My Zero Waste Pattern Experience

I noticed a zero waste pattern for sale online last week and, despite the fact I’ve ignored all other temptations as far as fabric and dressmaking patterns go for a while, this time I succumbed.

I was drawn to the concept because I’m often horrified by the amount of fabric left over after a dressmaking project and, excited by the fact it only used 36 inches/90cm of fabric, I ordered the PDF and found some linen in my stash that I thought would be suitable.

There are no pattern pieces to print out – thereby saving paper too – and the idea is you use the whole width of the fabric and then cut it to the required length.  Then you draw the shapes directly on to the fabric according to the measurements given in the instructions – it’s a one size pattern but you can adjust within the limits of the width of fabric you’re working with.   Any gaps between, in this case a triangular section between the two fronts and a rectangular piece between the sleeves, are cut out and utilised in the construction so that there is almost no waste.

In this drawing you can see by the dotted lines where these ‘surplus’ pieces are added to the inside as facings and top stitched to make, I assume, a design feature on the back of the shirt.

Drawing showing the topstitched facing pieces from the right side of the shirt back.

The triangular pieces are used to face the side seams which I did because, although I’d overlocked the seams so they looked pretty neat already, these pieces did finish them off quite nicely.

Inside view of faced side seam

The purpose of the rectangular piece I couldn’t fathom and left it off although there is a hack to cut that rectangle in half and make two patch pockets for the front which at least makes sense rather than use it for a ‘back hem facing’ which, to me, didn’t make much sense at all.  I suppose, to be called a zero waste pattern, it is necessary to use all the pieces you cut out somewhere on the garment whether it needs them or not.

Unfortunately, I did waste a bit more fabric than intended because the linen I used was a nightmare to cut in a straight line.  Something wobbly in the weave caused it to shift off grain and I ended up having to cut off a bit more than planned just to straighten it up again.

Maybe the wobbly grain worked to my advantage for the button band though as it needed to go around the neck and a more stable fabric, cut as this was, might not have behaved as nicely around the curve.

Even though I’m only 5’3″, this is quite cropped on me but that is down to having to straighten up the shifting fabric and not a problem with the pattern.

You can’t make out the top stitching on the triangles at the side seams which is probably a good thing as I did it from the inside and the bobbin thread never looks as neat as the top thread.  I don’t think adding the rectangular piece would have brought anything to this particular party.

So, I think I made a wearable cropped shirt although I have to remember not to reach up …

……unless I wear something underneath as nobody wants to see my midriff revealed.

I might consider making this again to see what it would be like in more drapey (stash) fabric and I’d put a couple more inches on the hem.  Also, there is a gathered sleeve hack which might look quite good.  I have plenty of stash fabric to work with.

Coincidentally, I was working on this zero waste project at the same time as my good blogging friend Kate was working on one .  Unfortunately, Kate made a dress which didn’t work out so well.  We have a few followers in common so you’ve probably seen her post but, if you haven’t, you can read about it here for another take on these sorts of patterns.

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  1. #1 by Emmely on February 11, 2021 - 10:11

    I did see Kate’s post and as I read your title my first thought was “I hope she used a different pattern!”. I have to agree that your garment fortunately did turn out a whole lot better! Lovely blue colour too.

    • #2 by tialys on February 11, 2021 - 10:24

      I vaguely thought about the dress but knew that style wouldn’t suit me anyway however well it turned out. I think Kate might have fared better with the smaller size option but I’m sure she’ll make something lovely out of the fabric so it won’t be totally wasted.

      • #3 by Emmely on February 11, 2021 - 10:39

        Yes, at least she has plenty of fabric to work with!

  2. #4 by katechiconi on February 11, 2021 - 11:09

    I think the respectable result you got underlines my point about unsuccessful scaling-up. It looks pretty good, and with an extra few inches at the bottom I think most people would be happy to wear that. I’d also like to see it with longer sleeves and body and made in something heavier, as a jacket.
    I tend to agree with your response to Emmely: although I’m not at all slender, the smaller size would indeed have been better, but I would still have found a bodice/gathered skirt seam that hit me straight across the bust very unflattering, and I do feel sorry for other women in the larger category who will also end up with the same sack-like result because the no-waste concept had to be ‘made’ to work for larger sizes too although it causes excessive fullness.

    • #5 by tialys on February 11, 2021 - 11:37

      I did try it with the front open like a little jacket and it works quite well. If I have suitable fabric in my stash – definitely won’t be buying anything specially – I might try the gathered sleeve hack and make it a bit longer which it probably would have been if my fabric hadn’t misbehaved.
      I didn’t go for the dress mainly because of that gathered seam line – I know an empire line doesn’t do anything for me, let alone a line that up close and personal.
      Just as an aside, I accidentally pressed something on your post that means I get an email every time there is a new comment. What a time to do that as it’s definitely been one of your more popular posts 🙄

      • #6 by katechiconi on February 11, 2021 - 12:05

        I don’t think the dress would suit you at all. You have a petite, neat figure and a tent simply isn’t your style – the skater dress is much more your thing. So just as well you didn’t try. As for the popularity of my post – I’m sure most people have come for a giggle, and I don’t blame them!

  3. #7 by nanacathy2 on February 11, 2021 - 15:30

    Well I’m impressed, anyway! Looks pretty nifty to me.

    • #8 by tialys on February 11, 2021 - 16:18

      I’ll take ‘pretty nifty’. Thank you. x

  4. #9 by craftycreeky on February 11, 2021 - 15:34

    I rather like that one, I might have another look at the waste free patterns, I’ve got a few short lengths in my stash.

    • #10 by tialys on February 11, 2021 - 16:21

      Ideal for short lengths. I used to buy 1m lengths of fabric all the time and then couldn’t think what to do with them. I’ve got over that now but I have some left in my stash and if I make something from them at least they might get worn rather than languishing in a cupboard.

  5. #11 by Laurie Graves on February 11, 2021 - 15:42

    Snappy! Love the way it looks on you. I am in such awe of anyone being able to create the clothes that you make. Bravo!

  6. #13 by claire93 on February 11, 2021 - 15:59

    mixed feelings about this sewing project, Lynn. You’ve done a great job, don’t get me wrong, but it does look rather short & boxy. After having a giggle at Kate’s zero waste sewing, I don’t think I’d be tempted by either pattern.

    • #14 by tialys on February 11, 2021 - 16:28

      That’s fine Claire – each to their own. I generally wear quite fitted clothes so this is a bit of a departure but the boxy style is quite handy, and comfy, for a change. I would always wear something fitted on bottom half with this style to avoid looking like a small square. if I make it again, I’ll make sure it ends up a couple of inches longer (as it would have done if it hadn’t been for my wonky linen) and try some gathered sleeves. All good experience and a new challenge.

  7. #15 by myquiltprojects on February 11, 2021 - 16:31

    This is cute, and worth making again a tad longer.

    • #16 by tialys on February 11, 2021 - 16:40

      Thank you – I think so too. Watch this space 😉

  8. #17 by Carol on February 11, 2021 - 17:20

    Has a great Oriental look, like a Kimono….. Would look really lovely in embroidered Silk?

    • #18 by tialys on February 11, 2021 - 17:34

      Yes, it does have a (cropped) kimono feel even though the sleeves are set in and not joined on. Oh for somewhere to go where embroidered silk would be appropriate 🙁

  9. #19 by CurlsnSkirls on February 11, 2021 - 17:29

    Your top looks great with layering! Loose is a very good recommendation for summers over here, and might be for you, if any British summer includes hot, humid days. 😉 (Probably difficult to consider right now with your current weather!) If I had a decent button hole maker I might give this one a go… am thinking skirt instead. . .

    • #20 by tialys on February 11, 2021 - 17:39

      If the British tabloids are to be believed the last two summers at least have been worthy of ‘phew! what a scorcher’ headlines. However, I will wait to be impressed as I’ve spent the last 16 summers in the S.W. of France where the temperatures can get very high – although not as humid generally.
      I couldn’t find my buttonholer in my still messy workroom for a while and went into a bit of a panic but I did find it and had a little practise to make sure I remembered how to use it which was just as well as I hadn’t remembered a vital step.

      • #21 by CurlsnSkirls on February 11, 2021 - 17:45

        You did a wonderful job with this, and hope you decide to give that sleeve variation a try. Love the fabric, even if it was a terror to work with!

  10. #22 by kathyreeves on February 12, 2021 - 04:31

    That turned out pretty nice, Lynn. It looks good on you, and I like your ideas for the next go. I’m not very tempted to try no waste sewing…I usually go with a 1/4 yard less than the pattern calls for, or I put the scraps in the quilt stash!

    • #23 by tialys on February 12, 2021 - 09:46

      There are definitely methods of laying out standard pattern pieces in a more economical way than the instructions tell you aren’t there. The problem with dressmaking scraps is I don’t see them as being useful in patchwork – or at least not the type of fabric I generally use in dressmaking.

  11. #24 by Evie Jones on February 12, 2021 - 09:38

    This has turned out very well. I love the colour and shape on you.
    A spaghetti strapped cami/best would work perfectly under this. Still cool but modesty preserved.

    • #25 by tialys on February 12, 2021 - 09:43

      Thanks Evie. Yes, I agree about the cami but it was a bit too nippy yesterday to try that out 🥶

  12. #26 by sew2pro on February 12, 2021 - 10:24

    Lovely colour (I love blue linen), and nicely sewn. I’m not crazy about the style but short and 80s was all the range not so long ago when we still had fashion.

    • #27 by tialys on February 12, 2021 - 10:56

      Indeed! I remember wearing cropped shirts and little black skirts when working in a night club in the 80s and was always getting asked to check the lightbulbs over the tables – it took me a while to realise why 🙄
      I’m going to try it again in some drapier fabric, a bit longer and with some ‘romantic’ gathered sleeves. I’ve paid for the pattern and have stash so might as well.

  13. #28 by Born To Organize on February 12, 2021 - 14:32

    Lynn, I read your post immediately following Kate’s. Until today I hadn’t heard of this concept. I agree with you on the wasted fabric. When I worked in a costume shop during my theatre days, we were careful to use fabric judiciously. It helped that the designers made their own patterns, or in some cases we draped a costume on a dress form, not using a pattern at all.

    Your linen concoction is a lovely addition to your wardrobe. I can also picture it layered over a tank top in the warmer months. I love that you are always trying new things.

    • #29 by tialys on February 12, 2021 - 16:50

      I like to think trying new things keeps the brain active – although sometimes I wonder 😕.

  14. #30 by cedar51 on February 12, 2021 - 21:54

    From my early days of being a handweaver – a lot of garments were geared not toward “no waste” but less cutting as often the woven fabric might be deemed “sloppy” and hard to stop the threads fraying. So the style was “folk wear style” – and the kimono style was always part of it – if you wanted a long sleeved other. But also the basic over-shirt where you cut very little – or you joined to pieces together for a very boxy neckline.

    Interesting how that trend has come around again, to be part of the “green thing” of life ….

    • #31 by tialys on February 13, 2021 - 10:58

      That’s interesting. It appears there’s nothing new under the sun.

  15. #32 by Susan Nixon on February 15, 2021 - 00:54

    How fun that I read this a few hours after reading Kate’s experience with the full dress. Your little top is quite appealing.

    • #33 by tialys on February 15, 2021 - 11:33

      I think I’d have been disappointed with the dress too had I tried that first instead of the top.

  16. #34 by tottietalkscrafts on February 15, 2021 - 17:26

    Your shirt looks great on you! Well done 🙂

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