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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

Administrator 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 the 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!

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Hi, I'm Ashley

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

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