What is “selvage denim”?

Dear Sewfie,

I was in the fabric store the other day and I saw this really nice but skinny denim with colorful edges. The sign said it was “selvage denim”. What is selvage denim and what makes it so special?

– Jean Jeanie

Dear Jeanie,
Selvage Denim is a particular type of denim which is finished on both edges (i.e. selvages), traditionally edge with a contrast warp – that is the horizontal thread in the weaving process – most commonly red. As a result, this type of denim is often referred to as “Red Selvage”.

Red selvage denim

Selvage denim is created using one continuous cross yarn (i.e. weft) that is passed back and forth through the vertical warp threads, resulting in the two neatly finished edges. This process is only possible using a shuttle loom. Shuttle looms weave a narrower 30 inch fabric, thus a longer piece of fabric is required to make a pair of jeans.

A shuttle loom produces narrower 30″ selvage denim

In order to maximize yield, jeans were traditionally made with a straight outseam that utilized the full width of the fabric, including the selvages. Since the production of wider width denim, the two visible selvages seen when the cuff is turned up has come to be regarded as a mark of premium quality, as opposed to the less attractive overlocked edge.

Selvage denim – a mark of quality!
Warm Stitches,
Sewfie