In case you have even a passing interest in raw denim, you’ve probably heard the term Selvedge more than a few times. No, it doesn’t make reference to someone who vends lettuce, selvedge refers to 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 a lot of spellings (selvage, self-edge, salvage) nevertheless it all equates to the same thing-the self-binding edge of a fabric woven over a shuttle loom. That definition may sound somewhat jargony, but trust me, all will seem sensible. It’s also worth noting that selvedge denim is not really just like raw denim. Selvedge identifies how the fabric has been woven, whereas raw refers back to the wash (or lack thereof) on the fabric itself.
How is Selvedge Denim Made? In order to know how manufacturers make Wingfly Textile, we first must understand a bit about textile manufacturing generally. Almost all woven fabrics are composed of two parts with two parts: warp yarns (the ones that run down and up) and weft yarns (those that run side to side).
To weave a fabric, the loom supports the warp yarns set up whilst the weft yarn passes between the two. The real difference between selvedge and non-selvedge fabrics is all a matter 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 actually a weaving textile loom which uses a little device referred to as a shuttle to fill in the weft yarns by passing forward and backward between either side in the loom. This leaves one continuous yarn at all the edges 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 just about perfect for placing those japanese selvedge denim seams on the outside edges of a pattern for a couple of jeans. This placement isn’t just attractive, but practical as well as it saves whoever’s sewing the jeans a couple of extra passes on the overlock machine and ensures the jeans is not going to fray in the outseam.
The demand for more denim after WWII, however, soon forced mills to adopt mass-production technology. A shuttle loom can place about 150 weft yarns per minute on the 36 inch wide textile. A Projectile Loom, however, can place over 1000 weft yarns per minute over a textile that’s two times as wide, thus producing nearly 15 times more fabric in the same time span.
The projectile loom achieves its speed by firing individual (and unconnected) weft yarns across the warp. This is a far more efficient way to weave fabric, what’s lost though is the fact cleanly sealed edge. Non-selvedge denim created 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, each of the edges must be Overlock Stitched to maintain the material from coming unraveled.
Why is it Popular Today?
Selvedge denim has seen a newly released resurgence alongside vintage workwear styles from the 40s and 50s. Japanese brands obsessed with recreating the ideal jeans from that era went up to now concerning reweave selvedge denim in new and interesting ways. Now that selvedge denim has returned on the market, the small detail on the upturned cuff quickly became one of the “things to have”.
The selvedge craze is becoming so 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 handful of mills left in the world that still spend some time and energy to generate selvedge denim.
The renowned is Cone Mills which includes 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 United States. Other noteworthy mills include Kuroki, Nihon Menpu, Collect, Kaihara, Kurabo, Nisshinbo, and Toyoshima, which have been in Japan, Candiani and Blue Selvedge in Italy. Almost all of the artisanal denim brands will specify which mill their denim is originating from, so try to find the names mentioned above. The increased interest in selvedge, however, has prompted many mills in China, India, Turkey, and elsewhere to produce it too. So it could be difficult to determine the source of your fabric from many of the larger brands and retailers.