Writing a care guide for raw denim can incite quite a spirited discussion. To begin, we do not intend for this guide to be the end-all, be-all authoritative voice for denim care. Rather, we want to highlight some of the nuances that come along with caring for raw denim.
What we love most about breaking in raw denim is that each pair is unique to you. The fading patterns, whiskers, wallet fades, and even repairs tell your story. Each crease is affectionately embraced by the owner as if it were a nostalgic scar or a cherished memory. Denim is worn and loved by different owners in different ways, and there truly isn’t one right way to care for it. In fact, when you spend enough time in any raw denim circles, you hear stories of the ritualistic care for jeans that range from putting them in the freezer to rolling in the sand at the beach and everything in between.
We encourage people to find out what works for them. The goal here is to share some general tips for raw denim care. Take them and make them your own.
One unique aspect of raw denim is that the dye used to color the yarns is designed to fade over time. While the cotton itself will easily withstand heavy use, the dye is really what requires special care.
There are various opinions and contentious arguments that are had over washing raw denim, but they all tend to boil down to one thing: achieving a high contrast fade. We recommend washing sparingly and as needed to achieve a better looking fade. The actual time between washes will vary from person to person.
Those who usually find themselves in cleaner environments usually can go 3 – 6 months between washes, while others will need to wash their jeans more regularly depending on one’s daily activities. There’s really no right or wrong here, but if your goal is a high contrast fade, less washing is best.
When considering the washing process in light of excess dye and fading, it makes sense that the best method to wash the jeans would include low agitation and a gentle detergent. We recommend avoiding using a washing machine which can potentially create the rippled wash lines due to the heavier agitation. Hand washing is ideal.
- 1. Draw a bathtub with cold water (4 inches deep is about the perfect amount to submerge your jeans).
- 2. Mix in a small amount of Woolite Dark or other mild detergent.
- 3. Turn your jeans inside out and submerge them in the water. (Lay the jeans flat, do not wrinkle them up in a ball). Let them soak for 30 - 45 minutes and agitate as needed.
- 4. Run them under cold water to rinse any excess soap off. Do not wring. Let excess water drip off.
- 5. Hang dry.
- Do not wash your raw denim with other garments. The excess dye will bleed into the water and could transfer to other clothes.
- Try to avoid deep spot cleaning. Rubbing a damp cloth with the attempt to remove a stain on your jeans may cause you to remove too much dye, creating a light spot.
- If your jeans stink, it’s probably time to wash them (or at least air them out).
All our jeans come with a standard inseam length. Should you need them by a little or a lot, here are a few options with both pros and cons. The main thing to keep in mind is that raw denim will shrink about a half inch in the inseam after your first wash. To account for this, either soak your jeans first before getting them hemmed, or if you’d like to push back you first soak/wash, simply add 0.5 - 1 inch to your optimal length to ensure your jeans don’t shrink up on you. For loomstate/unsanforized denim (a.k.a. shrink-to-fit denim), it would be advisable to do you initial soak on the jeans before hemming.
The stitch we use to finish our jeans utilizes a chain stitch which is the traditional finish used on raw denim. Hemming your jeans with a chain stitch requires special machinery. Finding a tailor that specializes in denim and denim alterations would be advisable. In the event that you do not have a denim repair shop available locally, there are many mail-in services where you can mail your jeans for hemming or repair.
- It’s the traditional stitch used to finish a pair of raw denim jeans.
- Great roping effect around the cuff as the jeans fade.
- Harder to find a local shop that has the specialty sewing machine needed.
- Expensive – chain stitch hems typically come as a premium offering.
- The stitch can unravel if there is any weakness in the chain stitch.
This is the standard type of stitch used by a most tailors. It is the most commonly used stitch for hemming making it something that you can easily find and will be your cheapest way to get your jeans hemmed.
If you’re not one to cuff your jeans, we think a lock stitch is the best way to go. Lock stitches tend to be a bit stronger than a chain stitch and with it being readily accessible, which means you get to start wearing your jeans sooner.
- Readily available at pretty much any tailor – just make sure you call and ask what denim weight their sewing machine can handle. Many tailors cannot handle the really heavy stuff (16oz+).
- Cost is less than that of a chain stitch.
- Minimal roping effect on the cuff.
As with any purchase that get used regularly, you will find that you will need to take care of repairs on your pair of jeans from time to time. Doing regular maintenance on your jeans ensure you will get the most life out of them. It is not uncommon for a pair of jeans to be touched up or repaired 2 – 3 times in its lifetime. Of course, mileage may vary. Many factors play into how a given pair of jeans wear down, but overall, the thing to remember is that proactive maintenance will usually cost less than a major repair.
The most common area that needs maintenance is the crotch. Crotch blow outs occur when the denim wears thin due to the friction created as you walk. There is much to be said about how to try to avoid them, but they will inevitably happen and your best course of action is to take care of repairs before they become major problems.
Other areas that tend to need maintenance are the knees, pockets and button holes. Any denim repair shop will be able to help reinforce areas that are wearing thin, extending the life of what will most likely become your favorite pair of jeans
Reweaving / Darning
When it comes to repairing denim, darning is the preferred method. This is not a service you will find at all tailors, but any good denim repair shop will be able to properly repair your jeans. The process works by weaving new threads into the denim to essentially rebuild the warp and weft. These threads are layered on top of each other over several passes creating a very strong reinforcement to the damaged area. Usually they can also match the current shade of indigo to make the repair blend in very well.
Denim repair shops typically charge by the size of the area needed to be repaired, so it’s always ideal to take care of repairs and reinforcements before they turn into a big holes or tears.
The quick and easiest method for repairs is using a patch. Many customers who patch their jeans often like to work in different shades of denim or even get creative and make a patch work with various fabric prints.