The Seduction of Selvedge Denim

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Habitual | 07 September 2018

Up until the 1950s, almost all denim was produced on shuttle looms. This old weaving technology almost disappeared in the 1970s when newer, faster, more modern looms replaced old looms. So when the Yankees sold, the Japanese bought. And in true Japanese style, they’ve created a totally new era for this fantastic fabric. Selvedge means a self-binding edge of a fabric woven on a shuttle loom. It’s not the same as raw denim. Selvedge refers to how the fabric has been woven, whereas raw refers to the wash (or lack thereof) on the fabric. A shuttle loom uses a small device called a shuttle to fill in the weft threads by passing back and forth between both sides of the loom. This leaves one continuous thread at all the edges so the fabric self-seals — without stray threads.

At Nisshinbo Mills, their shuttle looms create fabric that’s about 28 inches wide. This size is just about perfect for aligning selvedge seams beneath the outside edges of a jeans pattern. This placement isn’t just aesthetically pleasing — it’s practical, saves jeans sewers a few extra passes on the overlock machine, and ensures that the jeans don’t fray along the outseam.

When the mill was founded more than 110 years ago, the manufacturer focused on combining traditional Japanese textile manufacturing techniques and modern techniques. The goal was to make only the finest products. Today their ringspun selvedge denim is consistently regarded by denim enthusiasts to be second-to-none when it comes to quality and durability; and are used by the likes of Hiromi Nakamura and Yohji Yamamoto.

Credit: nn07

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