What Is Selvage in Sewing

In the world of sewing and fabric arts, the term “selvage” (sometimes spelled “selvedge”) refers to a crucial and often overlooked aspect of a fabric’s edge. The selvage plays a significant role in the construction and quality of your sewing projects. In this article, we’ll explore what selvage is, why it matters, and how to make the most of it in your sewing endeavors.

1. Understanding Selvage


Here are some key characteristics of selvage:

a. Tight Weave:

Selvage edges are often tightly woven or have a different weave pattern compared to the fabric’s main body. This tight weaving helps prevent fraying and ensures the fabric remains stable during the manufacturing and cutting processes.

b. Often Colored or Branded:

Many fabrics have colored or branded selvage edges. This can include the fabric’s brand name, designer, collection, or even care instructions. These markings can be useful for identifying the fabric, especially when you have multiple fabrics in your stash.

c. Less Stretch:

Selvage edges typically have less stretch compared to the main body of the fabric. This reduced stretch can be advantageous when you want stability in certain parts of your sewing project, such as hems or button bands.

3. Why Selvage Matters

Understanding the importance of selvage in sewing is crucial for several reasons:

a. Grainline Reference:

The selvage edge often aligns with the fabric’s grainline. This is valuable when you need to ensure that your pattern pieces are cut on the straight grain or bias. Cutting along the selvage can help you maintain the fabric’s stability and drape.

b. Minimal Fraying:

Selvage edges are designed to resist fraying, which means they won’t unravel as easily as the cut edges of the fabric. This quality can be especially useful in garments and projects where the fabric’s raw edges are exposed.

c. Design Considerations:

In some cases, the selvage edge is an integral part of the fabric’s design. It may feature a decorative pattern or texture that you can incorporate into your sewing project for added flair.

d. Environmental Benefits:

Using the selvage can be an environmentally friendly choice, as it reduces waste. Instead of trimming and discarding the selvage, you can incorporate it into your project, thereby maximizing the fabric’s utility.

4. How to Utilize Selvage

Now that you understand the significance of selvage in sewing, here are some ways you can make the most of it:

a. Grainline Alignment:

When cutting fabric for your project, align the selvage edge with your pattern’s grainline markings to ensure your pieces are cut on the straight grain.

b. Stabilizing Hems:

Use the selvage as a stable edge for hems, especially in lightweight or delicate fabrics where fraying might be a concern. This can save you the extra step of folding and hemming the fabric edge.

c. Decorative Elements:

Incorporate the selvage into your design by using it as a decorative trim, binding, or even as an accent on pockets or cuffs. The unique texture or patterns on the selvage can add visual interest to your project.

d. Information Reference:

Pay attention to any information printed on the selvage, such as fabric content or care instructions. This can be helpful when caring for your finished project and ensuring it lasts for a long time.

e. Selvage Quilting:

Quilters often use selvage edges to create unique designs and patterns in quilts. These selvage quilts showcase the variety of selvage markings and can be a creative way to recycle fabric scraps.

Selvage Types

TypeDescriptionCharacteristicsCommon UsesFabric Examples
RegularStandard selvage edgeOften tightly wovenSeams, hemsCotton, linen
FringedFeatures a fringed edgeAdds decorativeScarves, shawlsWool, silk
Raw EdgeUnfinished, rough edgeEdgy, rustic lookArt projectsDenim, canvas
Bound EdgeSelvage wrapped in bindingNeat, reinforcedQuilts, blanketsUpholstery fabrics
Colored EdgeDyed or printed selvageAdds a pop of colorFashion detailsPrinted cotton

Selvage Widths

WidthDescriptionTypical Measurements
StandardRegular selvage width1/4 inch (6.35 mm)
NarrowSlimmer selvage for delicate fabrics1/8 inch (3.175 mm)
WideWider selvage for stability1/2 inch (12.7 mm)
CustomVaried widths for unique projectsVaries
Double SelvageTwo parallel selvages for added strengthVaries

Selvage Characteristics

CharacteristicDescriptionImportance in Sewing
Warp ThreadsLengthwise threads in selvageReinforce edges
Weft ThreadsCrosswise threads in selvagePrevent fraying
Clean FinishSmooth, fray-resistant selvageNeat seams
Grainline MarkerSelvage often marks fabric’s grainlineEnsures fabric’s orientation
Salvage QualityQuality varies based on fabric typeAffects durability

Selvage Considerations

ConsiderationDescriptionFactors to Assess
Fabric QualitySelvage quality mirrors fabric qualityCheck for flaws or damage
Selvage RemovalSometimes selvage needs removalDetermine if necessary
Selvage DirectionImportance of selvage in patternFollow pattern instructions
Selvage UsageUtilizing selvage creativelyExplore decorative uses
Selvage ColorCoordinating selvage with projectMatch or contrast as needed

Selvage Care

Care TipDescriptionBenefits
Gentle HandlingAvoid rough handling of selvage edgesPrevents fraying
Minimal CuttingPreserve selvage when cutting fabricMaintains fabric stability
Secure StitchingUse secure stitches near selvage edgesPrevents unraveling
Press, Don’t IronPressing with care, not ironing, near selvageMaintains edge integrity
Avoid OverhandlingMinimize excessive manipulation of selvageReduces wear and tear


5. Conclusion

In sewing, selvage is not just an afterthought; it’s a valuable resource that can enhance the quality and aesthetics of your creations. Understanding the characteristics and uses of selvage can elevate your sewing skills and help you achieve more professional-looking results in your projects. So, next time you unroll a bolt of fabric, take a moment to appreciate the selvage—it’s more than just the edge; it’s a vital part of your sewing toolkit that can add both functionality and beauty to your work.


What Is Selvage in Sewing

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