Warp and Weft
Woven fabric is made from two sets of interlacing yarns, known as the warp and weft. The warp is the yarn that runs lengthwise in a weave. The weft is the yarn that runs horizontally and interlaces through the warp. In the case of standard indigo-dyed denim, the warp is made up of the indigo-dyed yarns, while the weft is generally white or undyed. This can be seen when the cuff is flipped on a pair of denim, showing the white weft of the fabric.
Selvage is an essential element of vintage denim. This is proof of the fabric being only weaved by the vintage looms called "Shuttle Looms". Shuttle looms were invented in England in 1785 and later developed in Japan by Sakichi Toyoda (father of Toyota Motor Corporation founder) in 1897. When domestic heavy ounce denim was produced in Japan, automatic looms made by Toyoda were a mainstream product, though no longer produced nowadays. The traditional production method has nearly disappeared due to the mass production of denim following the popularization of latest (shuttle) looms.
Denim is made from tightly woven fabric that usually comes from cotton warp yarn and white cotton filling yarn. The filling yarns are stretched across the width of the fabric and interlaced at a 90 degree angle with warp yarns. This creates an interwoven pattern of diagonal lines called "twill weave".
Right Hand Twill
Right hand twill, also know as "z twill", was made famous as Levi's jeans standard fabric and now is the most common twill weave used for denim fabrics. Right hand twill can be recognized by the upward direction of the diagonal twill on the face of the fabric as it runs from lower left toward upper right. Right hand twill is known to have a flatter and smoother surface compared to other twill fabrics.
Left Hand Twill
Left hand twill, also known as "s twill", is a weave in which the grain line runs from the top-left hand corner of the fabric to the bottom right which is the opposite of right hand twill. It was originally used by Lee denim as its basic denim and now used in many premium denim companies such as Pure Blue Japan, Lee Japan, and Naked and Famous. Left hand twill tends to wear down softer than right hand twill and thus a softer hand feel after washing. Left hand twill will also have different wear patterns as the fabric can emphasize streakiness or vertical fading.
Broken twill denim was first used by Wrangler in 1964 as a way to combat the twisting effect characteristic of regular twill denim (at the time considered a "fault" by many). Traditionally, twill is woven either to the right hand or the left hand as we described above which will eventually twist itself after washing due to the tension. This is why you see the outseam of some denim twisted to the front or back of the leg. Broken twill avoids this. Instead of the twill running left or right, broken twill contains no distinct direction and instead alternates right and left - the end effect resembles a random zig-zag pattern as shown below.
A Dyeing technique used especially for dyeing denim fabric. Yarn is twisted into a rope and quickly dipped into a vat of indigo, this process can be repeated to achieve a desired indigo color. Dyeing this way does not allow the indigo to fully penetrate the core of the cotton yarn, but instead sits on top of the cotton fibres allowing the indigo molecules to break away from the cotton fibres which produces an indigo fade on the denim jeans.
A fabric that has a “self-finished” edge to keep it from unraveling, also known as self-edge. This means the edges do not need further stitching to keep it from fraying at the ends. For denim it is a signature detail to finish the garment with the selvedge ends sticking out to express that the fabric was created on a vintage shuttle loom.
Sanforized and Unsanforized
A treatment process used for cotton to pre-shrink the fabric before being cut and sewn into a garment. A sanforized garment will have reduced shrinkage after being washed. An unsanforized fabric omits the pre-shrink process after being woven and goes straight to factory production. For denim this process means the cotton has not been pre-shrunk and after its first wash or soak will reduce in size, usually about a full tag size down.
View our unsaforized guide
A rope-like fading pattern that occurs along the hem of denim that is hemmed on a vintage chain-stitch sewing machine, like a Union Special. The feed roller of the hemming machine pulls the fabric in an uneven way as it stitches, resulting in the “roping” effect that occurs with wear over time.
Boro, which means “tatters”, takes pieces of saved fabric scraps (usually indigo-dyed or related) and patches them together. These patches were usually applied to blankets, curtains, and work clothing to extend the life of the goods while also increasing its strength and durability. It is usually paired with sashiko stitching to reinforce areas that have been worn out over time by wear or use.
A type of fabric that features patterns and designs woven directly into the fabric, rather than being printed or stitched on.
The result of indigo dye rubbing onto other materials. For example, when white sneakers turn blue because of the indigo rubbing off from contact with denim.
A type of sleeve with no seam at the shoulder. This type of sleeve extends continuously from collar to cuff, with a visible seam that spans from the collarbone to the armpit.
Found as a woven fabric or stitching; traditionally sahsiko is a decorative stitch used to mend points of wear on an original garment. This method was traditionally used by farmers and fishermen to extend the life of their garments. When used in weaves, the Sashiko stitch yields a raised texture and when paired with indigo dye, features many of the bespoke attributes raw denim is known for.
The bumpy and raised texture on the surface of a fabric. This is created by using yarn that has inconsistent thickness throughout while being spooled.
Small knots and clusters that appear on the yarn thread as it is spooled. Denim woven with nep yarn have raised surfaces with an almost linty appearance.
A Japanese manual resist dyeing technique where parts of the fabric are tightly bound, stitched, and/or folded to create high contrast patterns.
A type of resoleable shoe construction that uses a strip of leather, called a welt, to secure a shoe’s upper to its bottom. The use of a welt helps reduce excessive wear on a shoe’s upper during the resoling process. This means that if the upper leather is well cared for, a shoe manufactured using this process can be resoled multiple times. The Goodyear welt process is a mechanized version of the traditional hand welt construction. The welt and upper are attached to the insole either via a canvas rib that is attached to the insole (most common) or directly to the insole via a cut channel (rare, but more durable). The cavity caused by this attachment is filled with cork or some other filler material, and then the midsole and outsole are attached. A line of stitching then connects the welt, midsole, and outsole together.
A type of resoleable shoe construction that involves flaring the vamp or upper of the boot and stitching it directly to the midsole and outsole. This is a very durable construction and is commonly used to build fire and logging boots in the Pacific Northwest. Much like Goodyear welt construction, stitchdown allows a shoe to be resoled multiple times so long as the upper leather has been well cared for. There are different ways of executing stitchdown construction. One way, commonly used on Italian hiking boots, is 360° stitchdown. As its name suggests, the entire upper is flared at the bottom and stitched directly to the midsole and outsole. Another version, 270° stitchdown, is one that is commonly employed by Pacific Northwest bootmakers, like Truman Boot Co. The heel and waist of the boot are tucked under the insole and nailed into place. The vamp is then flared out and stitched to the midsole. Once the outsole is attached, a row of stitching goes 270° around the boot, locking the vamp, midsole, and outsole into place.
Leather that has been tanned using tannins derived from tree bark or other plant matter. These natural extracts, such as oak, quebracho, and chestnut bark, are used to make the tannin liquor in which hides are soaked. Vegetable tanning is a labor-intensive process that takes a lot longer than the more modern chrome tanning method, but it generally yields a more natural-looking leather that is praised for its aging potential over time.
Long/Short Staple Cotton
Staple essentially refers to the average length of cotton fibers being spun into yarn. Short staple cotton generally yields hairier fabrics with more texture, and long staple cotton generally yields smoother, softer, fabrics.
A dye technique that utilizes a different color to be layered on top of the original garment.
Horizontal line fades that occur around the lap and pocket area of a worn denim. This is achieved by extended wear and washing.
A traditional hemming method that chains two threads to create a flexible hem. During the early 20th century and into the 21st century, this was the preferred method of hemming denim. It is a quick and efficient method for finishing denim jeans. The chain stitch was then replaced with the Lock Stitch, which is a stronger and cheaper technique to execute with modern machinery. The chain stitch is still used today by a handful of brands and specialty clothing retailers for the unique appearance that each chain stitch machine creates.
A stitch technique for repairing holes and tears in garments using needle and thread to extend the life of the garment. In our case, we use a Singer 47w70 to “reweave” new fabric into the existing hole or tear. This results in a repair that isn’t as thick as sewing patches onto the original garment.
A post-production treatment where garments are dyed after being cut and sewn. This technique makes each individual garment unique due to the variation in dye placement.
Zimbabwe cotton is recognized as one of the best quality cotton types in the world. Harvested only by hand, it doesn’t get damaged and is not mixed with impurities. Zimbabwe cotton has a well-proportioned fiber structure and characteristics such as a high luster and whitening, in addition to good pliability and dyeing. Denim labels such as Momotaro have chosen 100% Zimbabwe cotton to make their denim for these very reasons. Basically, in order to make a pair of quality jeans, the cotton is a very important factor in determining the softness of the fabric, the color after dyeing, the strength, and how the denim wears.
The process of hand-dying using natural indigo is a labor intensive traditional method which nearly became a lost art as the mass production method of synthetic indigo dyeing allowed larger amounts of product to be dyed providing similar color with a lower cost. Thus, natural indigo products which require more time and effort have been gradually decreasing.