This is actually from an older post I wrote for Sew Expo 2018.
The Future Is Now: Zero Waste for Home Sewing
All sewers (in my opinion) have various idiosyncratic ways of buying, using, and storing, fabric. For me, this practice crystallizes around an anxiety of discarding any and all fabric waste. No matter how small the remnant, swatch, or bit of fiber - I am sure that one day a masterpiece will be formed with the aggregate of my horde of fabric scraps. Large black trash bags, big plastic bins, stuffed in a corner, pinned on the wall, I have scraps everywhere. When does the insanity end! If you are like me we have two choices - start creating with the scraps amassed or create without producing any scraps in the first place. Either way what we are talking about is a global movement called “Zero Waste” - the reduction of waste sent to the landfill through an improved design on our use/reuse of resources in daily life - which has now begun to take hold in home sewing practices.
As a sewing instructor and fabric shop owner, I meet a lot of new sewers everyday who share their history and memories of sewing with me. Maybe a relative was a fine dressmaker or they enjoyed sewing clothes for their children and then one day it all stopped. During the 80’s and 90’s garment manufacturing became very inexpensive as production was outsourced primarily to China and other regions where labor costs and environmental oversight were/are nil. Today I find the recent resurgence in garment sewing is fueled - not out of economic necessity - but because women enjoy it! They don’t want to look like a cookie cutter, they want clothes that fit, and they want to wear something that expresses a unique facet of their personality.
If you are returning to sewing after a pre-internet hiatus you will find the pattern industry has changed drastically with scores of independent patterns lines, pdf downloads, shop copies, blogs, and instagram pages. Within the pattern madness Zero Waste is also quietly making a name for itself by answering so many of our contemporary garment sewing needs.
With Zero Waste sewers discover new ways of cutting garments that produce little to no scraps and also new projects for using scraps, new techniques for fitting, and overall a wonderful creative outlet. Below I have listed some thoughts, techniques, and tools, for those interested in exploring this approach further:
You can throw out almost all you think you know about conventional fitting techniques - darts, folds, tucks, pleats, have no standard placement.
Decide if you want clean and minimal or handmade and artsy
You will be working with 1, 2, or max 3 pattern pieces
Slashes are your new friend, develop a toolbox of finishing techniques for cleaning up raw edges
When fabric shopping always look for reversible/double faced fabrics - trust me. There is no right and wrong side, both sides will most likely be visible.
Hand finishing is fun!
Materials like fold over binders, tapes, ribbons, and a selection various hand sewing threads like sashiko, silk button hole twist, and #50 silk tailoring thread will be helpful.
Visible mending - and you will find lots of inspiration.
More general resources:
Much has been written on the subject of Zero Waste fashion design so that a quick internet (and especially on pinterest) search will result in many resources. In the garment manufacturing industry (which is viewed by many to be one of the most polluting) some pioneering names to know include Holly McQuillan, Julian Roberts, and Timo Rissanen. Also projects like FashionRevolution.com and MakeSmthng.org are inspiring a new generation to become more conscious of how and what we consume - in part by supporting a movement in making, repairing, and reducing.