

Indigo is a blue dye with two types of indigo dyeing.

It’s ‘Aizome’ and ‘Indigo dyeing’.

Table 3 The two types of indigo dyeing
TypesCharacteristics
AizomeDyeing with natural dyes to achieve indigo color.
Indigo dyeingDyeing with chemical dyes to achieve indigo color
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Originally, denim was made using yarn dyed with ‘Aizome’. Now, yarn dyed with ‘Indigo dyeing’, which can be produced inexpensively, is commonly used.

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Indigo dyeing with chemical dyes has characteristics that are not present in natural dye ‘Aizome’.

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Jean-kun

Chemical dyes have fewer impurities, allowing for higher purity and a darker shade of indigo (blue). This color is called ‘Pure Indigo’.

Table 4 A summary of the two types of indigo dyeing
TypesThe types of dyesRaw materialsRaw materials(Photo)CharacteristicsPrice
AizomeNatural dyesJapanese indigo plant(A plant of the Polygonaceae family, containing components in its leaves and stems)[Denim Tidbits]about denim(dyer's knotweed)Rich hues
Minimal color fading over the years
Expensive
Indigo dyeingChemical dyesSynthetic blue crystalline solid indigo[Denim Tidbits]about denim(pure indigo)High purity and deep indigo color
Capable of mass production with consistent quality
Inexpensive

What is twill weave?

What is twill weave?

[Denim Tidbits]about denim(Denim Articles)

We use threads to weave fabric. There are weaving methods such as plain weave, satin weave, and others.

Denim is made using twill weave, which is one of several weaving methods. Twill weave is also referred to as diagonal weave. On this site, we refer to it as twill weave.

[Denim Tidbits]about denim(twill)
Figure 1 Close-up of denim fabric (twill weave)

Twill weave is created by passing the warp yarn over two or three weft yarns, then under one weft yarn, repeating this pattern.

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Denim fabric is a twill weave fabric where the warp yarns are dyed with indigo.

What are right-hand twill and left-hand twill?

[Denim Tidbits]about denim(twill)
Close-up photo of denim fabric (twill weave)

The above photo is an enlarged view of actual denim fabric. The warp yarns are indigo, and the weft yarns are white.

[Denim Tidbits]about denim(twill)
Close-up photo of denim fabric (twill weave)
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When viewed from a distance, the white sections appear to slant upwards to the right. This is denim fabric with a right-hand twill.

[Denim Tidbits]about denim(right and left twill weave)
Figure 5 Types of twill weave
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Denim fabric is commonly made with right-hand twill.

Table 5 The characteristics of right-hand twill and left-hand twill
Types of twill weaveThe texture of the fabricThe characteristics of the fabricFading
Right-hand twillRough texture of the fabricThe fabric is easy to break inThe fading known as ‘point fading’
Left-hand twillGlossiness or softness of the fabricThe fabric is difficult to break inThe fading known as ‘line fading’
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