To Salvage the Selvedge or Not

We Carry
by Sara Snuggerud in Sewing Tips


The weaving process begins by stringing long threads next to each other on a loom. These are the lengthwise threads or “grain” of the fabric. If you can imagine unrolling a bolt of fabric twenty yards long, each of those threads is twenty yards long. Then one very long thread is passed back and forth across, over and under each long lengthwise thread, alternating the under and over pass for each row. This is the crosswise thread or grain.


Since it is all one long thread, the crosswise thread doubles back, weaves the next row, and a finished edge is made that does not unravel. This is called the selvedge edge. Unfold the fabric from the bold and you will see there are two selvedge or finished edges. If you were to carefully pull a crosswise thread out of the weave, you would see how at the edge of the fabric it turns and unravels the next row. It is one VERY LONG continuous thread that makes that twenty yard bolt.

Today the selvedge edge is usually discarded in the sewing process as it looks different than the rest of the fabric. The weave of the selvedge is different and much tighter than the rest of the fabric and it will often pucker after washing. For best results be sure that no part of the selvedge is used in any garment or quilt.

It is, however, useful in that information is often printed on the selvedge edge which sometimes includes manufacture, designer, copyright, copyright date and those famous color dots. If needed, use the selvedge edge to write with a fabric marker any additional information such as where and when the fabric was purchased. This can save you time if in the near future you should need more fabric.

The color dots along the selvedge edge are the manufactures registration marks used to check that the fabric is properly printed and the pattern is not skewed. Use the individual color dots to help find coordinating fabrics and accent decorations.


To rotary cut perfectly straight strips from selvedge to selvedge, fold the fabric in half and align the selvedge edges. Smooth the fabric making sure that the fold runs along the lengthwise grain of the fabric. Use the markings on a ruler (not the rotary cutting mat), measure a true perpendicular edge from the folded edge, not the selvage edge. After cutting the strips, remove the selvedge edge.

A few selvedge edges can be saved and used for reinforcing, such as shoulder seams of knit fabrics that tend to stretch out of shape. Substitute a selvedge edge for patterns that call for twill tape as long as it does not show. But for the most part cut off the selvedge edges and THROW THEM AWAY…(or not)!


Want to REALLY save everything to turn into a fabulous string quilt? Check out this stringy delight by Donita Baritz!


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