If you have even a passing interest in raw denim, you’ve probably heard the phrase Selvedge more than a few times. No, it doesn’t make reference to someone who vends lettuce, selvedge means 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 people spellings (selvage, self-edge, salvage) but it all equates to the same thing-the self-binding edge of a fabric woven over a shuttle loom. That definition may appear somewhat jargony, but trust me, all will quickly make sense. It’s also worth noting that selvedge denim will not be the same as raw denim. Selvedge describes just how the fabric has been woven, whereas raw means the wash (or lack thereof) on the fabric itself.
How is Selvedge Denim Made? In order to understand how manufacturers make heavyweight selvedge denim, we first have to understand a bit about textile manufacturing in general. Almost all woven fabrics are comprised of two parts with two parts: warp yarns (those that run down and up) and weft yarns (those which run side to side).
To weave a fabric, the loom holds the warp yarns set up as the weft yarn passes between them. The real difference between selvedge and non-selvedge fabrics is actually all a point of the way the weft yarn is placed into the fabric. Until the 1950s, just about all denim was produced on Shuttle Looms. A shuttle loom is a weaving textile loom which utilizes a small device called a shuttle to fill in the weft yarns by passing back and forth between each side in the loom. This leaves one continuous yarn at all the edges and so the fabric self seals without the stray yarns.
Most shuttle looms produce a textile that is about 36 inches across. This dimension is just about ideal for placing those selvedge denim manufacturer seams in the outside edges of a pattern for a couple of jeans. This placement isn’t just aesthetically pleasing, 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 at the outseam.
The need for 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 each minute on the textile that’s twice as wide, thus producing nearly 15 times more fabric in once span.
The projectile loom achieves its speed by firing individual (and unconnected) weft yarns across the warp. This can be a far more efficient method to weave fabric, what’s lost though is the fact that cleanly sealed edge. Non-selvedge denim produced by projectile looms has an open and frayed edge denim, because each of the individual weft yarns are disconnected on sides. To help make jeans from this kind of denim, all the edges have to be Overlock Stitched to help keep the fabric from coming unraveled.
The reason why it Popular Today?
Selvedge denim has seen a newly released resurgence alongside vintage workwear styles from your 40s and 50s. Japanese brands enthusiastic about recreating the perfect jeans from that era went so far regarding reweave selvedge denim in new and interesting ways. Since selvedge denim is back on the market, the small detail on the upturned cuff quickly became one of many “things to have”.
The selvedge craze has grown to be 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 most of denim made today is open end and non-selvedge. There are only xgfjbh number of mills left in the world that also take the time and effort to generate selvedge denim.
The renowned is Cone Mills which has produced denim from their White Oak Plant in Greensboro, North Carolina, because the early 1900s. They’re even the last selvedge denim wholesale manufacturer left in the usa. Other noteworthy mills include Kuroki, Nihon Menpu, Collect, Kaihara, Kurabo, Nisshinbo, and Toyoshima, all of these are in Japan, Candiani and Blue Selvedge in Italy. Almost all 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 produce it too. So it might be difficult to determine the way to obtain your fabric from many of the larger brands and retailers.