- ’’Oh, look at him, he’s got a nice pair of selvedge jeans!’’
- ’’ Yes, have you never heard about it?’’
You probably have seen people walking around with cuffed jeans and some of them have a salient band running vertically, along the out-seam.
- ’’Okay, but all the jeans have that band.’’
That’s right, all the jeans have it but there is a difference. Let’s start with textile manufacturing in general. You need two components to weave a fabric – warp yarns* and weft yarns*. You’ve already read a little about old Draper X3 shuttle looms, right? Selvedge and non-selvedge fabrics are woven with different machinery. Mass production denim fabric is crafted with projectile looms. The loom holds warp yarns, that run up and down, in place and weft yarn is vertically woven between them- basically same story with both machines.
Shuttle looms have a small piece called a shuttle to fill in the weft yarns by passing back and forth between both sides of the loom. So there will be a continuous yarn at all the edges- fabric self seals without stray yarns.
- ’’Self-edge... Selvedge. That’s where the name comes from?’’
Yeap, shuttle looms make enough textile for placing all the parts of selvedge jeans onto it (~92 cm across). It’s practical also, jeans will not fray at the out-seam.
- ’’What about the projectile looms?’’
After World War II denim came into higher demand and shuttle looms were not productive enough. A projectile loom placed over 1000 weft yarns per minute and the textile was twice as wide compared to a shuttle loom. A shuttle loom can place about 150 weft yarns per minute on a 36 inch wide textile. The projectile loom shoots the weft across the warp in rows so there’s no continuous weft yarn weaving. The weft yarn is cut at the edges of the fabric leaving the ends unfinished. An overlock stitch is needed to secure the edge and this is not selvedge denim.
- ’’ Where is selvedge denim made or who makes it?’’
The most famous factory is Cone Mills which has produced denim out of their White Oak Plant in Greensboro, North Carolina, since the early 1900s. They closed down in December 2017 and it was the last selvedge denim manufacturer left in the United States. Nihon Menpu, Kaihara, Nisshinbo, and Toyoshima- mills in Japan. Candiani and Blue Selvedge in Italy. Maybe you’ve seen that there’s a coloured line on the selvedge. They’re called Selvedge IDs and they indicate which mill produced the denim. Cone Mills in North Carolina had a red ID for an example.
- ’’I’ve heard that some jeans are raw. Are all the selvedge jeans raw?’’
No. I’ll give you an overview of raw jeans later, my friend!