Friday, April 3, 2009

Fabric Fact Friday - Treatments

Blast from the past. 80's jeans washes has made a huge comeback this season. These pairs are from Cheap Monday.

Sanforized, sand washed, enzyme washed, mercerized. We have all seen those descriptions on both fabrics and clothes, but what exactly do they mean? And why do manufacturers use them? Today I'll talk about some of the ways fabrics are treated before they hit the stores.

Stone wash
This is the most common wash for jeans. The finished garment is tumbled with
pumices, which is a stone made of lava. The stone wash brings out the white fibers in the denim twill, thus making the fabric brighter and giving it a used look.
The drawback with stone wash it that it can cause a lot of damage to the fabric. According to my text book Textile science, abrasion can be so severe that 15-20 % of the garments needs some repair before hitting the stores!

Acid wash
Acid wash is a variant of stone washing.
An oxidation wash, usually a strong dose of chlorine, is added to pumices to give the fabric a speckled, distressed look. Acid washes also softens the fabric. Acid washes or snow washes as it's also called, was very popular in the mid 80's and have recently made a strong comeback on jeans, but now they are sometimes called ice washed instead.

Enzyme wash
Enzyme wash is a way to soften fabrics, to give garments a worn feel from the get go. Enzyme washes has been hugely popular during the last decade - and can be found in a large variety of cotton garments - from t-shirts to jeans. The enzyme wash is cellulase based and degrades the surface of the cotton fiber. It damages the fabric less than acid washes and is also more environmentally sound.

Sand wash
Sand wash is also called sueded or peached and is mostly found on silk fabrics and rayons, but can be done on most fabrics. It's done by either gently brushing the fabric with a very fine sand paper or washing it with silicone balls. Sand wash creates a very soft matte surface.

Mercerization gives cotton fibers a lustrous shine, and is very common in embroidery floss and knitting/crocheting yarn. But it's primarily used as a way to increase the dye affinity of cotton fibers - it takes much less dye when the product is mercerized. The effect is caused by dipping the fabric or yarn in a sodium hydroxide which causes the fibers to change their shape. Mercerization also makes the fabric stiffer and stronger.

This method is used to make cotton, rayon and linen less shrinkage prone
. Sanforization is done by running the fabric through a special pressing machine and the process is called compressive stabilization. The treatment can be done on both knits and wovens and is sometimes combined with a liquid ammonia bath in order to make the fabric soft as well.


Pant update - Part 723344
They are pretty much done now. I only have the hemming and the waist fastening left. And unless something goes horribly wrong during the final lap I plan to show them off tomorrow.
The pants look really nice and I hope that it translates into the photo as well. It's been a huge undertaking for several reasons, but the actual assembly of the pants was pretty swift, which I think is due to the massive ground work I did before cutting the fabric.


  1. What happened to the "Pants Sew Along--The End Result"? Anyway, thanks for the video!

    That's why it never bothered me that my clothes look a liittle home sewn. ;D

    Are we going to see you model the pant?!

  2. Thank you for these descriptions. I'm saddened though. I love dark indigo jeans.

  3. I love dark indigo jeans, too! You can quote me on this: I will never again wear acid washed jeans again, even if you change the name to ice wash! No way.

    Can't wait to see The Pants!

  4. >> Geek sewing: You got a sneak peak of the post without pictures. I hit the wrong button and published instead of saving, but now it's up and running. And I love your "A little home sewn reference" :)

    >>Gwensews: Me too! I don't know what to do with myself if this trend will take hold over all other choices.

    >>Antoinette: I will take your word for it! I had a pair back in the 80's that to my embarrassment snuck itself into a yearbook photo. A year later I was all in black and couldn't really reconcile myself with my washed jeans past...

  5. Hi tks for the details. now ive got clear idea ion this