Behind The Scenes: INDIGO

Indigo is the most romantic and quixotic dye of all shades.  Much can be achieved from the indigo paste from deepest blues which adhere to the host fibre for hardly any time at all to palest weathered indigo blues of either green or reddish cast

Initially a hand process the craft of indigo dyeing has evolved to a mass manufactured product. But still the hand crafted results are the most sought even today.

Waxed tie dyed patterns an hand woven Ikat weaves continue to look joyful maintaining their freshness and style relevance.

.... and of course the antique versions of vintage hand dyed indigo stripes and dobbies are THE most sought after in whatever form be it a garment or a bedquilt.

The Gees Bend quilts are among the most desired and the most marvellous having a naivety and spontaneous charm.

Behind The Scenes : Sewing + Laundry

Close ups of the stitching activity in the make of a jean. This is a short sewing line of a mere few but lines can be some 40 machines long. In Asia Pacific and The Far East both men and women operate the lines. In the more sophisticated factories every process is computerised to avoid any operator errors. Thereby guaranteeing every jean is exactly the same.

 ©TheDenimEye2016

©TheDenimEye2016

On the left we illustrate an industrial front loading washing machine and on the right two barrel washers.  The jeans are loaded with different sizes of pumice stones depending on the level and type of stone wash effect and softness desired.

A completed load of dried jeans. 

 ©TheDenimEye2016

©TheDenimEye2016

Below the unused pumice stones are scooped up for future use.

On the right a finishing operative is fitting a jean onto a blow up mannequin in preperation for the  scraping and spraying process. 

 Trollies of some 100 Jeans are waiting to be "finished" - where the threads are cut; the accessories and sundries attached; and the jeans are pressed ready to be bagged.

 ©TheDenimEye2016

©TheDenimEye2016

Behind the Scenes : THE DENIM FABRIC

Making modern denim fabric is a highly technical and mechanised affair.  

The looms are either Rapier looms which are more slow but capable of making great developments.  For speed in production air jet looms are the choice of most Mills. they are less flexible than the rapiers but super fast.

these charming drawings from Danny Southern pictures the processes from weaving through finishing and sanforizing to the final quality inspection.

 ©TheDenimEye2016

©TheDenimEye2016

The weaving shed,  finishing ranges and inspection in a modern denim factory today.

 ©TheDenimEye2016

©TheDenimEye2016

BEHIND THE SCENES : The Colour

Cotton yarn is raw white before we add the all important indigo colour dye.  

These are charming drawings of a dye range, beaming and slashing processes by Danny Southern late of Burlington Denim.  All are part of putting indigo colour onto the cotton yarn

 ©The Denim Eye 2016

©The Denim Eye 2016

A modern rope dye range showing cotton ropes before being immersed in the indigo baths or boxes.

There are traditionally a number of boxes through which the indigo can pass. Circulation pumps are used with individual boxes so that the depth and concentration of the indigo can be controlled in each box or in the number of dips. The question of numbers of dips which refers to the depth of the shade is misleading.  12 dips is regarded as being the darkest but there are not in fact 12 actual dips, the extreme depth is achieved by slowing the speed of the range to allow longer dwell time in each bath.  

Today the most modern dye ranges can in fact support 12 dye boxes thereby having the ability to create the most extreme depths of indigo shade.

 ©The Denim Eye 2016

©The Denim Eye 2016

The rope dye range with coiled ropes after being immersed in the indigo dye baths,

 ©The Denim Eye 2016

©The Denim Eye 2016

Decorated commercial yarn transportation in Pakistan.  

Traditional transport in Pakistan which still exists today. Mostly however such transport has been replaced by the Tuk Tuk which is a motor scooter with an integral carriage.

Behind the Scenes: COTTON YARN FOR DENIM

Originally denim jeans were made from 100% cotton and in spite of jeans now containing other fibres the main component is still cotton.

After the cotton processes, the cotton is then spun on an open end or a ring frame.  The latter creating a superior quality yarn.

These little drawings give a birds eye view of the spinning and warping processes which are magnified in the photographs.

The above drawing depicts an open end spinning frame whilst the photograph shows a modern ring spinning frame capable of producing thousand of spindles per day.  A small denim plant can manufacture around 20 million yards of denim per annum and a big plant up to 120 million. Therefore such mass cotton spinning is very much required for today's mass manufacturing requirement.

Over the coming weeks we will share some of the old denim making processes which were much more of a craft than those of today.

Workers in Pakistan going home after a day in the factories.  A colourful local scene in Lahore.

Cotton and denim is delivered in heavily decorated trucks in Pakistan. Each driver takes great pride in his truck paying artisans to personalise the truck under his watchful eye.

BEHIND THE SCENES: Making denim fabric.

From delivering the cotton bales to dispatching the finished denim fabric.

This charming drawing by Danny Southern late of Burlington Denim in North Carolina depicts the whole process of making the denim fabric.  Although the equipment has been modernised and some added the processes remain the same today as they were in the late 1800's.  Over the coming weeks we will take you though the journey of Indigo denim from cotton through original indigo dyeing to the finish jean.

 ©TheDenimEye2016

©TheDenimEye2016

Cotton fields ripe for picking 

 ©TheDenimEye2016

©TheDenimEye2016

Raw cotton bales are stored outside during the dry months in Pakistan.  Which is one of the biggest manufacturing hubs for the supply of denim and jeans to the USA and Europe.

The following charming images depict the flow of the cotton from the opening process through to drawing.

Local construction workers working on site at a Pakistan denim factory.