Denim Dictionary



    Process of making garments look worn and aged by scraping or rubbing the surface of the fabric causing abrasion. Pumice stones are most frequently used by industrial laundries.


    (Marble/ Moon Wash/ Snow Wash)- This finish gives indigo jeans sharp contrasts. The process is achieved by soaking pumice stones in chlorine and letting these stones create contrast. The process was created in Italy and patented in 1986.

  • AGED

    A kind of wet processing that gives the garment an artificial worn look and a softer feel through prolonged abrasion.


    A step in the finishing process, before sanforization, that corrects denim’s natural tendency to twist in the direction of the diagonal twill weave. Also known as skewing


    A Japanese term describing the selective fading of the ridges of creases. The most common areas for ‘Atari’ are along side seams, on the front and back of the knees, the upper thigh, along the hem, on belt loops and along pocket seams.


    A jeanswear term used to describe both original jeans qualities and stone and enzyme wash optics. Among the characteristics of authentic jeans are traditional fabric weaves and styling details.


    A sewing procedure that reinforces stress points on jeans- usually found near zippers and pocket openings.


    Belt loops were first added to the waistband of a jean in 1922 to allow a belt to be worn without slipping. A classic pair of jeans usually has 5 belt loops – 2 in front above the front pockets, 2 more at each side and one at the back.


    Denim where the warp yarn is black instead of blue and which is also dyed black after weaving. this makes the jeans truly black rather than gray.


    A chemical used to make denim fade. Liquid bleach is usually an aqueous solution of sodium hypochlorite, and dry powdered bleaches contain chloride of lime (calcium hypochlorite).


    A popular jeans style cut wide enough in the leg to accommodate a pair of cowboy boots underneath.


    A denim weave that reduces the natural torque characteristic of regular twill weaves, and has the effect of eliminating leg twist.


    A heavyweight denim weave (14oz. plus) with a typical 3x1 twill construction. An ecru fabric, bull denim is later printed or garment dyed.


    The traditional jeans button is made of two parts: a short ‘nail’ fixed on the fabric and the visible part pressed on the nail. It is typically made of a metal alloy- copper, brass or aluminium- and bears the brand’s logo, symbol or initial on its face. Some jeans buttons, composed of three parts, have a moveable head for better flexibility in fastening.


    A term that describes shading. Depending on the method and type of dye used, indigo denim can have a black, brown, gray, green, red, or yellow caste to it.


    Enzymes which are like yeast , are used to physically eat away the cellulose in cotton. Since the colour in denim fabric is actually on the outside of the yarn, when the denim is washed in a cellulose enzyme bath the indigo is removed along with the fiber. When the desired colour has been achieved, either changing the alkalinity of the bath or heating the water stops the enzymes from reacting. A rinsing and softening cycle follows. This process is more environmentally friendly than stone washing because strip-mined pumice stones are not used.


    A series of looped stitches that form a chain-like pattern. Chainstitching pulls the denim at slightly different tensions on either side, causing the distinctive ‘roping’ that really shows the beauty of worn indigo-dyed denim.


    The fifth pocket, also called watch pocket. Strictly functional, it sits inside the right front pocket and justifies the term five-pocket jeans. Also known as match or watch pocket.


    A unique type of denim that shows a square grid-like pattern in the weave. It is created by mixing uneven yarns in both the weft and warp directions.


    A sturdy cotton twill fabric characterised by a 3x1 warp-faced weave in which the weft passes under two or more warp fibres producing the familiar diagonal ribbing, identifiable on the reverse of the reverse of the fabric. Traditionally denim is made with indigo-dyed yarn for the warp and natural yarn for the weft.
    Originally called Serge De Nimes for the French city where it was produced, denim is now manufactured in specialized mills around the world.Denim is an indigo-dyed cotton twill fabric, woven with a dyed warp yarn and a natural fill yarn. The term derives from Serge De Nimes; but denim and Serge De Nimes are in fact different fabrics.


    An amylase enzyme rinse (desize) used to soften denim. A type of size such as cornstarch is added to the warp yarns prior to weaving in a process called slashing, which adds stiffness to the yarns. During the desizing step, the amylase enzyme attacks the starch and removes it from the fabric. Although this process reduces colour slightly, it is primarily used to give a softness and drapability to denim.

  • DIPS

    Used to describe fabric or yarn when they are immersed in dye. Indigo yarns are usually dipped in an indigo bath six times.


    Also called “ring X ring”. Signifies a denim weave in which both the warp and the weft threads are made of ring-spun yarn. Creates a much softer and textured hand than both open-end and regular (single) ring-spun denim. Due to the additional labour required to produce dual ring-spun denim, it is usually only used by higher end, premium denim labels.


    Considered a more efficient and environmentally sound way to stone wash jeans. Rather than using pumice stones, organic enzymes (proteins) are used that eat away at the indigo. Jeans finished using enzymes tend to be stronger than those broken down by traditional stone washing, as the fabric is not subjected to the same level of abuse.


    Enzymes, which are proteins present in all living cells, speed up chemical processes that would run very slowly if at all. They are non-toxic and readily broken down. Enzymes are used in textile processing, mainly in the finishing of fabrics and garments.


    The techniques or processes performed on a garment, which give it it’s unique look.


    One of the most common styles of jeans; they have two back pockets, two front pockets and a coin pocket inside the right front pocket.


    A dyeing process performed on finished garments, as opposed to a yarn dye, which takes place prior to the weaving of yarn. If you see pocket linings or labels that look the same colour as the self-fabric, the garment was likely garment dyed.

  • HAND

    A description of the way a fabric feels. A subjective judgement of the feel or handle of a fabric used to help decide if a fabric is suitable for a specific end use. The hand can be described as crisp, soft, drapable, smooth, springy, stiff, cool, warm, rough, hard, limp, soapy etc. Finishing and garment wash will affect the final hand of a fabric.


    The dye used for denim, initially taken from the indigofera tinctoria plant. It was synthesized 14 years after it’s chemical structure was identified by Adolf Bayer in 1897. Indigo’s inherent features are good colour fastness to water and light, a continual fading and it’s inability to penetrate fibers completely. This allows the blue colour in jeans made dyed with indigo to always look irregular and individual. Pre-1920’s jeans were generally dyed with natural indigo and were- as far as one can tell by comparing vintage examples- paler in colour, with a green cast. Later jeans were a darker blue, particularly used in combination with sulphur dyes. The majority of indigo used today is synthetically made. Natural indigo has a slightly red cast.


    Japanese term referring to the fading of indigo dye in denim. The term specifically relates to fading in exposed areas and not across the entire garment.

  • JEAN

    The term is possibly derived from the French word ‘genes’. It was originally used to describe the type of pants worn by sailors from Genoa. While the historical definition implied that all jeans were made of denim, the term jeans today can sometimes refer to a garment that has five pockets and be made from fabrics such as corduroy, twill or bull denim.

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    In the ‘Denim Industry’, a Laundry is a manufacturing company that takes unwashed jeans and processes them. This processing includes washing, stone washing, sandblasting, garment dyeing , finishing, use of ‘Tonello’ machine with abrasive bristles, applying enzymes to simulate a ‘whisker’ effect and sandpapering by hand.


    Also known as an ‘S Twill’, this is a weave in which the grain lines run from the top left-hand corner of the fabric towards the bottom right. Usually in piece dyed fabrics, left hand twill fabrics are woven from single plied yarns in the warp. The denim brand Lee has always used left-hand twill denim as it’s basic denim. Left-hand twills will often have a softer hand feel to them after washing than right hand twills.


    One of the three major industrial methods of dyeing indigo yarns. In the loop dyeing process, the yarn is dyed in a single bath instead of several. The desired depth of colour is attained by passing the yarn through the vat several times. Subsequently as part of the same process, the yarn is sized.


    An industrial process used on yarn or fabrics to increase it’s lustre and dye affinity. For fabrics used in the denim industry, mercerization can be used for keeping dye on the surface of the yarns or fabrics and to prevent dyes from fully penetrating the fibres.


    In this fabric treatment process, a series of cylindrical rolls in a horizontal arrangement, either wrapped with an abrasive paper or chemically coated with an abrasive , are used to create a soft, sueded hand. The denim is pulled over the face of the sand rollers creating a raised surface finishinig. Some colour reduction is experienced.


    Up to the middle of the 19th century there were only natural dyes and most of these these were vegetable origin. Natural indigo being one of the more important dyes. Natural dyes usually have no affinity for textile fibres until the fibres are treated with aluminum, iron, or tin compounds to receive the dye (mordanting). This is a problematic process and the dyes in any case have poor fastness to sun or abrasion.


    Any hairlike raw material directly obtainable from an vegetable, animal, or mineral source that can be converted, after spinning, into yarns and then into woven cloth.


    Open End or OE spinning was introduced in the 1970s, reducing costs by omitting several elements of the traditional spinning process. The cotton fibres are ‘mock twisted’ by blowing them together. Open End denim is bulkier, coarser and darker, because it absorbs more dye, and wears less well than Ring Spun denim.


    A fabric dyeing process in which additional colour is applied to the fabric or garment to create a different shade or cast.


    Occurs when oxygen and another substance chemically join. This occurs when indigo yarn comes out of the bath between dips.


    Dyes that do not have an affinity for fibre and must therefore be held to the fabric with resins. They are available in almost any colour and are used extensively in the denim industry by fabric dyers who want to create fabrics that fade more easily.

  • PLY

    All yarns are single ply unless twisted with another yarn. Plied yarns are used to make yarns stronger. In the denim industry, it has become important to ply yarns stronger. In the denim industry, it has become important to ply yarns in piece dyed fabrics that are intended to endure a long stone wash cycle. The method of twisting and length of each yarn is a major determinant in the ultimate look and feel of the finished fabric.


    Often found in replica jeans, offers the best mix of strength (polyester core) and vintage aesthetic (cotton top thread layer).


    Volcanic stone used for stone washing garments. Pumice is popular because of it’s strength and light weight. Before the use of pumice, rocks, plastic, shoes and just about every other material was used to wear down and soften denim during the laundry process.


    Each pair oj jeans is subjected to a series of quality checks. The first random samples are examined during pre-sewing. Then after the pieces are assembled, every single pair of jeans is individually examined, and again after washing.

  • RAW

    Denim that has not been rinsed or prewashed and thus is more rigid, stiff and durable than pre-aged or chemically softened jeans.


    Most denim is right-hand twill, a weave which produces a diagonal, or twill, line which rises from left to right. This was standard practice in weaving; single yarn warps were woven right-hand, double yarn warps were woven left hand.


    Describes a characteristic unique to indigo dye in which only the outer ring of the fibres in the yarn is dyed while the inner core remains white.


    Ring/Ring, or double ring-spun denim uses ring-spun yarn for both warp and weft. This is the traditional way to produce denim. It’s possible to combine a ring-spun warp fabric with an Open End weft, to get much of the strength and look of the traditional ring/ring denim at lower cost.


    Ring spun yarns were traditionally used in denim up until the late 1970s, but were later supplanted by cheaper Open End yarns. This is a spinning process in which the individual fibers are fed onto the end of the yarn while it is in the ‘twisting’ stage. The process consists of a ring, a ring traveller and a bobbin that rotates at high speed. The ring-spun yarn produced by this method creates unique surface characteristics in the fabric, including unevenness, which gives jeans an irregular authentic vintage look. Ring-spun yarns add strength, softness and character to denim fabric.


    A washing process using a combination of pumice stones and cellulose enzymes to give denim a vintage, worn hand. The washer is loaded only with stones and fabric for the first cycle. Enzymes are introduced for the second stage in combination with the stones and they are tumbled until a naturally aged look is produced.


    A metal accessory that is used for reinforcement of stress points as well as for non-functional ornamentation.


    Considered the best possible method to dye indigo yarns. The threads of denim yarn are twisted into a rope, which is then fed through sequence of being dipped into a bath of indigo dye, followed by exposure to air, multiple times. The frequency determines the ultimate shade of blue.


    A fabric finishing process where fabrics are sanded with real sandpaper to make the surface soft without hair. It can be performed before or after dying.


    Also referred to as ‘Redline’ or ‘Aka-Mimi’. Originally called ‘self-edge’, the selvage is the narrow tightly woven band on either edge of the denim fabric, parallel to the warp. A selvage end prevents the edge of the denim from unravelling. Old 28 to 30 inch shuttle looms produce denim where selvages are closed, whereas on larger modern weaving machines, the weft yarn is cut on every pick, creating what is called a ‘fringe’ selvage. Coloured thread was used by Cone Mills to identify the particular fabric used by it’s major manufacturers.


    The process of selecting batches of fabric into homogeneous shade lots to obtain consistent colour continuity in garment making.


    Fabric is cut from each roll of fabric and sewn together with roll numbers on the back of each roll. This is an important tool in cutting apparel made from denim to ensure that garments from the same shade group are cut.

  • SHED

    During the weaving process, this is the opening formed by raising and lowering the warp yarns on a loom. The shed opening is what the weft yarns are passed through to complete the weaving interlace.


    Traditionally before denim is woven, the threads it’s made of are treated with wax or resin to stiffen them and make them easier to weave (although with most repro denim starch is used instead.) When dry/raw/unwashed denim is washed for the first time the fibres constrict and the denim shrinks. Raw denim can be sanforized (treated with a sanforizing process that lessens shrinkage) but all raw denim will shrink to some degree upon immersion in water, up until it’s third wash.


    The device that carries the weft yarn across the loom in vintage shuttle looms. Selvage denim can only be woven using a shuttle loom.


    Refers to the shape of a garment.


    Refers to the occurrence of twisting that happens when the fabric shrinks more perpendicular to the twill line than along the twill line. Without compensating for this occurrence, the twill line will cause the right angles that the fabric is woven in to torque approximately 5° after washing. To compensate for this, denim is skewed about 5° in the same direction as the twill line tom prevent the side seam from twisting to the front of the jean. You will often find authentic vintage jeans with one or both of the side seams twisted towards the front of the jean.


    One of three main methods of dyeing indigo yarn.


    In the yarn manufacturing process, a sliver refers to the loose, soft, untwisted rope of cotton fibers that is produced using the carding machine.

  • SLUB

    Refers to thick or heavy places in the yarn. Slubs and other inconsistencies are common in denim produced on vintage shuttle looms. Modern yarn spinning technology is able to engineer these vintage looking textures into yarn in a predefined manner.


    A process that physically removes colour and adds contrast. A 20 yard roll of fabric, generally 62 inches in width, is put into a 250-pound washing machine along with pumice stones. The fabric and stones are rotated together for a set period of time. The washing time dictates the final colour of the fabric- the longer the denim and stones are rotated the lighter the colour becomes and more contrast is achieved. The denim is then rinsed, softened and tumble dried.


    Many manufacturers apply a sulphur dye before the customary indigo dye; this is known as Sulpher Bottom dyeing. This can be used to create a grey or yellow ‘vintage’ cast.


    Japanese term referring to occurrences of ‘Iro-ochi’ forming in vertical lines in vintage denim. As the thread width is not uniform in vintage denim, the colour fades the most where the thread is the thickest. This creates a white or severely faded thread of several centimetres along a single vertical indigo thread.


    A commonly used straight simple stitch.


    The diagonal lines formed by the weave.


    Exactly what the word says- jeans that have been left unwashed, a characteristic that goes back to pre-sanforized days, when manufacturers sold their garments dark, stiff and not pre-shrunk. Some brands offer jeans this way for purists who want to break in their own jeans on their own bodies to recapture the original magic of denim’s good old days.


    Term referring to a type of placed abrasive effect or sandblasting, made individually on each garment in special areas like the knees, pockets, thighs bottom etc...


    From the past; old or secondhand. Vintage jeans can either be previously worn or never worn and sorted in their original state

  • WARP

    This is the lengthways vertical yarns woven into the weft yarn. They usually have more twist and are stronger than weft yarns. In denim it runs parallel to the selvage and is dyed indigo.


    The combination of warp and weft yarns woven into the weft yarns to produce different weave designs. The warp face designs used in the denim are called out by the number of weft yarns that the warp ends pass over followed by the number of weft yarns they pass under. Some of the most common denim weaves are 3x1 and 2x1 can be made in left or right-hand twill directions. 3x1 right-hand twill is the most common design.

  • WEFT

    The un-dyed, crosswise filling yarns used in denim weave.


    Denim is traditionally graded by its weight per yard of fabric at a 29-inch width.


    A fading of the ridges increases in the crotch area and back of the knees, which gives the appearance of aged denim. It can also be inverse- dark creased in faded denim.

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    Refers to fabric in which the individual yarns are dyed prior to weaving- denim is a yarn dyed fabric.

  • YOKE

    V-shaped section at the back of jeans, also known as a ‘riser’, which gives curve to the seat. The deeper the V of the yoke, the greater the curve. Cowboy jeans often feature a deep yoke whereas workwear or dungaree jeans might have a shallower yoke- or no yoke at all.


    A popular jeans closure. Also sometimes used as a design detail on back pockets or on tapered pants legs. The zipper was invented in 1893 by American W. Litcomb Judson as a system of small hooks and eyelets; it was improved by Swedish Gideon Sundback in 1913, when it became a system of small metallic teeth intertwined with a movable clasp.