Selvage Fabric Character and Quality

Selvage fabric has a long history of where it came from and why it exists. In order to truly understand the character selvage fabric has, we must look into the history of how it began. Let’s also not forget the tools that were used in order to make such a quality fabric.

Selvage denim from Cone

Some view weaving as an art form. It’s definitely not a simple task to do. Especially when, initially, all people had to use were their fingers to weave fabrics. When looms were first developed they were large and required three people to use. Then, the Islamic Golden Age brought upon a more intuitive loom. It had pedals which operated the heddles. This made it easier to separate the warp thread in order for the weft thread to pass through. The pedal loom would be the preferred weaving method up until the 1700s when mechanized weaving came about. The art of weaving evolved as it became industrialized in order to produce textiles at a more efficient rate.  Even though mechanized looms became standard, they were still able to hold the same qualities of more traditional methods of weaving. One loom in particular is the Toyoda loom which was first introduced in 1897. It was largely responsible for the popularity that selvage denim gained. The Toyoda loom was later perfected in 1924 once it was able to automatically replace the shuttles without a person having to do manually. Another automatic shuttle loom that is popular and is made in the USA was the Draper Northrop loom. The Draper loom is used by Cone Denim. Their fabrics are known for amazing character and texture, which occurs because of the lack of precision the Draper loom has.

The most distinguishable trait that makes a selvage fabric different from others is that the ends of the fabric are finished off. The weft thread loops back from end to end across the warp thread and creates the edge of the fabric. This means that the ends don’t fray or unravel, making it a much more secure and structurally sound textile. Any time you see a selvage end, it’s an indicator that a shuttle loom was used. Besides for having secured ends, other advantages of using shuttle looms is that it uses less energy and it has an increased tolerance to wear and tear. The other major advantage of using a shuttle loom is that minimizes the distortion of the fabric when it goes from dry to wet and wet to dry.

Shuttle looms are a much more traditional method of manufacturing textiles. Although it’s ran automatically, it differs from other methods of producing fabrics, such as the projectile loom. This is a modern machine that uses needles which shoot weft yarns across and through the warp yarns. Technically, it’s a more efficient method of manufacturing fabrics. The projectile loom uses more energy, therefore it isn’t the most eco-friendly machine. The texture it produces is very even, which give the fabric less character than a shuttle loom. What defines the character of the fabric is the texture, the unevenness, and the imperfections that give the fabric a soul. However, using a projectile loom doesn’t necessarily mean the fabric is of lesser quality. This trait depends on the yarns used. But a mill that uses projectile looms usually care about about volume than they do quality.

This is the problem we’re seeing nowadays. The quality of goods is thrown out the window for more profits and more volume. The demand of wearing trendy clothing for cheaper prices is rising. The problem with this is that being produced by factories that don’t pay attention to being energy efficient, making quality over quantity, or being creative. As traditional methods of manufacturing are fading away, one can argue that the innovation and art form behind creating fabrics is being lost. There are many great mills that produce textiles from natural resources while using eco-friendly processes to achieve all of this. For the most part, many of them use a shuttle loom that creates selvage fabrics with texture, character, and quality. Although a selvage fabric uses a traditional method of weaving, it’s fashion forward in the sense that it invokes quality of quantity and is made with energy efficient machines.