Zero Waste Designs

Have you thought about how your sewing impacts on the environment?

Zero Waste Designs could be the way forward. Whether we’re recycling a bit more or trying to use less plastic. Everyone is becoming more conscious of the impact we’re having on the planet. But have you thought about how to apply that to your sewing? Maybe you already try to use all your scraps but what else could you do?

What if you could sew a garment without creating any scraps at all?

That’s what zero waste patterns aim to do! Using these sorts of patterns – you can create a garment that can be sewn with little to no fabric waste. Currently, most patterns are designed based on traditional ‘blocks’. These were originally created for the purposes of making made-to-measure garments. The patterns were not intended for mass production. These designs featured curves and design lines that when laid out on fabric left ‘gaps’ between the pieces – thus creating fabric waste!

It’s estimated that 400 billion square metres of fabric are manufactured every year. And 15% of this is wasted in factories at the point of pattern cutting. That’s 60 billion square metres that took resources to grow, harvest, weave, dye, and ship just to be wasted!

Changing the way patterns are created

Fortunately, there are several pattern designers that have started considering fabric waste at the initial point of design. Instead, straight lines are used so the pattern pieces fit next to each other. Convex curves are placed next to concave ones so that the pattern pieces fit neatly together. The designers consciously design from the biggest to the smallest pattern peices. Large pieces are placed first, and the ‘space’ between used for smaller pieces like collars, cuffs, pockets, and facings etc.

As home sewists, we can be less wasteful than the fashion industry. We can minimise our own waste by cutting out cleverly, and finding uses for our scraps. But why not try a zero-waste pattern and eliminate scraps altogether? Several zero-waste patterns have now been created for the home sewing community, and many are available for free!

Here are some of our favourites:

Cris Wood Sews is a pattern company that specialises in zero waste designs. The envelope dress is beautifully simple, and a great way to dip your toe into sewing with this style of pattern.

Elbe Textiles is a well known indie-sewing pattern designer. This sewing pattern company created the Instagram-famous Maynard Dress that has been so popular among bloggers. This pattern label has also written a free tutorial on how to sew a zero waste robe.

Milan AVJC is a pattern company that specialises in fashion-forward zero waster patterns and all are available for free. We especially love the trench coat!

Make Use is a NZ based project that teaches zero waste techniques. They also have several gorgeous designs including tops, dresses and a coat all available as free pdf download.

Offset Warehouse is a sustainable fabric website that has a free zero-waste dress pattern available on their website.

Schnitten Patterns has designed two zero waste patterns that are available to download for free – a top and a dress.

And hot off the press…..

Pattern Union has just released its Edith Smock. This pattern, you can make as a blouse and a high or low waisted dress. This pattern is zero or minimal waste and comes with a belt pattern and instructions to make a zero-waste slip for when your dress fabric is sheer.

Popularised recently as a response to fast-fashion – the zero-waste concept has been around for centuries. Many traditional garments like the kimono and sari have been created with this in mind. Fabric was expensive in these times, and people needed to maximise their fabric. Thanks to pattern forward-thinking makers like these above – we now have a wealth of designs to try at home, and try to reduce the waste of our precious fabric!

You may also like to read Sustainable Fabrics where Fabric consultant, Jane Makower explains how we can become more sustainable when it comes to our fabric choices!