Thurston defined invariant laminations, i.e. collections of chords of the unit circle S (called leaves) that are pairwise disjoint inside the open unit disk and satisfy a few dynamical properties. To be directly associated to a polynomial, a lamination has to be generated by an equivalence relation with specific properties on S; then it is called a q-lamination. Since not all laminations are q-laminations, then from the point of view of studying polynomials the most interesting are those which are limits of q-laminations. In this paper we introduce an alternative definition of an invariant lamination, which involves only conditions on the leaves (and avoids gap invariance). The new class of laminations is slightly smaller than that defined by Thurston and is closed. We use this notion to elucidate the connection between invariant laminations and invariant equivalence relations on S. © 2013 American Mathematical Society.