Sew Karen-ly Created...

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Monday, 3 August 2009

McCall's Quilting: Selvedge Tote Bag

The October issue of McCall's Quilting is now out, and it features one of my designs: a really fun tote bag made from selvedge edges.Never one to throw anything away (especially a piece of fabric!), I have amassed quite a few selvedge edges in my 22 year quilting career. So...what to do with them? Most of us cut them off and toss them away without thinking. Such waste! This project presents a stylish way to repurpose those snips and go green in this “something from (almost) nothing” tote bag. The selvedge (or selvage as it is sometimes written) is the uncut edge of a woven fabric which attaches to the side of the loom. The weft threads are doubled back on this edge and as such it is 'finished' and will not fray. Though in the beginning these edges were printed with utilitarian information only, such as lines to indicate the repeat of a print on the fabric or dots of colour used in the dye, this has been expanded to include web sites, designer signatures, and much more.

Going through a stash of selvedge edges is an educational experience. It is interesting to track the changes made over the years, from bland to beautiful. I gleaned the following from this pile of selvedges:

  • Not all selvedges are printed - some are simply plain white.
  • Some have frayed edges, almost like a fringe (in my fabrics, those seemed to be primarily from British mills such as Makower, UK )
  • Some are dyed to match the fabric, but most are plain white printed with coloured ink.
  • Some selvedges have the company and designer’s name, some have the year. (The oldest I found was a blueberry print fabric dated 1993) Often the style number of the fabric, the name of the collection, and a website address will also be printed on the edge of the fabric.
  • Most have the printing facing the edge of the fabric; only one in a large pile of selvedges was turned inward to face the centre (did someone lose their job for that?)
  • The dots are the colours used in the print process, helpful for matching coordinates; the lines indicate the repeat of a design on the fabric.
The above pile yielded enough to make this terrific tote. Sticking with the frugal theme, I chose a Michael Miller Fairy Frost in "coin" colour for the handles, lining and accent colour which looks just like a copper penny.My selvedge pile deflated, I am now saving furiously for my next project. If anyone has unwanted selvedge, I'd be pleased to offer it a good home!
Edit: The pattern for this tote is now available on the patterns page of my website. and as an instant pdf download from Craftsy.  Enjoy!


  1. I have some I'd love to donate. Just need a street address.

  2. Awesome! Robin in Short Pump (?) can you email me please (sewkaren "at" ns. so I have your email address?

  3. Love the tote bag. Love working with selvages. Have made several small items but I'm sure my selvage mania is going to produce a large project in the new year.Will try & send you a picture.
    Happy Quilting
    Mary in MontreaL

  4. Oh wow! I love the bag.. I'm off to buy the book....and I will be more careful with the selvages from now on... what a treasure!
    Thank you Karen...

  5. Karen, I´ve been gathering selvages for a time now, I saw your tote and could´t resist so I made it over the weekend, Come see it on my blog. I just discovered yours and you can count me as your follower.

  6. Karen I intend to use my tote bag everyday or to use it when I wear jeans and I thought the colors you used would go great with jeans. In Mexico, they don´t sell nice cotton fabrics, so everytime I know of someone who is going to the States I ask them to bring me some fabric. The only fabric I had of that color was Frostbite. I´ll tell my readers to visit your Blog.

  7. It's just the right size for your little one to fill with their library selections or even to be used as a book bag for school! This little tote is fully lined, Canvas Tote Bag