As a matter of course, sewers would often cut off the fabric selvage edges. An explanation for doing so is the selvage edge of a section of fabric is the factory loomed finished edge and frequently tightly woven and so not the same weight or drape as the rest of the fabric. The tightly finished edges eventually serve to keep the fabric edges on the bolt from unraveling or fraying.
The selvage is useful for judging the straight grain of the fabric (always parallel to the selvage) that is important for pattern placement which insures a garment will not twist awkwardly around the body. Selvage edges also help to determine the bias grain which is at a 45 degree angle from the selvage.
Selvages once only applied to loom woven fabric as they are the edges that run parallel to the warp threads - the long threads that run the entire length of a factory run of fabric, and are created by the cross-wise weft thread looping back under and over a few warp threads at the end of each row. It is this looping back that causes the edges to be denser than the interior of the fabric and have little to no stretch.
Selvages will usually have the manufacturer’s name stamped at intervals, sometimes the fabric designer’s name or memorable name designation of the fabric, and at times color dots that show what colors were used for the warp threads. This information is helpful when choosing coordinating fabric colors and when looking to purchase the identical fabric once again. Weft threads are usually white in color hence the white border factory edges on most flat woven fabrics. Knits too have selvage edges but usually are not as prominent as the knitted threads may be of the same or similar colors.
Frugal minded contemporary sewers, thinking outside the box, now use those formerly cut off selvages to fashion useful decorative elements in garments and home décor, such as pleating or ruffling, creating quilt blocks, entire wearables such as skirts, accessories like totes or purses, and any manner of unique scrap fabric projects.
Knowing that there are so many sewing projects that can utilize those once discarded fabric edges allows for elevated importance to the humble fabric selvage.
Sewing with Selvages can be found on Pinterest, a popular digital photo sharing website.
Sew happy, sew inspired.