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Friday 12th of July 2024

Nairobi, Kenya

Unearthing Fabrics: Denim

Unearthing Fabrics is a new series that looks at the history of your favourite fabrics before you started wearing them on your backs.

Smooth. Versatile. Rough. Indigo Dye.

HISTORY

The word denim originates from a fabric created in a French town called ‘Nimes’. Then, it spread and reached an Italian city called ‘Genoa’ but the French knew it as ‘Genes’, so this was translated to jeans. Later, It reached the gold miners during the American Gold Rush, in the 1850s, and they loved its strength and adaptability.

MAKING DENIM

Denim comes from cotton. Cotton seeds are planted and cultivated. The cotton plant matures with a protective layer of fibrous black seeds around it. They’re collected and separated to create a fibre. Finally, it’s cleaned and turned into yarn using an industrial machine. It undergoes treatments and washes that affect the final properties of the finished denim product. Lastly, it’s dyed and woven into a warp-faced denim style.

WHY DENIM

Denim products tend not to be very expensive unless you’re purchasing raw or organic denim. It’s also strong, durable, versatile and gets softer with time.

DIFFERENT TYPES OF DENIM

Denim fabrics come in different forms. This includes 100% cotton denim, raw denim, selvage denim, sanforized denim, stretch denim, coloured denim, crushed denim and acid wash denim.

100% Cotton denim is normal denim that can be treated in different ways plus it’s durable and flexible.

Raw denim isn’t washed after it’s dyed and serious denim lovers can even spend up to 6 months before washing their raw denim jeans.

Selvage Denim is premium denim that doesn’t unravel and it fringes at the end.

Sanforized denim is washed, it’s softer but less durable than raw denim.

Stretch denim is cotton mixed with spandex, to create a stretchy fabric. It easily fits on people’s bodies like skinny jeans.

Coloured denim refers to either blue or other colours. Indigo dying leads to a blue colour but Sulphur dying leads to other colours like black.

Crushed denim looks like velvet and it’s used for jackets and skirts.

Acid wash denim is when raw denim is washed with a strong acid that eats away at the dye.

USES OF DENIM

Of course, denim is used in a wide variety of clothing that includes jeans, shirts, tops, jackets and et cetera. It’s used on shoes, belts and handbags. For home items, it’s used for duvets, pillows and curtains.

LOOKING AFTER DENIM

Wash denim once a month and spot clean stains as they turn up. It’s possible to freeze your jeans to kill germs. If you’re using a washing machine, never use more than 30°C, to prevent fading or damaging your jeans. If you’re washing by hand, then, don’t let your denim jeans soak more than 45 minutes. Reshape your jeans while they’re wet, and let them dry in the shade. Minimize or skip ironing your denim.

Unearthing Fabrics: Spandex

Unearthing fabrics is a new series that looks at your favourite garments before you started wearing them.

Today, we’re looking at Spandex however it can also be called Lycra or Elastane. It’s a wonder garment with endless possibilities.

HISTORY OF SPANDEX
Rock & roll musicians liked wearing tight pants, made of spandex and this helped popularise it. Superheroes & Villains wear costumes made of elastane in comic books, tv series & movie adaptations.

CREATING SPANDEX
It’s a polyether-polyurea copolymer fabric formed when a polyester reacts with a diisocyanate to create a long polymer chain. This polymer chain is placed in a fibre production cell, spun around before it’s pushed through a spinneret.
The fibres are heated with nitrogen and solvent gas solution to form solid strands and bundled together as they exit the spinning cell. Later it’s treated with a finishing agent like magnesium stearate before its loaded on a spool ready for use.

WHY SPANDEX
Spandex has a high elasticity and stretches up to five times its original length without breaking.
It isn’t worn out by lotions, sweat or deodorants. It’s highly breathable, durable & easily pulls moisture to the surface so it can evaporate.
In clothes, it helps people feel comfortable since it fits different body sizes exactly. Spandex can absorb different colour pigments. A fashion designer has the freedom of creativity.
Alternatively, it can be sourced as an opaque fabric. It isn’t damaged when it’s sewn with other fabrics because it’s sturdy and abrasion-resistant.
On the other side, Spandex doesn’t let your body breathe since it’s skin tight. Also, it’s heat-sensitive, you can only handle it with warm water, so it retains its shape.

WHERE IS SPANDEX USED
Spandex can create underwear, innerwear or activewear men and women. It can create a wide- range of fashion garments including sportswear, swimsuits, bra straps, yoga pants, leggings, bicycle pants & support hose.

Spandex is slightly expensive so it can be used with other material like wool, cotton, polyester e.t.c to give them more elasticity.
Outside fashion, spandex has also been used in furniture & automotive door panel fabrics. In the film industry, it’s used for creating motion capture suits that make it easier to generate 3D visual effects.

Let us know about your favourite Spandex moments in the comments section below.

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