The days of bland selvedge on fabric are long gone.
Fabric companies are infusing creativity in the edges as well, making them exciting to sew with.
In this tutorial, I’ll walk you through a fun way of how to make selvedge fabric.
In addition, you’ll gain insight into making panels or pattern pieces of fabric to form quilt blocks, bag panels (or anything else you like!) from leftover fabric selvedge.
This is an easy technique and a fun way to use up leftover bits of your fabric that you otherwise might throw away!
In recent years, selvedge has become an amazing part of fabric design, and as crafters, we typically revel in using each part of the fabric that we buy, here is one more way to do that.
I have a video tutorial or you can read on below if you prefer the written version with pictures!
Selvedge Fabric Video Tutorial
- How to Make Fabric from your Scraps – Part 1: Irregular Shaped Scraps
- Moda Scrap Bag Review
- 7 Quilt as You Go Methods (No Hand-sewing!)
- Scrappy Improv Quilt Squares
What Is Selvedge Fabric?
A selvage edge of the fabric (US English) or selvedge (British English) refers to self-completed edges of the fabric, preventing them from fraying and unraveling.
You see them on the edges of fabric you buy at a quilt shop depending on the cut you’ve bought. You might not always see them on fat quarters and you won’t see them in pre-cuts like jelly rolls or charm packs but you will find them on anything a half yard (half metre here in the UK) or larger.
The term self-completed implies that the cut edge of the fabric doesn’t need extra finishing work such as your own bias tape or hem to curb fraying.
The terms selvage and selvedge stem from self-edge and have been used since the 16th century.
Additionally, the selvedge is where the factory can double-check the colors employed in the printing process.
Here’s where different shades, color dots, and fun shapes come into play for the special selvedge.
Copyright, name of the fabric designer as well as the name of the fabric line, the website, and /or the fabric manufacturer name is typically included also.
You will find your selvedges at the bottom of the fabric (well on the two edges really!) one with the printed selvedge and one that is the same color as the rest of the fabric (you’ll see small holes in it usually).
Selvedge fabric is not as strong as the rest of your fabric and of course it is printed differently so it is often treated as fabric scrap and discarded but there is a beauty to selvedges and when sewn correctly they can be used in quilt patterns and many other projects too!
Selvedge Project Ideas
I designed a free quilt pattern that highlights scraps, it could be easily adapted to use strips of selved edges sewn to adding machine tape using the foundation paper method (second method shown below).
A few other amazing ideas for selvedge projects are:
- Pin cushions
- Zipper Pouch
- Tote Bags
- Slip cover for your sewing chair (seriously I’ve seen a few people do this)
- Wall art
- String Quilt
- Smaller elements of larger pieced quilt blocks
- I could go on!
Here is a small list of the materials you will need to make selvedge fabric and some of the sewing projects I have listed above:
- Selvedges, fabric scraps
- Layer of batting or layer of fabric or foundation paper
- Rotary cutter
- Sewing machine and thread
- Containers to hold your scraps
Step 1: Prepare Your Selvedge
As I work on other sewing projects, I cut off the aesthetically pleasing side of the selvedge with about an inch of the fabric pattern as well, depending on the type of fabric.
Although both sides of the fabric are selvedge, one represents the color-check spots or color dots, copyright details, and more, whereas the other is typically the print of the fabric. I actually save both but typically fabric made out of selvedge uses the printed interesting side!
I store them in a jar until it gets full, after which I store them in a small overflow box until inspiration strikes (see photo near the top of the post!).
When you are ready to put your selvedges into good use pull out your container and your chosen foundation – either batting, another piece of fabric or foundation paper and get creative!
Step 2: Color Coordinated or Random?
For your selvedge fabric project to turn out best, I suggest taking a few minutes to come up with the order and placement of your selvedge strips.
I have a habit of color grouping my scraps and selvedges and I’ve seen some fab rainbow strip quilts using selvedges where each block is based on a different color.
I know many scrappy sewers like to go totally random with their colours – with selvedges actually both will look great so do what makes you happy. The examples for this tutorial are a little on the random side and I like how they turned out!
If you have different lengths of selvedges, full width of fabric as well as small pieces, then you might also want to think about what kind of projects you can use each for and plan accordingly.
Step 3: Start Sewing
You can now use your selvedge cut edges and start sewing.
While some people prefer to have the colored fabric piece at the edges or sides of the fabric, it boils down to your preference.
Sewing on Batting or Fabric Foundations
- Start with the selvedge edge (cut to your preference) and lay it down on your backing.
- Using your sewing machine, sew as close to the fabric edge as possible, keeping the stitches on top. We aren’t sewing and flipping here we are basically top stitching.
I recommend setting your stitch length to three, like a top stitch as it’s more aesthetically pleasing, particularly if you won’t remove the woven fabric from the padding, batting or fabric foundation.
However, if you’re using foundation paper, then you should set your stitch slightly shorter to about 1.5 so you can easily remove the paper later (see section below for how to use foundation paper for this).
- When you place the second selvedge strip down, do so in a straight line, making sure it entirely covers the cut fabric edge of the previous strip to curb fraying.
- Repeat the process, adding one piece of fabric selvedge after another, ensuring you maintain a straight edge and sufficient overlapping. That means you’re sewing through both pieces but without covering the pattern of each piece of fabric. After all, the goal is for the eye-catching patterns or quirky colors of the weft threads to be visible.
- When you have covered your piece of batting go ahead and trim the overhang with fabric scissors or a rotary cutter.
Using Foundation Paper
If you are a sewing beginner, there’s a different method you can employ.
It entails using pieces of paper (foundation paper or printing paper). This is a great way to sew the quilting fabrics onto them as they’re easier to work with.
- Cut the papers to the exact size you require for a specific quilt block. The most common size of quilt block is 12 inches but choose whatever size you like.
If you want to use selvedge edges for the central part of my free X Marks the Scrap Quilt Pattern check out the pattern to find the exact size strip you will need:
- Like using fabric foundations, sew each edge of the selvedge through the paper, making sure you get as close as you can to each selvedge edge, overlapping the one you sew before.
I like to work with a few foundations at once so I can go quicker.
These examples were done on plain printer paper cut to the size of a quilt block piece that I want to use it for – so you don’t have to do it in skinny strips to use foundation paper!
You can use vellum paper, newsprint or commercially sold paper specifically for foundation paper piecing as well.
- The biggest difference is that since you’re using paper rather than quilt wadding, I recommend setting the stitch length to 1.5 rather than 3. It allows the needle to perforate the paper more, making it easy to tear away.
It’s worth noting that horizontal threads result in tiny bits of paper pulling away. Be wary that by pulling the paper off, you also risk pulling the stitches.
Therefore, unless you have a particular goal in mind or you’re looking to get your creative juices flowing, avoid threading in different directions.
For both Selvedge Edge Fabric Methods:
- Once you complete the process, you’ll notice the raw edges of the selvedge on the left and right sides of the paper backing or fabric.
- Trim these unfinished edges so you have a finished piece with straight edges. Then you can neatly tuck away your fabric panel in your fabric store, ready for your next project when creativity strikes.
Now that you’re done making selvedges, you have cool, custom fabric for your next project.