• Glossary

    ABRASION – 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.

    ANTI-TWIST - 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.

    ARCHUIT or ARCUATE – The distinctive double stitching used on the back pocket and unique to each denim brand.

    ATARI – 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.

    BACK CINCH – Also known as martingale, the back cinch with a back buckle was used to tighten the waist on jeans before widespread use of belts; hence the term ‘buckle back’.

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

    BROKEN TWILL – A denim where the diagonal weave of the twill is intentionally reversed at every two warp ends to form a random design. This type of weave reduces the natural torque characteristic of regular twill weaves, and has the effect of eliminating leg twist.

    CASTE – 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.

    CHAIN STITCHING – 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.

    COIN POCKET – 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.

    CONE MILLS – Cone Mills started producing denim in 1895 in Greensboro, North Carolina. Cone is still one of the world’s biggest denim manufacturers.

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

    DUAL RING-SPUN – 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.

    FIVE POCKET JEANS – The most common style of jean; they have two back pockets, two front pockets and a coin pocket inside the right front pocket.

    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.

    IRO-OCHI – 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.

    LEFT-HAND TWILL – 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.

    LOOP DYED – 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.

    MERCERIZATION – 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.

    NATURAL DYE – Up to 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 aluminium, 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.

    OPEN END DENIM – 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.

    OVERDYE – A fabric dyeing process in which additional colour is applied to the fabric or garment to create a different shade or cast. ‘Dirty Denim’ is often created by applying a yellow overdye to denim. By localising the application of the tint, you can create specific areas that look dirtier than the surrounding areas.

    PIGMENT DYES – 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

    PUMICE STONES – 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.

    RIGHT-HAND TWILL – 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.

    RING DYEING – 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-SPUN DENIM – 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.

    RING-RING DENIM – 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.

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

    ROPE DYEING – 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.

    SANDBLASTING – A laundry process performed before washing in which jeans are shot with guns of sand in order to abrade them and cause a worn appearance. While originally done by hand this process is now automated at most large laundry houses.

    SANDING/EMERSING – 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.

    SANFORIZATION – A pre-shrinking fabric process that limits residual fabric shrinkage to under 1%. The process includes the stretching and manipulation of the denim cloth before it is washed. Raw, un-sanforized jeans will shrink 7-10% after the first wash, and continue to shrink slightly up to the third wash.

    SHRINKAGE – 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.

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

    SKEWING – 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 to 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.

    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.

    STONEWASHING – 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.

    SULPHUR BOTTOM – 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.

    TATE-OCHI – 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.

    TOP STITCH – A commonly used straight simple stitch.

    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.

    WEAVE – 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 3×1 and 2×1 can be made in left or right-hand twill directions. 3×1 right-hand twill is the most common design.

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

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

    WHISKERING – 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.

    YARN DYE – 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.

    ZIP – The alternative to the button fly, first used for jeans in 1926. The innovation was considered hazardous at first, but eventually became a huge success.