Feb 2021
Feb 2021
15 Jan
2021
THE DENIM DEBRIEF: A Brief History of Denim

Jeans, jeggings, jackets… we can’t get enough of these closet classics, but when it comes to making our own, it’s easy to see why dressmakers can find denim a little daunting. From the outset there’s lots to delve in and learn about, whether it’s the importance of choosing the correct needle and pins to dealing with bulky seams and decorative topstitching. True material aficionados will also be pondering the best wash for their wardrobe, too – acid rinse, anyone? But for the resilient stitchers among us, this fabric is worth staying the course with, as once you’re armed with a few basic tools and some extra sewing know-how, you’ll be able to tackle this heavyweight head-on without breaking the bank – or your machine!

RINSE AND REPEAT

THE DENIM DEBRIEF: A Brief History of Denim

While denim is traditionally known for its deep indigo colour and off-white underside, workers soon started to get creative with the dyeing process to create a whole variety of blue hues for eager stitchers to get their hands on. Raw – also known as dry – denim is kept unwashed after it’s been dyed, meaning the fabric feels stiff and rough to the touch but with wear, it will gradually ‘break in’ to suit your shape; experts recommend holding off throwing it in the washing machine for as long as possible!

THE DENIM DEBRIEF: A Brief History of Denim

Mid-to light-wash denim, meanwhile, undergoes a much longer washing process to remove the excess indigo and create a paler shade; less dye also means the material is much softer from the outset. Popularised in the 1980s, the acid-wash look is another widely-used rinse where the fabric has been treated with chlorine and pumice to create a random marbled effect; the pumice helps to create some natural abrasions on the surface, too.

THE LEVI’S LOOK

THE DENIM DEBRIEF: A Brief History of Denim

Nestled in the heart of southern France, the city of Nîmes (or serge de Nîmes) is the place that birthed this timeless textile; beady-eyed readers may have already spotted that ‘de nimes’ inspired the name that it’s universally known by. However, it wasn’t until the American Gold Rush in the nineteenth century – some 4,000 miles from its origin – that denim took the spotlight, all thanks to its hard-wearing nature that could withstand the punishing conditions of the mines.

THE DENIM DEBRIEF: A Brief History of Denim

Seeing a gap in the market, savvy businessman Levi Strauss decided to open up a shop in San Francisco, stocking buttons, threads and heavy-duty trousers with deep pockets for storing nuggets of gold. Together with his customer Jacob Davis, who had pushed for copper rivets to be added to the seams and pocket corners for added strength, the two men began to mass-produce jeans under the brand Levi’s, transforming the garment into the beloved classic it is today.

BE A JEANS QUEEN

You’ve settled on your shade of choice, but what’s next on your journey to jeans? Read on for our seven-step guide…

  • 1 Unless you’re working with raw denim, make sure that you’ve pre-washed the fabric. It can be prone to shrinking and excess dye can stain your fingers, not to mention other clothes, when thrown in the machine together!
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  • 2 No matter how much of a whizz you are on the machine, when stitching thicker fabrics, it pays to go slow. On particularly chunky sections, you may find it helpful to turn the wheel by hand to prevent the needle from snapping.
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  • 3 Speaking of needles, you’ll need to switch to one that’s designed to cope with hefty fabrics. 90/14 is ideal for lighter weights, while 100/18 will cope with heavy-duty types. If in doubt, seek advice from your local haberdashery store.
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  • 4 You may also find that your normal pins don’t quite cut the mustard when it comes to holding hems in place – but no fear! Treat yourself to a pack of Clover Wonder Clips instead; they come in a variety of sizes and start from just £7.99 for a pack of ten.
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  • 5 Deep indigo fabrics can be transformed into stunning garments, but this dark hue can mean it’s hard to make out the cutting lines. Invest in water-soluble tailor’s chalk in a bright contrasting colour for markings that are both clear to see and easy to wipe away.
  • 6 To achieve that crisp, precise finish you’re always aiming for, tweak the iron so it sits on a higher setting, suitable for cottons. Use plenty of steam when pressing and push a clapper into legs and sleeves for a firm base to push down onto.
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  • 7 While a spot of fraying on the bottom hems can add to the authenticity of your me-made garment, you’ll want to avoid this happening at the seams. A Hong Kong finish is a great option that binds seams using bias tape. The binding on the wrong side of the allowance is unturned, which reduces excess bulk – perfect for thick fabrics.
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    You can find loads more fab tips, tricks and techniques in our How To Sew section. Plus, check out the huge range of free dressmaking, accessories, homeware and gift projects we have to offer!

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