Fabric Selvage or Selvedge? What is It and Why Does It Matter?

The fabric selvage is important and helpful when selecting fabrics and cutting them for sewing projects. Here’s why.

In the world of sewing, there’s a ton of unfamiliar sewing terminology you’ve probably never heard of. To name a few, we have words like bias, grainline, selvage, and a hundred other brand new vocabulary to learn.

Let’s start off by asking this question: What exactly is a fabric’s selvage?

In simple terms, a fabric selvage, also called fabric’s warp, or spelled selvedge in the UK, is the tightly woven edge that runs along each side of the fabric.

A fabric’s selvage is considered to be a part of a woven fabric’s anatomy, commonly found at both edges of the fabric. It’s sturdier than the rest of the material because it’s densely woven, which means it may be a little more difficult to sew through.

The Importance of Fabric Selvage: Why Does It Matter?

A selvage’s main purpose is to prevent unraveling or fraying, which makes a fabric stable and secure.

Some fabrics come with frayed edges for aesthetic purposes. A selvage’s self-finished edge makes sure that this fraying won’t come undone and affect or damage the rest of your fabric.

It’s important to understand how to identify a fabric’s selvage edge, as it greatly helps with your stitching.

Tips on Identifying a Selvage Edge

Selvage comes in a variety of widths, depending on what they’re made from and what type of fabric it is.

When purchasing a length of fabric, you’re almost always going to receive a selvage edge on either side. This dictates the length of the fabric bought, measured in meters or yards.

The easiest way to find a selvage edge is to try to unravel the thread at the end of the fabric. If the thread doesn’t come apart, you’ve found its selvage edge.

Some selvages come with a large white border with printed text. These types of selvages are easy to locate as they stand out from the rest of the fabric. They generally include the following information written on the material:

  • Fabric’s manufacturer
  • Colorway 
  • Product number
  • Artist or designer name
  • Copyright information
  • Arrows that help you identify a fabric’s grain and pattern 

You may also see a series of colored dots, each representing the singular screen used in the printing process on the fabric itself. Each color dot represents one singular screen used to print the item.

For lighter fabrics, selvages may come with little dots sitting along the edge of the fabric.

Sewing with Selvages: Reasons to Keep a Fabric’s Selvage Edge

A selvage’s edge is normally tough and difficult to sew through, which is why they’re oftentimes deemed unusable and discarded.

What some don’t realize is that these selvages may come quite handy in sewing projects!

Here are our top two reasons why you should keep your fabric’s selvage edge.

Helps Identify A Fabric’s Direction

The information written will help identify a fabric’s quality, colorway, and most importantly a fabric’s grain. A fabric’s grain refers to the yarn’s direction in a woven fabric.

Identifying a fabric’s grainline is important because it helps you sew towards the correct direction, noting that lengthwise yarns of fabric are stronger than the crosswise yarns.

Grain identifies a fabric’s stretch, which helps in fitting more accurately to the shape of one’s body. This avoids the eventual stretch and sap of the material, normally in places like armpits and the hem.

It also prevents the distortion of a garment.

Perfect for DIY Projects

Salvage edges are also great for other DIY projects, especially String Piecing.

There are multiple unique projects that utilize a fabric’s selvage. Some tailors use them to make entire quilts and other items like tote bags and zipper pouches.

If you’re interested in doing the same, you’ll want to cut about 1-2″ from the edge of the selvage, making sure you include part of the fabric it comes with. After gathering enough prints, you can turn them into a selvage-centric project like listed above.

There’s a ton of creative ways to use these unique strips of fabrics while sewing. It’s all up to you and your imagination, but the end result will certainly be rewarding.

Conclusion

Oftentimes, when purchasing a width of fabric, you’ll find that it comes with a selvage edge.

Fabric selvage has a number of uses. They vary in width, style, and design, and are bound more tightly than the rest of the fabric. This quality prevents fraying and allows for a longer fabric life. 

No matter how you utilize it, a selvage edge is certainly one of the more important aspects of a piece of fabric.

Don’t forget to pin this information for later, and check out some more helpful sewing tips and techniques listed below.

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