Monday, August 4, 2014

Tutorial: No-sew Selvage Art

Posted by Kashmira

About 3 years ago, after much thought, I decided to take the plunge and quit my software job to start my own little sewing business. I was based out of Bangalore, India at the time and the business model that developed over the course of the next several months involved designing fabric products, working with a couple of women (who I met through an NGO) to create those products and selling them online within India and through a few boutiques. My venture was called Kala Koyree and you can see some of my products here.

Then life changed again in a big way when we moved to Minneapolis - which meant I had to completely re-think my business model. And while I was still pondering and considering options, I found myself sitting on our couch, sipping a cuppa chai with my dear sister Nupur. While she already had her petite hands overflowing with her day job (research!), toddler (adorable!), blogging (onehotstove!), quilting (newsletter editor!), she mentioned that her new-found interest in sewing and quilting was rather haphazardly intruding on her food-centric blog.

Here's what  came out of our conversations: we would start a blog together. It would be the central hub for my patterns and designs, and a place for us both to share our works in progress and finished projects. 

We kick off our blogging journey with the quick tutorial for a fun craft with leftover bits of fabric. Welcome to our very first post...

Go ahead, salvage that selvage!

Last month I completed a custom order for a lovely lady who had bought several cuts of cotton fabric for making pillow case dresses to send to girls in Africa. The pieces all had a variety of prints and when I cut the selvages off before making the dresses, I was left with several ribbons of colorful fabric. Of course I wasn't about to let them anywhere near the trash! What better way to take advantage of the thinness of selvage strips than to cut them into even smaller bits for a lively little mosaic?

So here’s what I started with – A stretched canvas and a jumble of selvage strips.

Step 1. Begin by sorting through the strips and arranging them by color so as to get an idea of the overall color scheme which in turn can bring out some ideas regarding the design. I realized I had more of blues, greens and yellows so naturally I went with water and fish.

Step 2. Once you settle on the design, outline the sections and details (if any) on the canvas with a pencil and mark what color each section should be. Choose a paint shade that complements the fabric that’s going on top of it, but one that is not so close that it drowns the fabric/ paint contrast. After all, part of the charm of a mosaic is the underlying color that peeks through the assemblage.

Step 3. Paint each section according to the markings. I made rough watercolor strokes, but I think acrylic should be fine too.

Step 4. Time to start cutting up! I folded up the strips along the length and cut multiple layers together to save time. Make some straight cuts, some slanting, some biggish, some small – they each will find a place to fit in!

Step 5. Now’s the fun part – laying them out in a pleasing manner. I gave each piece a quick lick of a regular glue stick (hey, I’m a poet!) so that they wouldn't go this way and that while I worked with other sections. It is a little time consuming, but totally worth it. Here’s the first section…..

.... and the rest.

Step 6. Now for the focus of the piece – I really wanted the fish to leap out of the canvas, so to speak, so I decided to cut the selvage in a slightly different way from the background. (In this case, a fish out of water is a good thing!) To this end, I used a combination of thin, long strips and tinier bits for the fish and sea shell.

Step 7. Next I went over the whole thing with a generous coat of good ol’ Mod Podge. And here’s what came of it.

And this is what it finally looks like up on my wall!

Oh, just one more thing before I go. If you’re a little hard pressed for time, but would still like to salvage your selvage: Grab a picture frame, cut a nice looking sheet of paper to its size, think up a design, DON’T cut into very tiny pieces, DON’T Mod Podge, just quick lick glue stick and voila – You have a 15 minute selvage artwork ready for proud display! Here’s what I mean:

Speaking of underwater, what did the fish say when he hit a wall? 'Dam!' :)

We're linking this tutorial to the Sew Darn Crafty Linky Party.


  1. Wonderful idea!
    You really had a huge change in your life, so good luck for your new adventure! :-)

    1. Thank you RobyGiup! Hope you keep coming back here to join us :)

  2. I am so glad you two started this together. I have really enjoyed everything I have seen so far and can't wait to see more.

    - Priti

  3. Priti, good to hear you liked what you've seen. Yes, do keep coming back!

  4. Awesome, Kash! Love how you are so innovative with things :)
    And OMG! The punch line! :D


    1. Thanks Shruti baby! Always glad for your support :)