In case you have even a passing fascination with raw denim, you’ve probably heard the phrase Selvedge more than a few times. No, it doesn’t make reference to somebody 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 precisely does that mean?
Selvedge goes by a lot of spellings (selvage, self-edge, salvage) but it all equates to the same-the self-binding fringe of a fabric woven on the shuttle loom. That definition may seem somewhat jargony, but believe me, all will seem sensible. It’s also worth noting that selvedge denim is not the same as raw denim. Selvedge identifies how the fabric has been woven, whereas raw refers back to the wash (or lack thereof) on the fabric itself.
How is Selvedge Denim Made? To be able to understand how manufacturers make selvedge denim, we first must understand a little bit about textile manufacturing in general. Virtually all woven fabrics are comprised of two parts with two parts: warp yarns (those which run up and down) and weft yarns (those that run sideways).
To weave a fabric, the loom supports the warp yarns in position while the weft yarn passes between the two. The real difference between selvedge and non-selvedge fabrics is all dependent on how the weft yarn is put to the fabric. Until the 1950s, virtually all denim was produced on Shuttle Looms. A shuttle loom is really a weaving textile loom which utilizes a tiny device known as a shuttle to complete the weft yarns by passing back and forth between either side of the loom. This leaves one continuous yarn whatsoever the sides so the fabric self seals with no stray yarns.
Most shuttle looms create a textile which is about 36 inches across. This size is nearly ideal for placing those selvedge denim manufacturer seams on the outside edges of the pattern for a pair of jeans. This placement isn’t just great looking, but practical along with it saves whoever’s sewing the jeans a couple extra passes on the overlock machine and ensures the jeans will not fray on 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 each minute on the 36 inch wide textile. A Projectile Loom, however, can place over 1000 weft yarns a minute on the 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. It is a far more efficient method to weave fabric, what’s lost though is that cleanly sealed edge. Non-selvedge denim created 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 have to be Overlock Stitched to keep the fabric from coming unraveled.
Exactly why is it Popular Today?
Selvedge denim has seen a recent resurgence alongside vintage workwear styles through the 40s and 50s. Japanese brands obsessive about recreating an ideal jeans from that era went to date as to reweave selvedge denim in new and interesting ways. Given that selvedge denim has returned on the market, the tiny detail on the upturned cuff quickly became among the “things to have”.
The selvedge craze has become quite popular that some manufacturers have even resorted to knocking off the selvedge look and producing fake selvedge appliques to mimic the colored lines on the outseam.
The overwhelming greater part of denim made today is open end and non-selvedge. There are only xgfjbh handful of mills left on the planet that also take the time and effort to create selvedge denim.
The renowned is Cone Mills that has produced denim out of their White Oak Plant in Greensboro, North Carolina, considering that the early 1900s. They’re also the last selvedge manufacturer left in america. Other noteworthy mills include Kuroki, Nihon Menpu, Collect, Kaihara, Kurabo, Nisshinbo, and Toyoshima, all of which are in Japan, Candiani and Blue Selvedge in Italy. Many of the artisanal denim brands will specify which mill their denim is coming from, so look for the names listed above. The improved need for selvedge, however, has prompted many mills in China, India, Turkey, and elsewhere to generate it as well. So it might be difficult to ascertain the supply of your fabric from many of the larger brands and retailers.