In case you have even a passing interest in raw denim, you’ve probably heard the word Selvedge more than a few times. No, it doesn’t refer to someone who vends lettuce, selvedge refers to the way a textile has been woven. You can spot selvedge denim by the tell-tale colored lines that often run along the outseam of a pair of jeans, but what exactly does that mean?
Selvedge goes by many spellings (selvage, self-edge, salvage) but it all equates to the same thing-the self-binding side of a fabric woven on the shuttle loom. That definition may sound a little jargony, but trust me, all will soon make sense. It’s also worth noting that selvedge denim is not really the same as raw denim. Selvedge identifies the way the fabric has become woven, whereas raw means the wash (or lack thereof) on the fabric itself.
How is Selvedge Denim Made? To be able to know how manufacturers make selvedge denim, we first have to understand a bit about textile manufacturing generally. Just about all woven fabrics are comprised of two parts with two parts: warp yarns (those that run all around) and weft yarns (the ones that run sideways).
To weave a fabric, the loom supports the warp yarns in place whilst the weft yarn passes between the two. The main difference between selvedge and non-selvedge fabrics is all a point of just how the weft yarn is placed to the fabric. Up until the 1950s, virtually all denim was produced on Shuttle Looms. A shuttle loom is actually a weaving textile loom which uses a small device referred to as a shuttle to fill out the weft yarns by passing forward and backward between either side from the loom. This leaves one continuous yarn at all the edges and so the fabric self seals without the stray yarns.
Most shuttle looms create a textile which is about 36 inches across. This dimension is nearly ideal for placing those raw selvedge denim seams on the outside edges of the pattern for a pair of jeans. This placement isn’t just attractive, but practical in addition to it saves whoever’s sewing the jeans a couple extra passes on the overlock machine and ensures the jeans will not fray in the outseam.
The interest in more denim after WWII, however, soon forced mills to adopt mass-production technology. A shuttle loom can place about 150 weft yarns per minute over a 36 inch wide textile. A Projectile Loom, however, can place over 1000 weft yarns each minute on a textile that’s twice as wide, thus producing nearly 15 times more fabric in the same time span.
The projectile loom achieves its speed by firing individual (and unconnected) weft yarns across the warp. This can be a much more efficient way to weave fabric, what’s lost though is that cleanly sealed edge. Non-selvedge denim produced by projectile looms posseses an open and frayed edge denim, because all of the individual weft yarns are disconnected for both sides. To help make jeans from this type of denim, all of the edges need to be Overlock Stitched to maintain the fabric from coming unraveled.
Exactly why is it Popular Today?
Selvedge denim has seen a recently available resurgence alongside vintage workwear styles through the 40s and 50s. Japanese brands obsessed with recreating an ideal jeans from that era went up to now as to reweave selvedge denim in new and interesting ways. Since selvedge denim has returned on the market, the small detail on the upturned cuff quickly became one of many “things to have”.
The selvedge craze is becoming very popular that some manufacturers have even resorted to knocking off the selvedge look and producing fake selvedge appliques to mimic the coloured lines on the outseam.
The overwhelming greater part of denim made today is open end and non-selvedge. You will find only xgfjbh number of mills left on earth that also take some time and energy to generate selvedge denim.
The renowned is Cone Mills that has produced denim out of their White Oak Plant in Greensboro, North Carolina, since the early 1900s. They’re even the last japanese denim manufacturer left in the usa. Other noteworthy mills include Kuroki, Nihon Menpu, Collect, Kaihara, Kurabo, Nisshinbo, and Toyoshima, which will be in Japan, Candiani and Blue Selvedge in Italy. Many of the artisanal denim brands will specify which mill their denim is originating from, so try to find the names mentioned above. The improved demand for selvedge, however, has prompted many mills in China, India, Turkey, and elsewhere to create it too. So it may be difficult to determine the supply of your fabric from most of the larger brands and retailers.