For those who have even a passing interest in raw denim, you’ve probably heard the term Selvedge more than a few times. No, it doesn’t refer to somebody that 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 precisely what does that mean?
Selvedge goes by many people spellings (selvage, self-edge, salvage) but it all equates to the same thing-the self-binding side of a fabric woven over a shuttle loom. That definition may appear somewhat jargony, but believe me, all will quickly sound right. It’s also worth noting that selvedge denim is not really the same as raw denim. Selvedge refers to the way the fabric has become woven, whereas raw refers back to the wash (or lack thereof) on the fabric itself.
How is Selvedge Denim Made? In order to understand how manufacturers make Wingfly Textile, we first need to understand a little bit about textile manufacturing in general. Just about all woven fabrics are composed of two parts with two parts: warp yarns (those which run up and down) and weft yarns (those which run side to side).
To weave a fabric, the loom holds the warp yarns in position while the weft yarn passes between them. The main difference between selvedge and non-selvedge fabrics is actually all a point of the way the weft yarn is placed in to the fabric. Up to the 1950s, just about all denim was produced on Shuttle Looms. A shuttle loom is a weaving textile loom which uses a tiny device known as a shuttle to complete the weft yarns by passing back and forth between each side of the loom. This leaves one continuous yarn at all the sides and so the fabric self seals with no stray yarns.
Most shuttle looms develop a textile that is certainly about 36 inches across. This dimensions are pretty much great for placing those japanese selvedge denim seams at the outside edges of any pattern for a pair of jeans. This placement isn’t just attractive, 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 in 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 a minute on the 36 inch wide textile. A Projectile Loom, however, can place over 1000 weft yarns per minute on a textile that’s two times as wide, thus producing nearly 15 times more fabric in the same time frame span.
The projectile loom achieves its speed by firing individual (and unconnected) weft yarns across the warp. This is a far more efficient method to weave fabric, what’s lost though is the fact that cleanly sealed edge. Non-selvedge denim created by projectile looms posseses an open and frayed edge denim, because each of the individual weft yarns are disconnected on sides. To make jeans from this type of denim, each of the edges have to be Overlock Stitched to maintain the fabric from coming unraveled.
Why is it Popular Today?
Selvedge denim has seen a recent resurgence alongside vintage workwear styles from the 40s and 50s. Japanese brands enthusiastic about recreating the ideal jeans from that era went so far regarding reweave selvedge denim in new and interesting ways. Now that selvedge denim has returned on the market, the little detail on the upturned cuff quickly became one of many “things to have”.
The selvedge craze has become very popular that some manufacturers have even resorted to knocking from the selvedge look and producing fake selvedge appliques to mimic the coloured lines on the outseam.
The overwhelming greater part of denim made today is open end and non-selvedge. There are only xgfjbh couple of mills left on earth that also take some time and effort to create selvedge denim.
The most well known is Cone Mills which has produced denim out of their White Oak Plant in Greensboro, North Carolina, since the early 1900s. They’re also the last japanese denim manufacturer left in the United States. Other noteworthy mills include Kuroki, Nihon Menpu, Collect, Kaihara, Kurabo, Nisshinbo, and Toyoshima, which will be in Japan, Candiani and Blue Selvedge in Italy. Many of the artisanal denim brands will specify which mill their denim is originating from, so try to find the names listed above. The improved need for selvedge, however, has prompted many mills in China, India, Turkey, and elsewhere to create it as well. So it could be difficult to ascertain the supply of your fabric from most of the larger brands and retailers.