Denim

Denim-related post. Learn things, see things.

Side view of stretch marks on jeans

Knee stretch marks on jeans explained

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Knee stretch marks are more common on skinny and slim jeans because of the way the fabric stretches when worn and the stress that comes from bending your knees. When it comes to jeans with a looser fit around the knees, the effect will be minimal to nonexistent.

Side view of naturally formed denim stretch marks on the knees of raw denim jeans.
Naturally formed knee stretch marks on denim.

The effects of stretching start from the center back of the knees as honeycombs that extend over the seams to the front. Just beyond the seams, the stretch marks quickly lose their height, depth, and color as they fade into the knees.

On the left, artificially manufactured denim honeycombs are compared to naturally formed denim honeycombs on the right.
On the left, artificially manufactured denim honeycombs are compared to naturally formed denim honeycombs on the right.

What are denim honeycombs on jeans?

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Looking at the images above, it’s easy to see why you don’t need to be a denim guru to see why some individuals prefer to let their jeans fade naturally over time from the raw denim state rather than buying jeans that have been artificially aged through manufactured washing processes. The details and three-dimensional texture that come from time and natural wear are too complicated for the fast industrial washing process to recreate.

Summary

Denim honeycombs are made from compression and decompression at the back of the knees. When denim begins stiff, such as raw denim, the initial breaking points in the bends become the points of least resistance, resulting in repeated bends and well-defined folds.

Denim honeycombs are so named due to their striking resemblance to honeycombs. They are formed as a result of compression and decompression at the back of the knees. When denim begins stiff, such as raw denim, the initial breaking points in the bends become the points of least resistance, resulting in repeated bends and well-defined folds.

The highest points, like whiskers, undergo the most abrasion and hence lighten the most in color. The lower points remain darker, resulting in transitional fades between them.

Image and graphics shows how the height of the folds in naturally occurring denim honeycomb influences how much indigo color is removed by abrasions.
Raw denim selvedge jeans hem with clips to mark inseam length, removing the need for a measuring tape.
Clips at the bottom of jeans show how long the inseam should be, so you don't need a measuring tape.

How to measure the inseam of your jeans and pants without a measuring tape

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Here’s what to do if you want to send your jeans or pants to a tailor for hemming service but don’t have a measuring tape. Because everyone has their own personal style, we won’t get into whether or not your pants should have a break, no-break, or hang just above your shoes. We will give you a few good tips on how to mark your desired inseam length.

  1. Put on your pants and approach a mirror wearing the shoe style you prefer with your pants.
  2. Cuff or roll the legs of your pants to the desired inseam length.
  3. Select the best-fitting leg, then bend down and secure it with a pin or clip at the folded edge.
  4. Uncuff or unroll the second leg so there is no confusion about which leg to use as the standard.
  5. Ship or hand-deliver the pants to your tailoring service and instruct them to follow the marked leg.

Because most people never mark both legs exactly the same, it is best to mark one leg. If the tailor needs to contact you to determine which size of the two legs is best, the tailoring process may be slowed.

Image of Hiroshi Kato jeans shows how to take note of your jean's inseam length with a paper clip if you don't have a tape measure

If you don’t have a clip or pin, use an iron to press the cuff into place for a secure hold during the shipping or drop-off process. You can also mark the location with washable chalk or tape.

Women's Brave Star selvedge jeans demonstrates how to note the inseam length for tailoring using pins.
Natural aging effects on jeans are identified and described in this denim fading guide.
Denim jeans fading guide lists the various fading effects and describes how each one is created.

The Anatomy of Aged Jeans & Fade Descriptions

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As a denim designer, I researched the causes and consequences of denim fading like a scientist to aggressively imitate real-world denim aging in my pre-washed jeans designs. Here’s what I discovered.

A – Whiskers

Whiskers, also known as mustaches, hige, crease lines, are lines that naturally form along folds in the front hip area of jeans as a result of repetitive stretching and movement. With abrasion, the highest points of the folds fade the lightest in color. The denim fabric holds more color and appears darker as you move down the folds.

B – Whisker Texture

Highs and lows form around whiskers, giving them a texture. When denim is stretched and pulled around the hips at the front rise, dark patches form. There are lighter areas (whisker lines) where the color has been worn off by friction.

C – Thigh Fading

The indigo color in the denim yarns fades because of abrasion against the thighs. When we sit, our arms and hands rest on our thighs, which wears away the color.

D – Knee Fading

The knees are one of the most stressed areas in jeans. If you frequently work or perform tasks on your knees, they will rapidly fade.

Whiskers, chevrons, outseam fade lines (also known as "train tracks"), hem fading, knee stretch, and cuff or roll crease lines are highlighted in the front view of the denim jeans fading guide.

E – Knee Stretch Marks

Knee stretching will happen along with fading. This is particularly noticeable in jeans made of raw denim that has naturally aged. Lines with high and low basins protrude like whiskers in the knee flexion direction.

F – Seat Fading

Each time a person sits in a pair of jeans, the seat fades slightly. This is the result of a small amount of color rubbing off the yarns, which lightens the overall appearance.

G – Waistband Fading

Belt-related friction is the most common cause of waistband wear and tear. Randomly, the seam line within the waistline becomes visible.

H – Hem Fading

Fading or destruction at the hem can occur in a variety of ways. Rope-like twisting fade lines will appear at the high points if the hem is sewn unevenly at the in-and-out seams. Shredding or fraying can occur over time when jeans are too long and drag on the ground.

I – Chevrons

Chevrons are the fade lines that appear on the inner thighs of jeans just above the inseam. Walking, squatting, and sitting can all stretch the inseam. Friction on the high points of the stretch lines rubs away the yarn color, resulting in chevrons.

J – Rear Knee Honeycombs

One of the most sought-after fadings among raw denim fans, the rear knee honeycombs, are the result of months or even years of natural aging. When fabric bends and collapses on itself on the back side of the knees, the high points fade from abrasion while the low points remain darker, creating a honeycomb appearance.

K – Fly Abrasion

The fading around the fly is a continuation of the whiskers and adheres to the same principles. The high points are abraded the most, while the lower areas remain darker. It’s worth noting that zippers and button-fly jeans fade in different ways. The spaces between the buttons on button-fly jeans facilitate the formation of high and low fading horizontally, which extends into the hips across the front rise, resulting in more detailed fade patterns. There are typically more vertical abrasion highlights on the zipper fly, which does not bend as easily.

L – Seat Seam Abrasion

On jeans, the seat and back pocket seams are high points that take a lot of abuse every time the wearer sits. The high points and edges of jeans deteriorate and fade the fastest in time.

The back view of the denim jeans fading guide provides information on the following: rear knee honeycombs; seat; pocket wallet fading; belt loop; waistband; crotch fading; and blowout.

M – Back Pocket / Wallet Fades

If you carry items in your rear pockets on a regular basis, such as wallets or phones, the color in the high spots of the denim will fade faster due to abrasion each time you sit on them.

N – Outseam Lines / Train Tracks

Due to their resemblance to railway tracks, the two faded lines that develop on either side of the outseams of jeans manufactured with selvedge edges or overlock seams that have been pressed open on the inside of the jeans are frequently referred to as “train tracks.” If the outside seams of the jeans are sewn together, these lines won’t show up.

O – Cuff Lines / Roll Creases

Depending on how you wear your long, rolled, or cuffed jeans, lines will appear differently. The bottom of the denim may become ragged or frayed if you roll them such that the length hits the ground. If the roll or cuff is high, a dark line may appear on the face of the denim from a lack of abrasion.

P – Inseam Abrasion

Because the inseam is a high point on jeans, they tend to wear faster from abrasion, especially in the crotch and at the hem, where there is a lot of friction. These highlighted high spots often get whiter and brighter with age than other regions of the jeans.

Q – Belt Loop Fading

Belt loops, like other elevated places, suffer a lot of abrasion damage. With aging, they wind up with fraying plus having some of the brighter white portions, particularly at the ends and center points.

R – Front Pocket Whiskers & Crease Lines

The aging process here is comparable to that of the whiskers around the thigh. The denim stretches as a result of sitting and walking, and the waistband compression exaggerates the peaks and valleys inside the hand pockets just below the waistline. The coin pocket suffers from wear and develops highlights on the coin pocket side.

S – Hip Whiskers

Hip whiskers extend from the middle of the front rise and wrap around the hip outseams before fading out on the back side, just past the seamline.

T – Crotch Fading / Blowout

Due to the continual rubbing of the fabric against fabric between the legs, the crotch of jeans sustains the most wear and tear. Complete crotch blowouts that result in crotch holes are influenced by the wearer’s body type, how high or low they wear their jeans, and the denim’s thickness (lighter weight textiles may blowout more quickly than heavy).

U – Seat Lines / Rear Crotch Whiskers

Because of the lower resistance and compression at the location where the fabric folds, subtle whiskers can emerge just below the back pockets. These lines originate from the crotch’s center point stress area.

V – Crotch Seam Damage

During normal wear, the elevated seams in the crotch receive the most abrasion from all of the rubbing inside the crotch and frequently acquire frayed edges, high contrast, and even tears.

Pure Blue Japan jeans with shortened inseam shows what is jeans hemming
Hemmed Syoaia Pure Blue Japan jeans

What is Jeans Hemming Explained

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Summary

Jeans hemming is the process of shortening the leg or inseam length of a pair of jeans by removing some of the fabric from the bottom.

These photographs demonstrate the before and after effects of hemming alterations made by Williamsburg Garment Company to shorten the inseam of jeans to demonstrate “what jeans hemming is.” The top photograph features a pair of Pure Blue Japan jeans. It displays the altered inseam and leg openings as well as the portions of the hem that was removed.

The below image displays a pair of raw denim jeans with their original hem and full inseam length. A chalk line on the jeans marks the hemming cut line, which also includes a 1/2-inch double fold (1-inch).

A pair of raw denim LeRoy Strauss jeans are shown at their original length, and a chalk line marks the hemming cut line.
A pair of raw denim jeans with yellow chainstitch inside the hem are marked with a chalk line which represents the cut line.

The majority of jeans are sewn with chain-stitched hemming. The average hem measures roughly 1/2 inch tall. A tailor or seamstress double folds the raw edge after cutting to the hem (leg opening). Since each fold measures approximately 1/2 inch, the inseam length must be increased by 1 inch to reach the desired length.

To see what we mean by double folding, and the process of hemming in action. Watch our video “Chain Stitch Hemming in 87 Seconds.”

Chain Stitch Hemming in 87 Seconds

Photo shows hemmed selvedge raw denim jeans with yellow chain stitching and cut-off fabric parts after alterations.
Hemmed (shortened) jeans with yellow chain stitching are shown after being altered and having the original hem removed.
Chainstitch denim hemming alterations on Gap 1969 jeans
Chainstitch denim hemming on Gap 1969 jeans with alterations service by Williamsburg Garment Company.

Tips for Professionally Hemming Your Denim: The Simple, Affordable Way

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So you splurged on that vintage-looking pair of Gap 1969 jeans. They are everything you were looking for, but about 4-to-5-inches too long. Now what? You don’t want to wear them rolled with a huge cuff – or even have them stacking over your shoes. You want to make them one of your go-to jeans, so you need them to fit right. Here’s how you can make that happen: With fast professional chainstitch denim hemming service that’s available from any city or town in the USA! We make our alterations services simple and both affordable and easy to execute. Read on to learn how we can help you achieve the perfect fit:

What is a Chainstitch Hem?

A chainstitch hem is a technique used in most jeans. It’s a fairly common and durable stitch that is found on most jeans. As seen on the above pair of Gap 1969 jeans, you’ll want to ensure when shortening your inseam, the jeans have the same style of sewing as the original store-bought jeans. That’s with chain stitching and thick, heavy threads. Both are not options not usually found at local tailors, cleaners, and even department stores or a brand’s in-store alterations services. Read more on chainstitch hemming on our blog.

How to order Hemming from us

We receive and ship altered jeans, pants, and shirts from all over the USA. Sometimes, those seeking the very best denim services will ship us garments from other countries. We offer low-cost 2-way shipping options, so you can ship 1 or multiple items in an order for the same low price. With 2-way shipping, we email you a shipping within a few hours of placing your order, or the next morning when ordering after business hours.

Additional Rush Alterations Options to Consider

We offer RUSH and STANDARD SERVICE. The fastest is Same-Day while you wait. The next fastest is 1-Day Service. Our regular service takes about 5-to-7 days. Pricing for all services is listed on the ordering page.

The Catch-22 of Denim Hemming

Unfortunately, there are DIY techniques and non-professional denim tailors who offer what’s called an Original Hem alteration. They say you can retain the original pre-washed edge on the leg opening, but they don’t tell how bad your jeans will look on the inside or how you will lose the flexibility of the hem.

Inside sewing details of original hem alteration
Example of one of the Original Hem alterations sewing techniques

Final Words

Original hems are a bad idea. Don’t let anyone talk you into this style of alteration. We get lots of jeans sent to us with requests to undo this alteration and re-hem the jeans correctly with chain stitching.

The pre-washed edge on the leg opening, as seen on the section cut from Gap 1969 jeans comes back in time with washing and wearing. If you want to speed up the process, you can rough up the hem with sandpaper, a sharp blade, or an electric grinder for the shredded look. For fast fading, wet and wrinkle the hem, then rub in a small amount of bleach on the high points, and dip the hem in cold water to halt the fading. Machine wash the jeans after.

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