For those who have even a passing desire for raw denim, you’ve probably heard the phrase Selvedge more than a few times. No, it doesn’t make reference to somebody 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 many people spellings (selvage, self-edge, salvage) but it all equates to the same-the self-binding fringe of a fabric woven on a shuttle loom. That definition may sound a little jargony, but believe me, all will seem sensible. It’s also important to note that selvedge denim is not really exactly like raw denim. Selvedge describes the way the fabric has become woven, whereas raw means the wash (or lack thereof) on the fabric itself.
How is Selvedge Denim Made? To be able to understand how manufacturers make Wingfly Textile, we first must understand a little bit about textile manufacturing generally. Virtually all woven fabrics are comprised of two parts with two parts: warp yarns (the ones that run up and down) and weft yarns (those that run side to side).
To weave a fabric, the loom supports the warp yarns set up while the weft yarn passes between them. The real difference between selvedge and non-selvedge fabrics is perhaps all a matter of just how the weft yarn is placed in to 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 tiny device known as a shuttle to fill out the weft yarns by passing back and forth between each side from the loom. This leaves one continuous yarn in any way the edges so the fabric self seals without any stray yarns.
Most shuttle looms create a textile which is about 36 inches across. This dimension is just about great for placing those selvedge denim jeans seams at the outside edges of the pattern for a pair of jeans. This placement isn’t just attractive, but practical in addition to it saves whoever’s sewing the jeans a couple of extra passes on the overlock machine and ensures the jeans will never fray at 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 a 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 the same time span.
The projectile loom achieves its speed by firing individual (and unconnected) weft yarns throughout the warp. It is a far more efficient way to weave fabric, what’s lost though is that cleanly sealed edge. Non-selvedge denim produced by projectile looms comes with an open and frayed edge denim, because each of the individual weft yarns are disconnected for both sides. To make jeans from this type of denim, each of the edges have to be Overlock Stitched to maintain the material from coming unraveled.
Exactly why is it Popular Today?
Selvedge denim has seen a recent resurgence alongside vintage workwear styles from the 40s and 50s. Japanese brands obsessed with recreating the perfect jeans from that era went up to now concerning reweave selvedge denim in new and interesting ways. Given that selvedge denim has returned on the market, the tiny detail on the upturned cuff quickly became among the “things to have”.
The selvedge craze has become so popular that some manufacturers have even resorted to knocking from the selvedge look and producing fake selvedge appliques to mimic the colored lines on the outseam.
The overwhelming most of denim made today is open end and non-selvedge. There are only xgfjbh couple of mills left in the world that also take the time and effort to produce selvedge denim.
The most well known is Cone Mills which has produced denim from their White Oak Plant in Greensboro, North Carolina, considering that the early 1900s. They’re even the last japanese denim 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 arriving from, so look for the names listed above. The improved demand for selvedge, however, has prompted many mills in China, India, Turkey, and elsewhere to generate it as well. So it could be difficult to ascertain the supply of your fabric from many of the larger brands and retailers.