Zero Waste Patterns: 20 Projects to Sew Your Own Wardrobe

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Zero Waste Patterns: 20 Projects to Sew Your Own Wardrobe

Zero Waste Patterns: 20 Projects to Sew Your Own Wardrobe

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Women’s sizes run 25–33″ for waists and men’s sizes 28–38″. Leg lengths vary depending on the style.

Caroline : Oh, absolutely. It’s a lot more challenging I find to draft your own pattern, even though you’d think it would be easier. I just get overwhelmed when I’m having to, kind of, lay out measurements, and you need a lot of space. So I can totally see how some sewists would just be like, you know what, this is not for me. And I get that. I think all of these barriers are important to keep in mind when we’re advocating for zero waste patterns. There are many ways to reduce waste in your sewing practice. So it’s just good to keep an open mind and not judge others harshly for choices you may not understand. Helen : Yeah, I do love scrap busting. I mean, it can get a little overwhelming when you keep every little piece of fabric. So you do have to be a little bit careful about getting too many scraps built up in your stash, but that’s why working in some scrap busting projects as a regular part of your sewing practice is so great because it helps to clear out those scraps. And also, just use what you have which is the baseline for more sustainable sewing.Caroline : This is such a good tip, and I’ve definitely done this before when I’ve been short on fabric, just kind of, like, overlap the seam allowance a little bit, and it’ll be fine.

Zero waste is a term which has slowly percolated through the sewing community in the last few years, but it’s been around for as long as clothes themselves, with bog coats and authentic Japanese Kimonos possibly being the most common examples. Fabric was once a precious commodity and both utilitarian and luxurious garments were made with minimal waste, using squares and rectangles. Many of the modern zero waste patterns for home sewists utilise this same technique and it works well. However, once people desire more shape and therefore curves, zero waste becomes problematic and requires more creativity and lateral thinking. Helen : So zero waste sewing patterns are not patterns in the conventional sense. That is because there’s not usually paper pieces to them. Instead, they often include a cutting diagram and instructions. So the cutting diagrams can be a little puzzling to look at because the pieces look different than conventional patterns. But if you take the instructions one step at a time, it will all come together. So, for example, the instruction booklet will tell you to cut a rectangle 30 inches by 40 inches, and then cut another rectangle 12 inches by six inches. And by assembling all of those pieces and cutting all those parts, eventually you have all the pieces for the pattern. I’m simplifying it obviously, but you get the idea. Caroline : Yeah, and a lot of the time in these zero waste patterns, they don’t even give the exact measurements. They’ll have you divide the width of your fabric into sections. So let’s say, they’ll say, you know, a third of the width is for this, two thirds is for this, so that you can use the full width of the fabric and have it be, like, a true zero waste design. So it’s actually really interesting when you kinda look at that chart and figure out how that’s going to work for the fabric that you have. But I think now would be a good time to go over some of the patterns and pattern companies that we know of that have zero waste options.Fabric sourcing for their sustainable lingerie comes first for this “upcycle brand” and they source their pre-consumer textile waste from various places—like factory surplus silk. Caroline : Yeah, and it comes in a couple of size options which is fairly rare with zero waste patterns. So we’ll talk a little bit more about sizing later.

Their treasure trove of vintage delights spans the 60s to the 00s so whether you’re looking for a 60s shift dress, a 90s floral playsuit, or some retro Nike, this is the place to go. For a customizable sewing project, try this cropped t-shirt. The cloth should measure the circumference of your body for a fit as shown above. To personalize the look, you can create a more voluminous form with a wider piece of cloth, or a closer fit with a narrower piece. Use chiffon or another soft fabric for a more fluid look, or try a stiffer fabric for something more structured. The pattern is free, but the sewing experience is different from working with a conventional pattern. Read the instructions through before starting.Caroline : I’m all for being stain positive. We’re coining a new term. I need to be stain positive because I stain my clothes all the time. I am going to focus on the home sewist rather than commercial garment design as that is the target audience for this post, and examine the concept of creating clothing that is both useful and environmentally sustainable. That connection is tangible to those in the maker community. “When you’re wearing something you’ve made, not for one second are you not aware of that,” says d’Angelo. “Every time I look down, I think about the mistakes I made and the way I saved it and I’m filled with pride. It’s the ultimate in conscious consumption.” The process for making a zero-waste pattern is different from how we normally design and make patterns. Normally, a garment starts with a designer’s sketch, description, or photo. That sketch is then interpreted into a pattern, all the sizes are made, then a cutting layout is developed. With zero waste patterns, all these things happen at the same time. No one knows exactly what the design will be until the pattern is finished. Sometimes the style will vary slightly between sizes. This is one of the things that makes zero waste so exciting. With zero waste, patternmaking is used as the design tool. Do zero-waste patterns use more fabric than regular patterns? This is something often heard, and fabric yield is a subject that’s been discussed at length. Should we be trying to use less fabric? Certainly, historic zero-waste patterns (for example, kimonos, caftans, the main part of saris, etc.) aren’t necessarily economical on fabric; many are voluminous and showcase fabulous textiles, displaying the skill of the weaver. With modern zero-waste patterns, the results vary. My own experience reveals that most are very economical on fabric, some with significant savings of up to 25 percent or more, giving a very compelling reason for pursuing zero waste in the fashion industry.

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