History and Home Applications of Denim

Posted by Abby Nurnberger on

Denim is a champion of American ingenuity. Created in 1873 by Jacob Davis in response to local farmers’ wives demands for a more durable work pant. Orders began to flood in, and Davis partnered with the Levi Strauss company and began mass producing bolts of denim fabric. You know the rest of the story - Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Brett Favre commercials, Rosie the Riveter - denim has played a major role in establishing a uniquely American culture. But as common as denim is in the United States, most people do not have a clue how their trusty pair of blue jeans were actually made. For starters, denim that has not been washed after having been dyed during production is called “raw” or “dry” denim. Fortunately most denim pieces used for upholstery are washed after production to make them softer and reduce the risk of shrinkage. Denim also varies in weight. Anything under 12 ounces per yard is considered lightweight, anything over 16 ounces per yard is considered heavyweight, and “middleweight” fabrics fall in between the two. To add color to denim, either indigo or sulfur dye is added. Indigo dye produces the traditional blue color we all associate with denim, while sulfuric dyes stain denim black and other colors. One of the risks associated with using denim for upholstery is that lacks elasticity or a certain “give” that other more malleable fabrics possess. But, incorporating elastic components such as spandex into denim sacrifices its durability.
One of the more popular ways to incorporate denim fabric into your home is through upholstering furniture with selvedge denim. Selvedge denim reveals the finished edges from the loom rather than the overlocked edges that are shown on jeans. That way your recliner looks more like a piece of furniture than a piece of clothing. Denim, with its course and rugged composition, is not typically thought of as an upholsterers’ fabric. But, with the history and function of denim in mind it is clear as day that denim is not just for jeans.

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