What to expect - Selvage Denim Fabrics
White Oak selvage denim is woven on true vintage looms, using technology that is more than sixty years old. The slow production rate and lack of modern microprocessor controls, as well as the woven selvage, gives the fabric woven on these looms a unique character that cannot be duplicated on a modern weaving machine. These same factors bring some inherent variables to the fabric that are as much a part of the denim as the woven selvage.
Based on the variety of and customer expectations for the fabric designs made on these looms, many styles are run using reduced dye set lengths. The old weaving technology combined with the lack of modern tension and microprocessor controls can result in significant variation in the amount of first quality yardage produced from each dye run. Due to this variability, customers would be expected to purchase all first quality fabric on custom styles and/or custom ID selvage runs; shortages are not made up.
The average width of vintage fabric is less than half that of denims woven on modern looms. These vintage machines are becoming increasingly difficult to find. Because of the limited number of looms, and the fact that you are dyeing the equivalent of twice the linear yards of fabric per dye run, we have to utilize shorter dye runs to maintain flexibility. The shorter runs mean that the percentage of warp yarn that is part of a start up is higher than it is for wide looms. Start up yardage tends to be a bit more variable, and therefore leads to a wider shade range for the production.
The shade is also influenced by the lower warp tension and the inability to set these vintage machines with the same precision as a modern loom. This causes more variability in the “warp cover” of the fabric, which makes the fabric appear lighter or darker as the cover varies.
The woven selvage also provides a challenge when shade sorting the fabric for shipment. Width variation above the minimum width does not create a problem in garment construction when fabric is woven on a wide loom. The spread is lined up using one selvage, with the opposite side showing any variation in fabric width. Patterns based on the minimum fabric width allow for proper cutting of garment panels, and excess width over minimum becomes scrap. With vintage fabric, the woven selvages are incorporated into the construction of the garment. It is necessary to first group fabric by width to facilitate spreading, and then sort the width groups by shade. This requirement can give us small groups within a single shipment. As most shipments of vintage fabric are small, the groups themselves may also be quite small. These fabrics reflect production from a time when leg twist in twill weaves could not be controlled. Even with modern finishing equipment, the narrow width of White Oak fabrics does not allow us the same degree of control that can be achieved with modern wide fabrics. Some degree of leg twist is normal with these fabrics, and is indicative of the true vintage nature of these products.
White Oak vintage fabrics have their own unique grading requirements. Even taking into account the variability of vintage woven fabric, the fall out that is absorbed by Cone Denim is much higher than would be acceptable in production from modern weaving machines. Because of this high level of off quality, the minimum roll length on selvage farbic is 20 yards. This variability is part of the unique character of vintage woven fabrics.
The fabric is inspected grading only major (4 point) defects, and allows 28 points per hundred square yards based on this majors only grading. Any seam(s) within a roll where the fabric has been stitched together to create a larger roll size will not be counted as a major (4 point) defect. In addition, some “defects” are intentionally left in the product to enhance the vintage appearance of the fabric and the garments produced from it. The special nature of this fabric and the grading method used should be considered when establishing the expectations for garments produced from White Oak vintage denims.