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Guide to Working with Denim Fabric

Posted by Fabrics Galore on

denim fabric

As one of the world’s most iconic fabrics, denim’s popularity has never diminished throughout the decades, remaining in constant use since the 1850s. Denim is one of the most distinctive, hard-wearing and versatile fabrics available for you to work with. There are so many different styles and textures to choose from, and if you haven’t sewn with it yet, I’m sure you have been thinking about it. Therefore, to help you understand everything you need to know about denim fabric, and how to sew with this material, the team at Fabrics Galore are here to help you. 

What is denim fabric? 

Made from 100% cotton, denim is made using a twill weave, which creates a subtle diagonal ribbing pattern. The word Denim derives from a French word Serge de Nimes and refers to the city of Nimes, first becoming popular in the United States during the Gold Rush in 1853. This was when Levi Strauss opened in San Francisco for the first time, selling dry goods along with buttons, threads, and canvas for tents. 

Denim washes explained

Raw denim

This type of denim can easily be identified by its dark blue colour, as it is received straight from the mill in its unwashed, unfinished state. It is stiff with a deep blue color and has a distinctive sheen. 

Stone wash

Stone washed is the term used for a textile manufacturing process used to give a newly manufactured garment a worn appearance. Stone washed denim is created by soaking pumice stones in chlorine and adding them to the wash process. The stone-washing process also helps to increase the softness and flexibility of the material, compared to traditional denim jeans which are often a lot tougher in their feel.

Light wash

Light wash denim is a lighter denim which is made by removing the residual dye, stopping the colour from running and leaving the fabric as a paler blue. This denim wash is a nice alternative to white in the summer, so is a popular choice for dressmaking projects at this time of year. 

Sewing with denim fabric

Compared to other fabrics on the market, denim is a rough and tough fabric. If you are sewing a lighter weight denim, a regular size 80 needle would be a great option, but if you are working with a heavier weight, you should purchase a specialist ‘denim’ needle. These are stronger than ‘normal’ needles and have a sharper point which will help you sew through the heavier fabric. The slimmer tip also allows you to slide into the fabric with ease, and a reinforced shaft provides extra stability when stitching through the thicker layers. 

It is also important to choose the right fabric depending on the design you are looking to achieve. For example, heavy denim works best with structured garments such as jackets and fitted dresses. On the other hand, lighter denim can also be used to create flowy garments, such as designs for full skirts and looser dresses - this choice of weight completely depends on your sewing project. 

Would you like to make your own pair of jeans? 

No matter your age, gender or background, jeans have been a staple in everyone’s wardrobe for generations. As jeans fabric is so versatile and hardwearing, as they age, the garment becomes even more attractive - something that is rare with most materials across the market. 

As with any other sewing project, if you want to make your own jeans you should use a pattern, but you also want to ensure that the jeans fabric you are using is of the highest quality. Even if you have the perfect design in mind, the jeans you make will never feel like designer quality if you are using poor materials. So many dressmakers love making their own jeans, giving you even more control over that all-important fit, and there are even plenty of ways to distress your jeans to get the same appearance as styles on the high street. 

Why choose denim fabric for dressmaking?

Despite its heavier weight, denim is a relatively simple fabric to work with if you have the right tools. The most common denims used, and the easiest to handle, are the light and medium weight. They press well and are easy to handle, so you can easily design your own pair of jeans, skirts and various other pieces of clothing. Some of the denims may also be blended with alternative fibres such as polyester and spandex, which results in a denim that has a slight stretch - allowing you to design the perfect stretchy jacket or children’s clothes. 

If you would like to buy some denim fabric for dressmaking, Fabrics Galore is the company you need to contact. No matter whether you are trying to find soft washed mid weight denim or stone wash denim, we will have the perfect fabric for you. We have an extensive range of stretch and non-stretch denim fabric options and our team are complete experts in all the fabrics we stock. If you are interested in learning more about our fabrics, please call us on 020 7738 9589, and we would be happy to assist.


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