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Updated by Rosalie Galvez on Jan 03, 2021
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Selvage Edge And Grain Of Fabric Explained

Making a sewing machine your best friend could be a healthy hobby. You can experiment with fabrics as well as try exciting designs. But it needs times and resources to master the craft, simply get it by.



From trivial work as threading the needle or your sewing machine to filling bobbin with the right thread, you need to understand many mechanisms before stitching for the first time.

There are many terms and nomenclature you need to familiarize yourself with before boasting about your stitching skills among your friends. Today, we will discuss three of the most important, yet controversial, terms in the business of sewing and cutting.

The terms – selvage, grain, and bias, sounds like they are not even remotely related. However, in the fabric world, they are intimately related, and knowing about them will be useful for you, especially in purchasing fabric, cutting, and sewing it more efficiently.

There are different ways to spell selvage – it goes selvage in British English, whereas it goes as selvage in American English.

If you are interested in knowing more about these terms, read on this article. In the end, you will surely have the idea of what these are about. We will give you a complete overview of all the related terms that will help you in purchasing, cutting, and sewing the garment in the best way.


What Is Selvage?

It is the self-finished edge of a fabric and has the information printed along its edge about the fabric.

In the fabric weaving process, the threads of the fabric make selvage. In the standard form, there are two threads involved in creating it:

  1. A warp thread that runs the length of the fabric.

  2. A weft thread – it runs across the fabric and turns at the ends.

Where a tighter weave is created, there is a turning point to stop fraying and this is the selvage.

In order to understand important information about the designer of the fabric and how the colors were employed in the creation of fabric patterns, knowing selvage is the surest way.

A selvage of the fabric, being self-finished, does not need any finishing work like hem or bias tape, in order to prevent fraying.

Selvage can be seen on the side of the fabric roll when it is wound and ready to sell at the shops. In the case of quilting fabric, usually, it is folded in half and wound onto the bolt. This way, you will have selvage on one side while the fold on the other side.

A seamstress can obtain useful information from selvage such as the color code used in the creation of the fabric as well as the factory it originated from. It is helpful in choosing thread color and making quilts because you would know how to match selvage with its other fabric.

In the measurement and cutting of fabric, a cut is made perpendicular to the edge of the material. This leaves the selvage on each side of the cut fabric. Now that you have learned about what a selvage is and how it can be used at your advantage, let us move on to the next term – fabric grain.


What Is Fabric Grain?

Fabric grains serve an important part in the cutting process of fabric. In some way, each cut piece needs to follow some kind of pattern. In essence, the way thread runs are called the grain of the fabric and are very important for well-fitting garments.

You will always find straight grain marks on the pattern pieces, with the stronger straight grain formed by the parallel pattern of warp of the fabric. The weft thread is perpendicular to the fabric and makes a straight grain, though it is weaker when compared to the warp one.


Finding The True Grain

If you need to find the true grain lines, there is an easier way. Snip into the fabric around one inch (2.5cm) from the selvage. Then, tear the fabric across and check how the fabric has frayed along the torn edge.

After you have done that, pull out the top threads until all the cross-threads are in the same line. Now, this a straight edge on the fabric with the selvage running up the side. In general practice, the edge that is cut at the shops is not always straightforward.

Knowing about the intricacies of fabric grain is really helpful in cutting well-crafted items. After the proper necessary insight, it should not be so difficult to use it in the best possible way to adore your artifacts and garments with masterfully executed well-calibrated designs. Now, moving to the next term – fabric bias.


What Is Fabric Bias?

If you are thinking that knowing only the two concepts is enough, you are far away from the truth. Even familiarizing with the terms, selvage, and fabric grain, it is equally important to understand the concept of fabric bias. You can easily check the bias of fabric by folding its corner across the opposite edge. It will make a 45-degree angle and the line that follows this angle is the bias.

It is of a stretchy nature and helps in cutting your own bias tape. This will aid in trimming or neaten a raw edge. No matter if you are a novice or a master, it is always harder to work your way around edges. So, it comes as a great plus.

Generally speaking, bias tape is a fabric that is used to form strips. To refine raw edges around necklines and armholes, you will find that bias tape comes so much in handy. To make contrast or make piping, store-bought bias is the best option.

There could be a pattern that needs a piece cut on the bias. It is important to understand how to lay the pieces out, especially to achieve a flared effect with bias cut pieces if you cut the pattern on a straight edge.



Sewing and cutting is serious work. It requires determination and will to learn new and exciting things to get the best out of your fabric. In order to purchase, cut, and trim a garment, knowing and understanding these terms – selvage, fabric bias, and fabric grain. It will always be helpful to know your way around the fabric, which can only be achieved by knowing how fabric works. You need to have a strong understanding of what a warp and what a weft thread is. After getting the basic knowledge of the three terms, you can use the fabric to your best advantage by taking the right direction in every treatment of the fabric.

Read more about Sewing Terms