What is Selvage in Sewing

Sewing is a great way to explore your creativity by making garments and creations that are uniquely yours. Sewing continues to be a trendy hobby because of the incredible versatility and creative challenges it provides to sewers. If you wish to boost your sewing skills, it will be beneficial for you to know what selvage is and why it is essential in sewing. In addition, knowing where your fabric’s selvage edges are will make a big difference in your end product.

What is Selvage in Sewing?

On the sides of a fabric’s width, you will notice an edge that is woven tightly. That is selvage. Since the selvage of the fabric doesn’t offer the movement or stretchability that the rest of the cloth provides, it is tricky to use it in garments or quilts. Therefore, you must cut the selvage off before you cut the remaining fabric.

By removing the selvage edge of your fabric, you will have a uniformly textured result that looks neater and more intricate. Another option to remove your selvage is to square the selvage up before you cut the rest of the cloth.

How Can I Find the Selvage on My Fabric?

If you look at the edges of your fabric, you will notice the selvage at both ends of your fabric. Selvage is found alongside the lengthwise grain of the fabric, also known as the fabric’s warp. The function of the selvage is to prevent your material from fraying or unraveling at the sides.

In order to achieve this, the selvage is woven pretty densely, so it is much sturdier than the rest of your fabric. Unfortunately, this makes it more challenging to sew and incorporate into your projects. So it is best to never use the selvage of your material in any sewing project. Also, not all fabric selvage edges are the same; they vary significantly in width. Although selvage edges aren’t all the same, there are some ways to spot them with ease, including:

  • Look for the part of the fabric that appears to be more tightly woven and thicker. Experienced quilters can feel the selvage edge simply by running their fingers over the fabric.
  • Sometimes the selvage edge will be a different color and you’ll see a wide strip of odd color on your fabric. This makes it very easy to see how far the selvage edge stretches. Be sure to remove the entire strip of the selvage edge.
  • It is common to see tiny dots close to the selvage edge. The function of these dots is to show colors that can match the colors of the fabric. If you notice the small dots, you will see the selvage edge not far from it. Look for the thick and more densely woven strip close to these tiny dots.
  • It isn’t uncommon for the selvage edge to have the manufacturer’s name printed on it. In fact, the design and designer’s name can also appear on the selvage edge. If you spot the names and prints, you can examine the fabric to see where the edge of the selvage runs.

Can I Include Selvage Edges in My Quilts?

Using any selvage edges in your quilt work is not a good idea since it will add an unusual thickness to the quilt. The extra thickness will add problems with the sewing; it will also affect the appearance of your work because of the selvage changes. However, suppose you run out of fabric when your quilt is nearly finished. Can you possibly add some of the selvage edges to finish your quilt? Of course, it is best to avoid using the selvage edges, but if you can’t avoid it, try to stay inside the seam allowance while using only what you must of the selvage. If you do this, people might not even notice that you have used some of the selvage edges in your quilt.

What if My Quilt Pattern Doesn’t Mention the Selvage Edges?

It is common for patterns to state that you shouldn’t use selvages in your quilt. However, if your quilt doesn’t mention anything about the selvage edges, it is best to assume that you aren’t meant to use it in your quilt. Assemble your quilt using a rotary cutter to cut strips from one selvage edge to the other across your fabric’s grain that runs crosswise.

 woman sews the fabric on the sewing machine

Is There Anything I Can Do With My Fabric’s Selvage Edges?

Yes, saving your selvage edges can be a great advantage. Therefore, you shouldn’t throw them out. Instead, you can use your selvage edges’ thick and tough texture for purposes other than quilt work. In fact, you can improve your DIY skills a great deal by hanging onto your selvage edges. Here are a few ideas of what you can do with those harsh edges:

  • Use them to create handles for tote bags. Since they are made to be pretty tough, they make great handles.
  • Make zipper pouches from them. Again, their tough makeup makes them ideal for this project.
  • A new trend known as selvage-centric projects involves collecting several edges and using them to create a very creative quilt.
  • You can use them for string piecing.

What is String Piecing?

String piecing involves the process of fabric strips being sewn together. It is also known as improvisational piecing because the sewer takes the initiative to design all the fabric strips that will be sewn together. The wonderful thing about string piecing is that you can use many strips of fabric, making the combinations of color limitless.

In addition, you don’t have to match each strip’s width, which makes it the perfect solution for using your scraps and selvage edges while embracing your creativity and practicing your sewing skills.


Sewing is a phenomenal skill to have since it isn’t only practical but rather creates an outlet for your creativity and imagination. You can make the most beautiful projects that will give you unbelievable results by spotting your selvage edges and using them for projects other than making a traditional quilt.