The Thread Faction ZW Collection
Out in my garage I have 3 scrap fabric bins: the first is for scraps big enough for small parts of garments, future sewing projects yet to be conceived of. The second is for smaller pieces, pieces that although small, are big enough for coloured parts of applique designs, or perhaps the pockets of children’s patterns or colour blocking or patchwork projects. The third basket is of scraps too small to do anything with – selvages, overlocker trimmings threads and super small pieces.
I can’t bear to throw fabric away that something can be done with, and a quick google search will show you that I am not the only one. Projects for fabric scraps are many and varied, ranging from small stuffed toys filled with scraps, Christmas ornaments, patchwork poufs, appliques, rag rugs and pretty much anything else you could conceive of has been tried by a crafter too in love with the gorgeous fabric parts to simply throw them away.
This, by all accounts is a good thing. Statistics on the garment industry in general say that on average 15% of all fabric produced ends up in landfill as waste from cutting garments. But despite the best of intensions evident, my fabric scrap bins are full to overflowing and running a business avails me very little time for embarking on side projects that might see this situation ever be any different.
The first time I heard of it, I thought that Zero Waste pattern design was the perfect answer.
In essence Zero Waste pattern design is where you design the original pattern pieces so there is no waste fabric at all. The pattern pieces are often unconventional and fit together like a puzzle with the end result being a fabulous garment with no fabric to spare.
To design the original pattern so that there were no scraps to deal with from the outset seems such an eloquent answer – simple and perfect. My mathematical mind fell in love with the idea and I researched the movement with great enthusiasm, devouring all the reading material that I could get my hands on.
From my research, and subsequent Zero Waste pattern making explorations though, it quickly became apparent that there are a few pitfalls to be aware of when designing for Zero Waste.
When beginning with zero waste, designers often seem to simplify patterns to a slightly different shape, often reminiscent of traditional or folk clothing, which is frequently based on squares and triangles thus allowing the pieces to be slotted together more easily without any fabric scraps remaining. This does result in wearable garments that indeed produce no ‘waste fabric’ but the squared off garment often uses more fabric than cutting a similar garment in the conventional way.
So now you have had to purchase more fabric, your garment probably doesn’t fit quite as well as the original design, and you don’t even have any scraps left over to make and stuff small stuffed animals – what is the point?
How I have approached the zero waste concept for my collection
As I have developed these patterns I have given myself some ‘rules’ to follow if you like. Guidelines to ensure that my zero waste designs are not just a gimmick but designs that you will genuinely use:
- All pattern pieces for a particular garment fit, without waste, into a rectangular shape. So, although this still creates 'waste' when compared to the width of the fabric, all off cuts are very usable rectangular pieces.
- I work hard to ensure that the zero waste version of the garment that I create does not use more fabric than making the same or very similar garment using the conventional pattern making method.
- I work hard to keep myself in check with regard to ‘using up’ extra pieces of fabric in the fabric puzzle. Ensuring that I am not just adding embellishments to ‘use up’ the extra fabric. If it is not useful or beautiful it has no business here.
- I am very mindful of choosing styles just because they are easier to create using the zero waste method. Asking myself ‘would I have chosen this silhouette if I were using a regular pattern making method?’
- Also I have tried to stay true to my regular pattern making mantra. I have tried to make the types of designs that my children wear every day. That are easy to make and easy to wear. Beginner level sewing patterns that are simple and gorgeous.
I am excited to share these patterns with you, because I do believe that I have achieved these goals, and that if you so choose, you could create a gorgeous zero waste wardrobe for your little people too!