Zero Waste Sewing Patterns you should try

Zero waste sewing patterns

When talking about sustainability in the fashion industry (and, by extension, in home sewing), one of the concepts that comes up often is zero-waste design (or sewing patterns). It’s a very interesting approach, that looks at the pattern cutting process in a completely different way, resulting in shapes that are functional, simple looking, but also very cleverly assembled at the same time.

I have been meaning to sew my own version of a zero-waste pattern for a very long time, so I started doing some research to see what is available for home sewing. The bad news is that obviously there are not as many options as regular sewing patterns, but the good news is that the vast majority of them are free to either download or come with instructions to make your own.

Now, you might ask, why should we be interested in zero-waste design or care about zero-waste sewing patterns? Well, for one, waste is a massive issue in the overall fashion industry, with approximatively 15% of the fabric used for any garment ending up as waste. That most often means straight to landfill. For home sewing, we also end up with little pieces that we have no use (thought I know that many in the community are working really hard to use as much of them as possible).

I also think that zero waste design can be an awesome intellectual challenge. It’s a very different way of looking at shapes and it does become creative problem solving at its best.

If you want to know more about zero-waste design, scroll to the end of the post where I listed some resources. If you want to know more about sustainability and sewing, check out this section on the blog.

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So, shall we have a look are what’s available for home sewing?

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Sewing patterns for zero waste
#sewing #zerowaste #patterncutting

ZERO WASTE SEWING PATTERN DESIGNERS

There are companies or designers that entirely specialise in zero-waste design, but also some conventional designers that have created a few patterns in this space. So I will we listing both the designers I came across as well as specific patterns that are a one off.

MILAN AV-JC

I have only recently came across this brand, but they have some awesome patterns that look very cool, but are also zero-waste.

This is their latest release, the Adonis dress. It’s already made its way to my sewing list. It’s available in PDF download for €10.

Image property of Milan AV-JC

Make sure to check out their website for loads more patterns, including a zero waste backpack.

MAKEUSE

Makeuse is a community created by one of the most famous zero-waste designers, Holly McQuillan. You can find a multitude of patterns to download for free, as well as many other resources on zero-waste design.

SKUNK FUNK

They are actually a clothes brand, but I found a document where they share a few zero-waste patterns. It’s just the dimensions, but it doesn’t look too complicated to assemble.

SkunkFunk Dahlia Dress – RTW but pattern in link above

ATACAC

EDIT: Again not a sewing patterns company, Atacac are a brand and concept design studio that promote something called kinetic design, i.e. clothes designed using 3D software that mimic the body movements. They offer some patterns for free as shareware, and a few of them are zero-waste(ish). The patterns do not come with instructions, btw. Thanks to Melissa Fehr for highlighting (and post now updated).

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ZERO WASTE SEWING PATTERNS OR TUTORIALS

ELBE TEXTILES – ZERO WASTE ROBE TUTORIAL

ELBE Textiles Maynard zero-waste dress

Maynard dress Image c/o Elbe Textiles

ZERO WASTE T-SHIRT TUTORIALOFFSET WAREHOUSE + FRANKI CAMPBELL

ZERO-WASTE DRESSOFFSET WAREHOUSE (Free download)

Image property of Offset Warehouse

ZERO WASTE TOP – Schnittchen PATTERNS (Free download)

ZERO WASTE DRESS – Schnittchen PATTERNS (Free download)

Zero-waste design resources


HAVE YOU TRIED A ZERO WASTE SEWING PATTERN YET? WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE CONCEPT? DO YOU THINK IT’S PRACTICAL FOR HOME SEWING? DO YOU KNOW OF ANY OTHER ZERO WASTE SEWING PATTERNS? TELL ME IN THE COMMENTS.

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21 Comments

  1. 7 June 2019 / 7:46 AM

    Atacac also have a few zero waste “sharewear” free patterns on their site. One size only (size 3, which fits me, a Burda 42) and no instructions, but they’re so inventive!!

    • sewrendipityalex
      Author
      7 June 2019 / 10:48 AM

      Thanks, Melissa. I have now added them on the list.

  2. 7 June 2019 / 8:44 AM

    Hey Alex, thanks so much for sharing my zero waste sewing post! Looks like you’ve found lots of interesting resources in your post, I’ve been wanting to do some making inspired by this subject. Once my new book is finished I’m determined to get on with it, I look forward to seeing what you do too!

    • sewrendipityalex
      Author
      7 June 2019 / 10:49 AM

      No problem, it was a great post. I still struggle to figure out which pattern to make. I have some fabric I bough to make a gift for a friend, so I need to think carefully before cutting out.

  3. 7 June 2019 / 10:33 AM

    Thanks for this post – really great to see so many interesting zero-waste patterns in one place! My concern with zero waste though is how to make alterations without rendering it no longer zero waste – I’m a KK cup so every top or dress I make needs a honking huge FBA and double darts – even in stretch fabrics. Mostly these patterns seem to be oversized, with various ways of drawing in the excess fabric but I’ve not personally had a lot of luck with these types of styles/solutions – I find I still need a smaller size & FBA if I’m not to look swamped by the garment. Have you come across anything that discusses major fit alterations for zero waste patterns?

    • sewrendipityalex
      Author
      7 June 2019 / 10:52 AM

      That is a very good question indeed. I don’t think very often about things like that, as I am fairly standard and only rarely need to make full bum adjustments (if they are very fitted). My first thought would be to maybe get in touch with Milan AV JC, as they are the only ones that seem to specialise in selling patterns to the public. So I’m sure they must have either got this question or might be able to work it out for you. Plus their patterns are probably the most similar to regular PDF patterns and also very fashionable. I am seriously thinking about making that dress in the picture.

  4. 7 June 2019 / 10:41 AM

    yeah, check out Atacac!

    • sewrendipityalex
      Author
      7 June 2019 / 10:56 AM

      I have just added them to the post! Thanks for sharing.

  5. Anna
    8 June 2019 / 4:08 AM

    I can’t quite wrap my head around the zero waste concept. I get the idea about not letting scraps go to land fill, but what if you actually use the scraps for something useful? Surely that must be a better option? (We don’t really have land fills in my country so that might be why I don’t get it…) Still, a very interesting blog post, and I’ll definitely read up!
    (PS. The name of the pattern company is Schnittchen.)

    • sewrendipityalex
      Author
      14 June 2019 / 12:32 PM

      Unfortunately, that is not the case at all in the fashion industry, where there is a lot of waste from the production process. And even if some home sewers use the scraps, not all of them do and loads of fabric ends up in the bin. Even if it’s not landfills, even incineration is not a good solution.

      Thanks for letting me know re name, I fixed that now.

      • Anna
        16 June 2019 / 9:08 AM

        With regards to industrial waste, I agree completely. But for home sewers, it surely makes more sense to use as little fabric as possible? The production of fabric is a much bigger problem for the environment than scraps. Lots of zero waste patterns seem to use a lot of fabric (in order to use the whole width). I appreciate any efforts, but to me it seems a little like putting band aid on a broken bone. However, I am no expert, and will gladly learn more. I appreciate your blog posts!

        (In Sweden most of the incineration is turned into energy and used for district heating. Still not the best use of waste, but better than land fill or simply burning it.)

  6. 8 June 2019 / 10:54 AM

    Ooh interesting. Another set of zero waste patterns I’ve come across is the Mappamodello book. I got a copy at the V and A bookshop and I’ve made up one style, but I have to say it wasn’t a complete success! A word of warning: there are almost no instructions in the book so I’d only recommend it to experienced sewers. It took me a lot of puzzling out and I still made a huge mistake when making the pattern up.

    • sewrendipityalex
      Author
      14 June 2019 / 12:33 PM

      Yes, that is the problem with many of these patterns, unless they are actual sewing patterns from a sewing company, that the instructions are sparse or non-existent.

  7. 9 June 2019 / 8:46 AM

    Such a timely post Alex, I really appreciated the links and I cannot wait to do the course with Holly. It made me realise that I need to have had a go with some of these patterns before I do the course. I’d better get weaving (metaphorically speaking!). x

    • sewrendipityalex
      Author
      14 June 2019 / 12:33 PM

      I am so looking forward to hearing how that goes. Please email me if you get a chance afterwards.

      • 16 June 2019 / 5:46 AM

        I certainly shall!

    • sewrendipityalex
      Author
      14 June 2019 / 12:33 PM

      Thanks for highlighting, I’ve added it now.

  8. Michelle
    18 June 2019 / 1:10 PM

    My mother taught me to sew using the least amount of fabric possible. She always used smaller seam allowances and I still cannot understand why seam allowances are cut out larger then cut down after sewing. It is wasteful when fabric is so costly.

    • sewrendipityalex
      Author
      26 June 2019 / 8:15 PM

      Yes, I completely agree on seam allowances!! I find 5/8” so wasteful. When I sew with Burda that don’t have SAs, I always only add 1 cm.

  9. 9 July 2019 / 2:33 AM

    Hello! There’s a couple of free patterns for zero waste garments on my website: http://lizhaywood.com.au/?s=zero+waste and also some zero waste cutting discussion (I’m an ex-industry patternmaker). Later this year/early next year I’ll have more zero waste patterns. Love your website Alex and enjoyed reading your archive.

So, what do you think?

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