Home » What is Denim ? 12 types of Denim Fabric

What is Denim ? 12 types of Denim Fabric

types of denim

What is denim ?

If you came here looking for different types of jeans check out this post.

Denim is a rugged, sturdy, twill weave woven,  100% cotton fabric. 

Do you know it was used as sailcloth once upon a time. The word Denim derives from a french word Serge de Nimes and refers to the city of Nimes; De Nimes means ‘of the Nimes’. We have embraced denim into our our daily lives like no other.

Denim is made from cotton fibers. Checkout the post on Cotton fabric & how it is made. 

Denim fabric has a twill fabric weave.  Know more about 18 different types of fabric weaves here

A special characteristic of denim is that the there is a diagonal ribbing visible on the face of the fabric, which sets it apart from other cotton fabric. It is a special twill weaving that creates this diagonal pattern. Fibers are weaved on a loom in a twill weave pattern.

Have you wondered why your jeans is white on the inside and blue on the outside? It is because when weaving denim, Warp thread is dyed indigo  where as weft thread is left undyed. This special weaving in which colored thread ( mostly indigo) is crossed with a white thread results in a two-tone look which is very attractive.  The color sits on the face of the fabric and the white pulls to the back side.

The Twill diagonal weave of the denim fabric makes it very durable and gives it a great drape. 

Denim was given the popularity it enjoys in 1873 by two Americans Jacob Davis and Levi Strauss. Levi Strauss was a cloth merchant and Jacob Davis a tailor. Jacob Davis got an order to sew up a pair of trousers which would wear well and be sturdy enough . Mr. Davis approached Mr. Staruss and purchased from him denim which was as sturdy as sturdy could be. Later they went on to form a partnership of making these same trousers which is known as jeans . Rest is history

Checkout the post on 10 FAQ answered on sewing with denim

sewing with jeans denim fabric

1 100% cotton Denim

This is the normal denim which you can treat in many different ways to create the different types detailed below. This fabric is very durable, hard wearing and versatile. 

2 Raw denim

This is a fabric which is not washed after dyeing . This washing is usually done so that the fabric becomes soft and also to eliminate shrinkage. Basically what we call in sewing as prewashing . This is also called unsanforized denim
Raw denim has a very even look without any of the distressed look we are familiar in jeans. Whatever distressed look is desired will have to be obtained naturally by fading and stress. This is a natural process which some people consider more desirable than the factory made distressed look. It is important that you prewash raw denim before sewing / wearing. 

raw denim

3 Sanforized Denim

This is denim fabric which is processed so that it does not shrink after wash. Most of the denim other than raw denim is Sanforized.

4 Colored denim

There are two types of coloured denim –  blue and the rest of the colours. The blue colour or shades close to blue is given with a process known as indigo dying. Sulphur dying gives denim other colours like Black, pink, grey, mustard, green, red etc

5 Stretch denim

This is denim incorporated with stretchy synthetic fiber like lycra/ spandex which gives it stretch.  The stretch of the fabric will depend on the percentage of elastane in it.


6 Selvedge Denim

This refers to the denim fabric with edges which are finished with a band which is usually of colour orange or red. It is also called self-edge or selvage denim. This denim is very popularly assumed to be of better quality than other denim. Japan is the top producer of this type of denim fabric .

7 Crushed Denim

This is a Denim fabric which is weaved and treated so that it  looks permanently wrinkled or crushed.

8 Waxed reverse Denim

This is denim fabric which has a coating of wax on the reverse side for water resistance. It is mostly used to  make outdoor gear and bags

9 Acid wash Denim

This is also called marble denim. This refers to a finish achieved in denim fabric using pumice stone soaked in chlorine. Colour of the fabric fades as a result of the abrasion with the stones and creates an attractive contrast with the indigo colour. The fabric is then rinsed, softened and dried You can get this effect at home on your jeans with some work – check out the post on 15 ways to distress jeans.


10 Poly Denim

This is Denim fabric with a percentage of Polyester fibers blended in it. This fabric is very soft to touch , very easy to care for and stretches to an extent; it is very much popular to sew jackets, shirts, hats . The polyester blend adds to the durability  smoothness and finish of denim

11 Ecru Denim

Denim that has not been dyed indigo . This fabric has the natural colour of denim which is not dyed. 

12  Bull Denim

This is a denim fabric which is very sturdy and tough because of its 3*1 twill construction. It is not as tough as canvas but it is very durable and heavy.Bull denim is used mostly for upholstery and home decor rather than for clothing

13 Thermo denim

This is also called double denim. This denim fabric has a lightweight fabric glued to the denim. This fabric makes the garment look like it is lined

Related post : History of jeans.


AUTHOR : Hi, I am Sarina. I am passionate about clothes, sewing, fabrics, fashion and surface design techniques in no particular order and absolutely love writing about all of these including what I learn, what I experience, and what I have bought to do all these. You are more than welcome to stay here and learn with me.