Understanding Selvage in Sewing: Creation, Uses, and Tips for Your Projects

Ever wondered what that tightly woven edge on your fabric is? That’s the selvage, a term you’ll quickly become familiar with in your sewing journey. It’s not just a pretty border, it plays a critical role in the world of sewing.

The selvage is your fabric’s built-in stabilizer. It’s created during the weaving process and is designed to prevent fraying or unraveling. Understanding its function and how to use it can make a big difference in your sewing projects.

What is a Selvage?

As we delve deeper into the world of sewing, it’s vital to understand every aspect of your fabric. The selvage, or selvedge, is an intricate part that’s got your back, or rather your fabric’s edge, throughout your sewing journey.

The selvage is the tightly woven, self-finished edge of a section of fabric that’s produced during the weaving process. It’s the superstar that doesn’t crave for screen-time but deserves it. Running along both lengths of the fabric, it’s specially crafted to cease fraying or unraveling.

So, how can you identify this unsung hero on your fabric? Typically, the selvage is visually discernible from the rest of the fabric, often presenting different colors, patterns, or even manufacturer information. Remember, the selvage is your built-in fabric stabilizer.

It’s also interesting to note that the tight weave of the selvage often causes it to shrink at a different rate than the rest of the fabric. This unique characteristic can be both a boon and a bane for your sewing project, depending on how you wield this power.

As for its dimensions, the width of the selvage varies with every fabric – some selvages are wider than others. On average, you can expect a selvage width of about 0.5 to 1 inch. For those of you measuring in metric, that’s approximately 1.27 to 2.54 centimeters.

However, not all selvages are created equal. Pay close attention to the feel of your selvage. If it’s a lot tighter or stiffer than the rest of your fabric, it might not play nice when incorporated into your final sewing piece.

Exploring the world of selvages in sewing opens up a range of creative possibilities for both novice and seasoned sewers. For those interested in incorporating selvages into their projects in innovative ways, WeAllSew offers valuable tips and tricks for sewing with fabric selvages, including ideas on how to store and press them for future use. If you’re intrigued by the idea of creating new materials from your selvage scraps, Tara Reed Designs Inc provides a tutorial on making selvage fabric, demonstrating how to transform those pretty selvage edges into something uniquely beautiful. Additionally, for those looking for project inspiration, Patchwork Posse outlines several projects you can undertake using selvages, from simple decorative elements to more complex creations, showcasing the versatile use of selvages in sewing.

How is a Selvage Created?

In the world of textiles, the creation of selvage is an integral part of the weaving process. But, how does it happen exactly?

It all starts with the loom, the tool responsible for fabric production. During fabrication, two sets of threads are used: the warp (vertical), and the weft (horizontal). The weft threads are woven back and forth through the warp threads. At each turn of the weft threads, a selvage is formed.

You might wonder, why are selvages tighter and denser than the rest of the fabric? To answer that, let’s delve a little deeper into the weaving process. As the weft threads turn to go back across the warp, they pull the warp threads tighter at the edges. This loop, known as the turning loop, increases the density of the weave there, resulting in a selvage that’s distinctly different from the main fabric.

However, understand that not all looms create selvages. On shuttle looms, selvage is naturally produced during the weaving process. On the other hand, projectile and rapier looms do not have the ability to create self-finished edges. For fabrics woven on these looms, selvages need to be manually created through processes like cutting and serging.

Furthermore, the width of a selvage varies from fabric to fabric. But, on average, it measures about 0.5 to 1 inch wide. Variations in selvage widths are usually due to the differences in the type of material, the tension in the loom, and how the fabric is finished after weaving.

Lastly, remember that the type of loom, the material, and even the finish of the fabric greatly impact the quality, texture, and usability of the selvage.

The dizzying array of colors, patterns, and manufacturer’s data often found on selvages? That’s just the icing on the cake, providing you with additional, valuable information about the fabric you’re handling.

The Function of the Selvage

Understanding the function of the selvage is critical in optimizing one’s sewing or crafting venture. The selvage plays a significant part in maintaining the integrity of the fabric during handling, cutting, sewing, and washing. It’s your fabric’s built-in guardian against fraying or unraveling. Not only does it add strength, but it also offers stability that prevents distortion.

Thanks to this part of the fabric, you can handle your material with confidence and without the worry of it disintegrating during the process. Whether you’re washing pre-cut fabric or maneuvering large panels for a sewing project, the selvage got you covered.

Another essential function of the selvage lies in the realm of information. Often, the selvage of a fabric carries valuable data such as the manufacturer’s name, color codes, or patterns. This data can aid you in project planning and ensuring you’re using the material appropriately. Similarly, identifying the selvage helps orient the fabric correctly when aligning or cutting patterns, crucial for creating items with a consistent look and feel.

Here’s an interesting fact. The selvage possesses a different shrinkage rate than the rest of the fabric due to its tighter weave. You may think this is a disadvantage, but it’s not. This difference can be leveraged to test how much your fabric as a whole will shrink when washed. Simply measure, wash, dry, and remeasure. It’s an easy way to predict and plan for fabric shrinkage.

Finally, note that selvage isn’t always viable in the end product. Its relative stiffness compared to the rest of the fabric may make it unsuitable for inclusion in some finished sewing pieces. In these instances, the selvage is trimmed, but not before it’s done its job of protecting your fabric during preparation and construction.

Armed with this knowledge, you’re now all set to handle selvages like a pro. Remember, understanding the selvage is instrumental in your journey towards becoming an adept seamstress or craftsman.

How to Identify the Selvage

Identifying the selvage in fabric might seem like a daunting task if you’re new to sewing. Don’t worry! There are a few simple tricks in spotting it.

It’s crucial in the sewing process to accurately identify which part of the fabric is the selvage. To start, look at the edges of your fabric. The selvage is the tightly woven strip running along both the left and right edges. You’ll see that it’s denser and feels firmer than the rest of the cloth.

Another telltale sign of the selvage is the color or pattern difference. Most selvages have a different color or pattern compared to the primary fabric area. Some selvages carry fantastic designs or color codes, giving them away instantly. Be alert! These unique patterns may be a treat to the eyes but serve essential purposes like ensuring that fabrics don’t unravel and providing manufacturer’s data.

Are you excited about some detective work on fabric? Then pay attention to manufacturer’s data present on the selvage. Fabric makers often use the selvage as a billboard to share essential information about the fabric. Company names, fabric composition, care instructions, or even a batch number are some data types you might find on the selvage.

Got a measuring tape? Good! Measure the width of the selvage. It’s usually about 0.5 to 1 inch wide. This measurement isn’t universal but it’s something to go by. But remember, the selvage width does depend on factors like material, loom tension, and finishing process — so it can always vary.

Tips for Utilizing the Selvage in Sewing Projects

Knowing what a selvage is and its characteristics is only part of the equation. How you can utilize this key feature in your sewing projects is another. Bear in mind, the selvage’s tighter weave and distinct properties contribute to the overall performance of your finished sewing piece.

First and foremost, using the selvage as a guide can be beneficial. Since it’s straight and doesn’t stretch, it makes a perfect reference line for cutting your fabric straight.

Planning your cuts is another important aspect to consider; the selvage can often be used as the starting point. Remember, the selvage is more stiff and tight because of its structure, but it can shrink differently than the rest of the fabric, which can make a difference in your sewing piece.

Consider using selvage in patchwork or applique designs. Several sewers find creative and funky uses for the selvage, especially those with bright colors, prints, or manufacturer’s information. They can add a unique element in your projects if integrated properly.

Remember, the selvage also carries information like the manufacturer’s name, color codes, or patterns, which you can use for planning future projects. Your selvage can serve as a reference for shopping or reordering the same fabric.

The selvage can also be used for structural purposes. For instance, in curtain making, the selvage edge may actually be utilized as a side hem, they are perfect as they don’t fray.

However, the selvage is not always suitable for every sewing scenario. Sometimes, the stiffness of the selvage can disrupt the drape or stretch of the fabric. Therefore it’s often important to remove the selvages for apparel sewing to avoid any potential fitting or aesthetic issues.

As with any aspect of sewing, practice and experience will help you understand when it’s best to leave the selvage intact and when it’s best to remove it. No hard and fast rule applies, providing you with creative freedom and flexibility that can ultimately lead to masterpieces.


So, you’ve journeyed through the world of selvages in sewing. You’ve learned how these tightly woven edges, born in the loom’s dance of warp and weft, serve as fabric guardians against fraying and distortion. You’ve discovered the secret language of selvages, their colors and patterns revealing essential fabric information. You’ve even gleaned how selvages, with their unique shrinkage rates and structural properties, can guide your project planning and execution. Be mindful, though, that not all selvages play nicely with every sewing project. Their stiffness might not suit the drape of your garment or the stretch of your material. So, evaluate each selvage with care, trim when needed, and let their unique characteristics enhance your sewing prowess. Armed with this knowledge, you’re ready to make the most of selvages in your future sewing endeavors.

What is a selvage in sewing?

A selvage is the tightly woven, self-finished edge of a fabric piece, produced during the weaving process. It helps prevent fraying or unraveling, serving as a stabilizer and potentially displaying colors, patterns, or manufacturer information distinct from the rest of the fabric.

How is a selvage created?

A selvage is created during the weaving process. When the weft threads turn to go back across the warp on the loom, they pull the warp threads tighter at the edges, forming a selvage. For looms that can’t naturally create selvages, they are manually formed via processes such as cutting and serging.

What is the importance of selvage in fabric?

Selvage is crucial in maintaining the integrity of fabric during handling, cutting, sewing, and washing. It adds strength and preserves the shape, and carries valuable information like the manufacturer’s name and color codes. Further, its different shrinking rate helps predict overall fabric shrinkage.

How can selvage be used in sewing projects?

Selvage can be used as a guide for cutting fabric because it doesn’t stretch. It helps in planning cuts, can be included in patchwork designs, and can be used for structural purposes, such as a side hem. Nevertheless, its stiffness often necessitates removal for apparel sewing.

When should the selvage be removed?

The decision to remove the selvage depends on the specific sewing project and the desired outcome. Since selvages may shrink differently and are typically stiffer than the rest of the fabric, they are often removed in apparel sewing as they might disrupt the drape or stretch of the fabric.