The Imperfect Beauty of Selvage Denim

What's So Special About Selvage Denim?

Part of the allure of vintage denim is the individuality of each piece. Each garment is a picture in time of the spinner's work, the dyer's eye, the weaver's skill and the sewer's dedication. Suddenly the variations in the fabric caused by the differences in the cotton and old technology, considered so undesirable in manufacturing, are the very attributes so revered by denim aficionados and collectors.

Vintage denim pieces that have been worn have the added history of the owner. His/her occupation, how the garment was washed, whether they cuffed the jean or not, and sometimes what they carried in their pockets, all add to the unique "worn in" history of each piece.

The lower the technology used and the older the technology, the more variation we find, and the greater the likelihood of finding something of unique beauty. Today we can use high technology to duplicate the variations in yarn & dye, but we just can't get real selvage denim without a real shuttle loom.

Selvage/Selvedge

All woven fabric has a selvage of some type. Modern looms make a fringe selvage or a tucked selvage. In both cases the yarn is cut after each insertion of the weft or 'pick'. Fringe selvages do not withstand multiple washings very well. Tucked selvages are usually too wide or to thick to be used in a garment. The package of weft yarn does not travel back and forth across the loom, but rather a measured length of yarn is pulled or pushed across the loom. A jet of air is a common way of inserting the weft yarn today.

The selvage formed on a shuttle loom will not unravel because the yarn is not cut on each pick. It is quite suitable to be used as part of the garment without over edge sewing.

Wide versus Narrow

Today's shuttle-less weaving machines produce 68" wide fabrics. Narrow unfinished fabric at about 28" wide provided the right ratio of edge to square yards required.

Shuttle loom Weaving

In the original shuttle weaving process, a small bobbin of yarn is carried inside a shuttle that travels back and forth across the loom. Since the weft yarn is not cut after each weft insertion the tightly bound edge cannot unravel (sometimes called a fast selvage). If used as part of a garment, it will maintain its integrity throughout the life of the garment. Cone Denim's White Oak plant's original Hopewell looms were installed in 1905 and produced 28" unfinished fabric. As the shuttle loom technology evolved, new wider shuttle looms were installed. By the 1950's the widths had increased to 42" to 45" on most fabrics, although a significant number of looms remained at 28".

As the looms became wider, fewer garment producers utilized this selvage. Garment parts inside vintage jackets, shirts, overalls, and jeans may show one or more garment parts where the selvage was used.

Because of the high weight of the shuttle, the 28" shuttle looms were very slow by today's standards. They produced lots of defects and uneveness in the weave. The uneveness in yarn tensions and the lack of precision in controlling weft yarn spacing creates a different appearance in denim as compared to modern looms. In the late 1960's and early 1970's the transition to shuttle - less looms were much faster and produced a more consistent fabric, but the selvage was no longer usable in garments because it would not withstand multiple washings.

 

Selvage Jeans

Cone Denim's White Oak plant was built in 1905. At one point it had 3,000 shuttle looms producing 28" selvage denim. The fabric was the ideal width for making jeans where the selvage is used in all four major garment panels and forms the side seams of the jean.                                                                                     White Oak plant records from 1917 show various shades and weights. There is a record of the number of selvage yarns, 12 white ends on each side in most cases, but no indication of selvage thread color. However, the old construction book from the 50's and 60's does identify many selvage colors. Most of them had one or two ends of color in a field of white.

Authenticity of Denim

There are numerous changes through the years that affected the appearance of denim, but the major ones are the loss of shuttle loom weaving and the introduction of Open End Spun yarns. Those big changes, plus the pre-washing of jeans made a significant difference in the way denim garments look on the street today.

To duplicate authentic vinatge denim, including the fast selvage, presents a significant challenge. Cone Mills White Oak Denim Indigo Selvage fabrics take authenticity to new levels by weaving on refurbished Draper X-3 shuttle looms. These looms have the slow, gentle weaving, machanics which produces a lot of variations and defects in the fabric very much like the looms of the early 1900's.

CONE MILLS Weave Room [below] circa 1915 - over 1500 looms in this picture which is half the room. Currently, Cone Mills only has 33 narrow looms remaining that are able to weave selvedge denim, greatly adding to the desirability for this iconic Mills denim. 

SIZING CHART

  

The comparison to LEVI'S fit styles is merely a reference point for those unfamiliar with how our jeans fit since there is no industry sizing standard. Most people have at some point in their lives owned a pair of LEVI'S and is the greatest common fit denominator when trying to gauge jean sizing. Our pattern blocks are unique to Brave Star and have been developed and fine tuned over the years with our head pattern maker and could feel completely different on your body in comparison to a pair of LEVI'S due to fabric weight & composition. One other factor to keep in mind is that the single pair of LEVI'S that we purchased here in Los Angeles to measure and feature on our size chart is not necessarily indicative of how that same style of LEVI'S fits on you when you purchased it since we have found quite a large variance in their sizing depending on where the jean was manufactured, the weight of the fabric and the wash applied to the jean.                                        

Fit Model is wearing size 31 in all fits.

Please allow for a +/- 1/4" tolerance in the waistband vs listed spec.

SIZE 28 29 30      

BRAVE

STAR

31

LEVI'S

510

31

32 33 34 35 36
WAIST 14 3/4  15 1/4 15 3/4  16 3/4 16 17 1/4  17 3/4 18 1/4 18 3/4  19 1/4
F.RISE 9 1/2 9 3/4 10 10  11.5

 

10 1/4   

10 1/2 10 3/4 11  11 1/2
B.RISE 12 1/2 13 13 1/2 14 1/2 15 14 3/4 15 15 1/4 15 1/2 15 3/4
THIGH 10 1/4 10 5/8 11  11 3/8 11 1/4 11 5/8 11 3/4 12 1/8 12 1/2 12 3/4
KNEE 6 1/2 6 3/4  7 5/8 7 1/2 7 3/4  8 1/4 8 1/2 8 3/4

OPENING

5 7/8  6 1/8 6 3/8 6 1/2 6 5/8 6 3/4 7 1/4 7 1/2 7 3/4

INSEAM

34 34 34 34 32 34 34 34 34 34

 

 

                             

SIZE 28 29 30

BRAVE

STAR

31

LEVI'S

511

31

32 33 34 35 36 38 40
WAIST 15 1/4 153/4 161/4  163/4 16 5/8 171/4 173/4 181/4 183/4 191/4 201/4 211/4
F.RISE

9

9.5 10 101/2 10 1/4 11 111/2 12 12 121/2 13 1/2 141/2
B.RISE 12 1/2 13 13 1/2 14 13 5/8 141/2 15 151/2 16 161/2 17 1/2 19 
THIGH 10 5/8 103/4  11 3/8 11 3/4 11 5/8 121/8 125/8 123/4 131/8 131/2 14 1/4 143/4
KNEE 7 7 1/4 7 1/2 7 3/4 7 3/4 8 8 1/4 8 1/2 8 3/4 9 9 3/4 101/4
OPENING 6 1/2 6 3/4 7 7 1/4 7 1/4 7 1/2 7 3/4 8 8 1/4 8 1/4 8 1/2 8 1/2
INSEAM 34 34 34 35 32 35 35 36 36 36 36 36

 

 

SIZE 28 29 30

BRAVE

STAR

31

LEVI'S

505

31

32 33 34 35 36 38
WAIST 151/4 153/4 161/4 163/4 161/2

 

171/4      

173/4 181/4 183/4 191/4 201/4
F.RISE 10 101/4 101/2 103/4 12 103/4 11 111/4 111/2 113/4 121/4
B. RISE 123/4 131/4 13.75 141/4 143/4 141/2 143/4 15 151/4 151/2 16
THIGH 105/8 11 113/8 11 3/4 12 12 121/4  121/2 123/4 13 131/4
KNEE 7 1/4 7 1/2 7 3/4 8 8 1/4 8 1/2 85/8 8 3/4 9 5/8
OPENING 6 1/4 6 1/2 6 5/8 7 67/8  7 1/8 7 3/8 75/8 77/8  81/4
INSEAM 35 35 35 35 32 35 35 35 35 35 35

 

 

SIZE 29 30

Brave

Star

31

LEVI'S

504

31

32 33 34 35 36 38 40 42
WAIST 16
16 1/2 16 3/4 17 17 1/4 17 3/4 18 1/4 18 3/4 19 1/4 20 1/4 21 1/4 22 1/4
F.RISE 10 1/2 10 3/4 11 10 3/4 11 1/4 11 1/2 11 3/4 12 12 1/4 12 3/4 13 1/4 13 3/4
B.RISE 14 14 1/2 15 14.5 15 1/4 15 1/2 15 3/4 16  16 1/4 16 3/4 17 1/4 17 3/4
THIGH 11 1/4 11 5/8 12 12 12 3/8 12 3/4 13 1/8 13 1/2 13 7/8 14 5/8 14 7/8 15 5/8
KNEE 8 1/4 8 1/2 8 3/4 8 3/4 9 9 1/4 9 1/2 9 3/4 10 10 1/2 10 3/4 11
OPENING 7 3/4 7 7/8 8  8 8 1/8 8 1/4 8 1/2 8 5/8 8 3/4 9 1/4 9 1/2
INSEAM 35 1/2 35 1/2 35 1/2 32 35 1/2 35 1/2 36 36 36 36 36 36