How to Make a Selvedge Panel

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

To me, attending Quilt Market this past October was a lot like getting backstage passes to a rock concert. It can be difficult to "act cool" while you're meeting your favorite fabric and pattern designers and bloggers.

One thing that helped me feel more confident was wearing handmade garments and accessories. It's an silently obvious way to convey my admiration for the designers. One of my favorite moments was when meeting Rashida Coleman-Hale, she noticed my handbag and shouted "WASHI!" as she recognized her fabric. 

As I'm prepping for Quilt Con, I've been having an unusually tough time selecting fabrics for various garments and accessories. I can't help but feel my choices are making some kind of statement, like a Pokemon trainer cry of "I CHOSE YOU!" The problem is, I want to show my support and admiration for so many designers that I hit a wall with my fabric stash.

Luckily, I found the perfect solution: selvedges! What better way could there be to show support than to have all their names spelled out on my project? 

Making selvedge panels for bags and pouches is a simple, resourceful way to use up those skinny scraps.

You will need:
  • A nice pile of selvedges (if possible, cut them at least .25" above the top edge of the selvedge)
  • A piece of muslin or white cotton (cut to the desired shape/size of your panel) or batting (add 1 inch to each side of your panel in case of warping)
  • Neutral color thread that will blend well with your selvedges
  • Optional: Interfacing of your choice (cut to the desired size of your panel)
1. Fuse your interfacing. You can fuse your interfacing to the wrong side of your muslin either before or after you make your panel. Fusing it beforehand will help minimize warping, but if you are using a thick interfacing like Peltex Ultra Firm, you'll want to leave that for last. It's up to you.

2. Sort through your selvedges. Select selvedges that are at least as wide as your panel. Separate ones you really want to feature from ones that can act as "fillers."

3. Study the pattern of your bag. Are there going to be any snaps, buttons, pockets, or zippers? If so, mark their placement lightly with a pencil on your muslin so you can be sure not to put a prized selvedge somewhere it'll be marred. 

Also take note of the fabric's orientation on the bag. My bag was an envelope style, meaning the direction of the selvedges would need to flip if I wanted them all to be right side up. Mark approximate locations of any folds that will change the orientation of the fabric. I also drew arrows to indicate the orientation of my selvedges.

Make a mental note where each part of the panel will lie on the finished bag. You don't want your favorite selvedges on the bottom of your bag, so use the "filler" pieces in less prominent areas. 

4. Position & sew your selvedges. When sewing your selvedges, you want to start from the bottom and work your way up as to cover the raw edge of the fabric. The selvedge itself will not fray, but the side you cut will. 

Lay your first selvedge on top of your muslin, letting the bottom of your selvedge overhang your muslin a little. Remember to take your seam allowances into account (the first and last couple selvedges may be hidden in the seam allowance so use the "filler" pieces here). I also try to keep the desired text on the selvedge about an inch from either edge of the muslin.

Place a second selvedge on top of the first, overlapping the top of the first one by about .25". Now, stitch them down by sewing just above the edge of the second selvedge. 

5. Add more selvedges. Continue adding selvedges in this way, overlapping the top of the previous one by .25" and stitching along the bottom of the current selvedge. 

I don't pin anything when I sew selvedges. I prefer to get the seam started and pull the selvedge into the desired position as I sew.

After I've added a selvedge, I like to trim off the excess with my scissors about .5" from the edge of my muslin so I don't have a bunch of loose pieces swinging around and getting in the way.

If the bottom of your selvedge has a little frayed "goatee" (a lot of linen blends do) you can can give it a haircut with your rotary cutter. Just dont cut into the actual selvedge.

6. Changing directions. When you get to a fold that requires your selvedges to flip upside down, you'll need to change your approach. Lay the selvedge that will be start of the "flip" (I'll call this your "Flipped Selvedge" or FS) on to of the previous selvedge with the right sides together. Align their raw edges and sew them both down with a .25" seam allowance. Fold your FS so the right side is now facing up and press with a hot iron.

Previously when we added selvedges, we put the current selvedge on top of the previous one before stitching them down. Now we're going to do the opposite. Take your next selvedge and slide it underneath the FS, letting the bottom of the FS overlap the top of your current selvedge by about .25" Now, stitch them both down by sewing along the bottom of the FS. Give this part of your panel a press with your iron, then topstitch along the top of your FS. 

Continue to add selvedges by sliding them under the previous one and stitching along the bottom of the previous selvedge. 

7. Changing directions again. If you need to flip the direction of your selvedges again, it's a little simpler. Make a "Flip Selvedge" like you did in step 6 by placing your selvedge on top of the previous one with right sides together, sewing, and folding the selvedge down. Now, instead of slipping your next selvedge, under the FS, place it on top of it so that the bottom of your current selvedge overlaps the bottom of your FS. Stitch them both down and then topstitch along the top edge of your FS.

Continue adding selvedges as you originally did in step 5.

8. Finishing the panel. When you've covered your entire panel with selvedges, press the entire panel with a hot iron, starching if desired. Place the panel right side down on your cutting mat and trim away the overhanging selvedges with your rotary cutter and ruler. If you like, you can stitch around the entire panel with a straight stitch & small seam allowance or a zigzag stitch to keep things neat and clean when you assemble your bag.

Your panel is now finished! Continue sewing your bag as you normally would.

I turned this panel into a little business card wallet!


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you! I'm going to be doing an IG giveaway for it. :D

  2. Hi Felice,
    I like the quote about "Persistence Prevails". As a psyc student, we learned that Persistence is the biggest predictor of success--even more than intelligence! Which is not saying you are not intelligent! :) but noting that you might have discovered the secret to success!

    1. I totally agree. One of my favorite motivational messages is Randy Pausch talking about how the obstacles in our path are there to let us prove we want something enough to get passed them. :)