What to do with selvage edges of fabric?

What’s a selvage edge?


It’s the edge of the fabric that’s “self-finished” and won’t fray.  It runs lengthwise along the whole fabric & often has the fabric manufacturer name and/or artist on it.


It’s on two edges of the fabric that you get at the store – not the cut edges, but the finished edges of your fabric.

Should you leave it on or off your fabric?

Whether you should leave your selvage edge in place or cut it off depends on a few things:

  • what you’re making
  • what the selvage looks like
  • how big the selvage is

If your project doesn’t require you to cut your fabric in a certain way, such as on the bias, it might be okay to include the selvage edge in your piece.


And if your selvage edge looks essentially the same as the rest of the fabric, it’s probably okay to leave it on.


For example, the solid fabrics I get from Cloud9 & Birch fabrics have a selvage edge that looks nearly identical to the rest of the fabric – no words, no other colors.  


If your selvage edge is very different from your fabric (it might have words printed on it and be white or some other colors), you might still be able to leave it in place.  This will work if the selvage edge is more narrow than your seam allowance.  The seam allowance is the distance from your stitches to the raw edge of your fabric, often ⅝”, ½” or ¼” (or 1.5cm, 1cm, 7mm, etc.)


If your selvage edge is more narrow than your seam allowance, that means it won’t show up on your finished project.  


Usually, though, the selvage edge is going to be wider than your seam allowance.  So if it’s printed with words & different colors than your fabric, you’ll want to cut it off.


Should you save your selvage edges?

Yes!  Save every scrap.  Textile waste is a huge problem for our planet and as a sewist, it’s important not to contribute to that problem.  So save all your scraps!


What can you do with your selvage edges?

Excellent question!  Here’s one of my latest projects that uses selvage edges.  I’ll bet you can find others too & as I make more, I’ll add them!

I gathered up a bunch of my selvage edges.  They’re all different lengths & widths & colors.  


I also used 2 pieces of organic cotton batting that I cut into 7 by 7 inch squares.

And used another piece of fabric that I cut into a 7 by 7 inch square.

The first thing I did was line up the 7×7 piece of fabric with the batting with the wrong side of the fabric touching the cotton batting to make a little stack.

Then I started picking out strips from my pile & laying them on top of the stack.  I tried to get a mix of colors laid out.

Once I was happy with the arrangement of strips – it was kind of like arranging a bouquet of flowers – whatever makes you happy – then I tidied up the edges a bit & clipped the strips into place onto the little stack of fabric & batting. 

Then I went back to my pile of scraps & picked out more to weave into this project. 

To weave them in, I started with one strip & switched from going over then under each strip of fabric.  With the next strip of fabric, I wove it in the opposite pattern – first going under & over each strip so that it was the opposite of the first horizontal strip of fabric.

Once the whole piece was covered with alternating side-to-side strips of fabric, I took it to the sewing machine.

I stitched straight lines diagonally across the piece.  I spaced the lines about 1” apart.  Once I finished one of the diagonal directions completely, I turned the piece to sew another set of diagonal lines across the piece.

These stitches will help the weaving stay in place over time.

After I finished sewing these lines, I used my quilting ruler & rotary cutter to straighten up the edges of the piece so it was a nice and tidy square.

Then I got more scrap fabric & cut it into 2” strips. 

I then sewed those strips together to make a long continuous 2” strip of fabric.

I cut the extra fabric off at the seams (the little triangles) & then got my bias tape maker & my iron & made double fold bias tape. 

You could also buy bias tape at your local fabric store but making it yourself is a great way to repurpose fabric scraps.

Once the bias tape was finished, I clipped it onto the project & sewed it on, leaving a few inches loose at the start to connect with on the other end.  

I’m definitely not the best at sewing bias tape but I’m getting better!  Gotta keep practicing, right?

I took the piece to the machine & marked a line on one end of the bias tape.  Then I folded the other end of the bias tape & lined I up with the first end.  I used the line I drew to mark a line on the other end as well.  Then I lined up the lines & pinned the ends together & sewed right along the line.

Once I got all the way around the piece & was close to where the bias tape started, I lined up the ends with each other & marked a meeting spot & pinned them together & sewed them in place, cut off the the loose ends, then kept sewing all the way around.

Next I folded the bias tape over around the piece.  I clipped it around the piece & sewed it in place.

Then it’s all done.  I love using it to put my drink on my work table & protect the table from heat or moisture.

I’m going to make 10 more of these – and keep improving my bias tape skills!

Here’s the video – watch & learn!

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