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Quilts from the Selvage Edge

10 September 2008
Creativity and no wasted fabric…

selvageedge2.jpg Quilts from the Selvage Edge

By: Karen Griska


Karen Griska is one creative woman. Who would have thought that those little scraps of fabric along the edges of material with tiny words and sometimes dots, could be so useful?

So, what is a selvage anyway? Simply put it’s the long edges that run down both the left and right sides of the fabric to keep it from unraveling. Fabric usually comes out of the fabric loom with selvages. The selvage is a bit thicker than the rest of the cloth because the threads have doubled back on themselves. My mother, who was an excellent seamstress, would try to only buy fabric with writing on the selvages as she felt that meant the company was proud of the finished product. Today many companies also include their websites on the selvages. Sometimes the manufacturer has printed the designers name on the selvage, the name of the pattern, along with small dots of color, called color windows. The color windows show all the color used in printing the fabric. Before Griska, the selvage was usually trimmed off and thrown away. Even Wikipedia says, “very often the fabric near the selvage is not usable.” Guess someone needs to update that entry!

Griska has been quilting since 1966, and has made over 200 quilts. She said the inspiration for the selvage quits idea came in 2005 when a “textile gallery in New Mexico put out a call for ‘Recycled Art,’ I decided to make a quilt using the selvages that I had been saving.” That she had been saving the selvages is interesting in itself, and she does not elaborate on the reason for that.

But reason is set aside for art, and these quilts are truly just that. Funky, different, and inspiring. Her book, “Quilts from the Selvage Edge ,” gives instructions to make 13 different selvage quilts, and shows some of the selvage edge quilts she herself has made. The book is clearly written, all color, and a fun read. In addition, on her website she furnishes a blog so readers can write about their experiences or ask questions.

Presently Griska is working on what she calls the "Oregon Trail Quilt Challenge." In this workshop quilters are given a bundle of fabric but no pattern. "What," she asks, "would you make if you were out on the Oregon Trail and could use only the materials you had on hand and the ideas in your head?"

It appears that Griska has started a whole new division of creative quilt making, and turned “trash into treasure.”