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What is Selvage, Seam Allowance, and Interfacing?


I love getting comments and emails from all of you. And I extra love LOVE getting questions. It means you’re out there crafting your little hearts out.

Love that a lot.


So I am going to post answers to common questions and helpful tips every now and then. These are very basic skills so if you already know how to sew, you probably won’t find this very useful. But if you’re trying to gain more sewing skills, hopefully this helps a bit.


**And if you have specific questions, please contact me and I will try to add them to a “Sewing Tips” Tutorial.


Click on any of the images to see them bigger and to see more of what I’m talking about.


First, I use the word selvage sometimes and I get questions about what in the world that is…..


When you buy fabric off of a bolt at the fabric store, it comes folded in half. Then you can buy 1,2 or however many yards you’d like. After you pull the fabric from the bolt, one side is the fold and the other side is the selvage. The selvage is a finished edge that will not fray and usually has the brand or designers name on it. You can cut your fabric using your selvage as the straight edge.


There you have it……the selvage. (The fold is on the right and the selvage is on the left.)


Now, in every sewing project, I talk some jibber-jabber about a seam allowance. What is that? Well, when you are sewing two pieces of fabric together, you generally need to sew in a straight line and an equal distance away from the edge. To help you stay an equal distance away from the edge as you’re sewing……there is usually a guide on your sewing machine to help you do that. The most common seam allowance on a sewing machine is 5/8 of an inch (tell me if it’s something else in other countries….I have no idea.) 5/8 of an inch is very common in sewing clothing. So usually there is a mark on your sewing machine, 5/8 of an inch away from the needle, that will help guide you as you’re sewing.


If you need to check on your own sewing machine, grab a tape measure and measure from your needle out the the right or left, wherever the edge of fabric is. Now check to see if there is a line for you to follow. Then see what the measurements are of the other marks on your sewing machine and use them as needed. Often times, the measurement will be written (or etched) right on your machine for you.


But my machine does not have 1/4 inch etched into it (which I use often), so I have measured it out and then I follow the inside line of my presser foot. (What’s a presser foot? It’s an interchangeable foot that presses down on your fabric and aids in different types of sewing.) Measure out your distances and remember what little marks on your machine can be used as a guide for your seam allowance.


What is interfacing?

I found a great explanation on this site. ( is essentially an extra layer of fabric that provides shape and support in detail areas. And is commonly used in collars, cuffs, lapels, necklines, pockets, waistbands, buttonholes, facings and opening edges. Interfacing acts to keep these areas of your garment crisp through repeated washings and wearings. You pattern will tell you if you need interfacing and how much. It will also tell you how to lay out your interfacing. You can use more than one type of interfacing on a garment, choose the type according to where it is going to be used and according to the desired effect. Interfacing is usually applied to the wrong side of what will be the outermost layer of fabric.

Essentially, it’s just an iron on piece of material that makes your fabric thicker. One side is bumpy with adhesive and the other is smooth. (Unless you buy the kind that you sew on. But I like the iron-on a lot better.)


Hope these little tips answer a couple of questions for some of you. I have more to add so check back in a week or two for some more.


If you’re really trying to figure out that machine…..good luck.



And keep at it.


Ashley Johnston
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Ashley Johnston

Owner at Make It & Love It
Ashley Johnston is a professional DIY costume maker, sewist, crafter, and owner of Make It & Love It. She is a mom of 5 and a wife to a very patient (with my craft clutter) husband. In case you’re wondering, she always chooses crafting/sewing/designing over mopping/dusting/wiping base boards……but bathrooms/laundry/full bellies are always attended to. Whew!
What is selvage, seam allowance, and interfacing?
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  1. Katface says:

    Thanks! I’m new to sewing and I could not figure out with interfacing was!!

  2. Sun says:

    Thank you for all your "sewing tips". They really help me a lot.
    Though my English isn't very well, I still understand your words. (VERY HAPPY). Thank you again. By the way, 5/8 of an inch is 1.5cm. It still is the most common seam allowance on the sewing machine in my country. Sorry for my poor English.

  3. Miss Muffin says:

    I love your sewing tips and all your other tutorials!
    I left an award on my blog for you (Actually meant to give it to you already months ago …) Hope you enjoy it!
    Have a great 2010!

  4. Michelle says:

    Ashley! I had enough of all the sewing that needed to be done in a lot of the crafts I wanted to do but couldn't because I didn't have a sewing machine, let alone know how to sew….but that's in the past! hahaha I went out today in this crazy heat and bought a sewing machine! Now I'll be reading and rereading your tips on sewing till I get it all down, at least the basics anyway!!! =)

  5. The Hatch Family says:

    Thanks so much, I am still a beginner, but love your blog!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. glorybe1024 says:

    As a sewing novice, any tips I can get will only help. Keep them coming!!

  7. Emily says:

    Thanks sew much for this….My mom taught me how to sew when I was a teenager, but I forgot almost everything! Anyhoo, I'm trying to get back in and need to re-learn some of the basics :)

  8. Deb says:

    Thanks for the tip about what to do if you don't have a quarter inch marked on your machine (mine doesn't either and it really bugs me). I hadn't even thought of measuring it out myself and putting a small mark or finding an existing marker (like the presser foot edge).

  9. The Cannons says:

    I am a beginner sewer but I did know all of that so that means I'm making progress. Love your blog, although you make me tired thinking about all of the stuff you do.

  10. Natasha says:

    Whoops! I think I deleted my comment. Ha, maybe I need blogging tips! Anyway, just wanted to say thanks a bunch, I'm a new sewer who's learning as I go and it can be hard to find explanations on the basics, like interfacing and selvage, had no idea! Also, I get confused with bias tape and binding tape? Also the correct way to use them, whenever I try it comes out a hot mess! (:

  11. Shana says:

    thanks so much for the explanations! I'm a sewing newbie and needed it!

  12. Audrey says:

    Your blog is one of my favorites! You would be so proud I have been sewing my lil' heart out!

  13. SugarandSpice says:

    I just stumbled on your blog! Cute! I think I am going to try and make some bean bags letters(the whole alphabet) for my one and a half year old. Maybe it will help her learn her ABC'S!!!

  14. Ashley says:

    Good, I'm glad to hear that this will be helpful. I will keep them coming!

    Oh, and Sewing Chick, I have heard that (you made total sense) and I've even tried it once but forgot all about that. Thanks for the refresher. It's a good trick and works perfectly.

  15. Sewing-Chick says:

    One of my good buddies was a fashion major, and she learned a great tip from one of her professors. You know how when sewing a pillow or something square/rectangular, and you turn it right side out, you have to use some blunt object on the corners to get them to come out crisply? Well she said that if you sew two stitches on an angle at each corner rather than coming to a 90 degree angle, the corners come out crisper than crisp! (Hope that made sense)

  16. Alicia says:

    Awesome post! Keep 'em coming.

    There's a lot of sources out there on how to's and what's this's (huh?) but very seldom is it actually put into layman's terms where a newbie can actually understand what the heck is being said.

    Thanks again, and I for one am certainly interested in more posts of this sort amongst your creativity.


  17. Richngermany says:

    Thanks for the tips. I recently taught myslef to sew and use my machine. This was no easy task! I live overseas so I dont have "mom" to help me out ;) I wil take tip wherever I can find them!

  18. dailydoseofme says:

    HI Ashley

    Thank you so much for posting this great for beginners i am going to link this in my blog :)

    I love your blog great tips, great projects and updated regulary 5 stars in my book


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Hi, I’m Ashley—the DIY-enthusiast behind this crazy blog!

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