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How To Get Started With Zero-Waste Patterns

8 simple steps to start exploring zero-waste sewing. Plus, some of our favorite zero-waste pattern designers.

Posted in: Seamwork Radio Podcast, Sustainability • April 22, 2024 • Episode 189

You’ve been asking a lot of questions about zero-waste sewing patterns lately. The topic came up in our Design Your Wardrobe Office Hours sessions on Zoom, and we’ve seen a lot of posts in the Community.

So, are you new to zero-waste sewing? Are you thinking about trying a zero-waste pattern for the first time Or are you wondering if Seamwork will ever release a zero-waste pattern?

This week’s podcast answers all those questions.

Sarai and Haley discuss the benefits and limitations of zero-waste sewing and give eight simple steps for exploring this niche.

Below are the show notes for this podcast episode and a brief summary of what's covered, followed by a full transcript.

8 Simple Tips to Get Started With Zero-Waste Patterns

1. Educate Yourself on Zero-Waste Principles

Before you start sewing, do a little research and learn about what zero waste means. It helps to research why you might want to work with patterns that result in little to no scrap fabric and to learn about some of the designers who have become experts in this field.

2. Research Zero-Waste Designers

As you get started, look for sewing patterns specifically designed with zero-waste principles in mind.

Here are some recommendations from the Seamwork Community:

3. Understand Pattern Layout

Zero-waste patterns often involve innovative techniques, such as folding, rotating, or tessellating pattern pieces, to use the entire fabric without leaving scraps.

Even if you don’t make a strictly zero-waste pattern, you’ll learn clever low-waste ways to lay out pattern pieces on the fabric.

4. Experiment with Fabric Manipulation

Learn fabric manipulation techniques that can help create interesting designs without the need for excess seams and fabric.

This includes techniques like smocking, pleating, and tucking.

These techniques add shaping to your garment. Zero-waste designs often have boxy silhouettes, and these fabric manipulation techniques allow you to adjust the fit.

5. Practice Sustainable Fabric Choices

If you aim to reduce waste, increase your sustainable impact by choosing eco-friendly fabrics.

Consider using organic cotton, linen, Tencel, or other environmentally friendly materials that align with the principles of zero-waste sewing.

You can also upcycle different textiles. The most sustainable choice is the one you already have in your closet or in your stash.

6. Take a Zero-Waste Sewing Class or Workshop

Taking a class will give you hands-on experience and guidance from instructors specializing in this area. Plus, you’ll meet some like-minded makers! You can also find tutorials online.

Choose a Zero-Waste Starter Project

Begin with simple projects to get a feel for zero-waste techniques. You can gradually take on more complex designs and projects as you gain confidence.

8. Make a Zero-Waste Sewing Plan

Once you have a taste for zero-waste sewing, consider how much you want to incorporate it into your sewing plans.

You might only want to make a few projects. Or, you might want to make it a larger part of your practice as a whole. You can set zero-waste goals that include working from your stash.

Plus, once you get familiar with the yardage needed for zero-waste projects, you’ll be able to buy exactly what you need for future projects.

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