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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Zero-Waste Patternmaking

Zero-waste patternmaking is the art of creating a pattern for the garment which uses every part of a piece of fabric - so there are no scraps left over. It's a lot harder than it sounds and requires you to design 'backwards', in that the shape of the pattern pieces takes first priority over the final appearance of the garment. You might have seen it on Project Runway once, when it was set as a challenge. I think one of the contestants ended up making a handbag and stuffing the scraps inside!

I first learned about zero-waste patternmaking while I was at uni. We had a tutor called Timo Rissanen who was working on his PhD on Fashion Creation Without Fabric Waste Creation. He is now teaching at Parsons in New York and has become known as a bit of an expert on zero waste fashion and sustainable design.

Timo had an exhibition at uni while I was there and we were fascinated by his pattern diagrams and the interesting details on the resulting garments. Timo's blog has drawn my attention to other zero-waste designers (This post is a great place to start).

Sam Formo

Holly McQuillan - Spot the words 'war' and 'peace' in these patterns!

Tara St James - Study N.Y. I think this is who my friend Laura is interning with at the moment. Speaking of Laura, her uni collection was also zero-waste.

Laura Poole

When I was working on my Convertible Pretzel and Window Shopper bags, I had zero-waste patternmaking in mind and designed the marker (layout of the pattern pieces) so that I could fit both styles in one piece of fabric with zero waste. This was partly for sustainable reasons, but mostly to make the bags more affordable and to eliminate mess in the studio! I can't stand having little bits of fabric all over the place, I'm constantly wondering whether a piece is a rubbish or a lost pattern piece, is it too small to keep or too big to throw out, will it come in handy at one point? So much easier to eliminate the waste altogether.

The marker for the Convertible Pretzel and Window Shopper Bags

I do, however, have two confessions to make.
One, zero-waste patternmaking is pretty easy when your patterns consist entirely of different sized rectangles. I'm not even going to try and compete with people who design whole collections this way!
Two, I wasn't entirely successful. I was left with a small rectangle left over that I have been trying to figure out how to use. Luckily, an idea for a cute clutch bag popped into my head the other day and I can't wait to make a sample and show you! It won't be a zero-waste pattern, but it's small enough that it will fit in that leftover space.
The eagle-eyed among you will also notice that the Convertible Pretzel bag's flap has rounded corners - so there are some teeny tiny scraps there!


audrey marie said...

i wish i was talented enough to sew/design and try this!

Josie said...

I think that this is such an interesting concept -- it takes such talent and creativity!
xo Josie

olivias-pizzaz said...

Wow that is so so cool! very interesting!

Dreamy Princess said...

I know nothing about sewing and patternmaking. You're so blessed with this talent(:

Dreamy Princess

Winnie said...

Wow the idea of zero waste pattern cutting is really interesting. I'd never given it much thought before!

Hello Naka said...

sorry cool and environmentally friendly! well better than wasting the fabric i guess:3 the designs are great :)

Lexy @ Quirky Explosion said...

Haha, I LOVED your comment. Totally encouraging - and totally made me pop by over here.

Anyways, this post is TOTALLY interesting. This concept is superb, but it does sound really hard to execute! And I totally know what PR episode you're talking about - some of them just stuffed the bags with the extra fabric, haha. (laaame) Awesome post!

ALSO. I just watched your video for the pretzel/ zero waste bag below. It's so FABULOUS. You're tremendously talented! Thanks for blogging all about it!


Anonymous said...

This seems interesting. In order to create zero waste must be a challenge, and if you like challanges it is jsut great. My grandmother used to make my clothes when I was little, and I seem to remember that she used the left overs to make pillows and so. The pieces she could not use for that, she used as sample patches of stictches from her sewing machine. And those tiny tiny pieces that was to small for that, she used to make tiny flowers of and glue them onto a circle, creating a form of decoration. She knew how to make most possible of her fabrics. :)

Chris (tinytines.com) said...

Oh wow, I can't believe all these pieces were created with zero-waste. What an imagination the designers must have. Props for heading down that direction with your design. Being environmentally responsible is becoming increasingly important!

OtherMix said...

Thank you!

I really like the grey jacket! And the dress with the blue stripes on it!

Kristen said...

This is so cool, can't wait to see the clutch!

Alexis of NorthOnHarper said...

I love the idea of this---- but it looks insanely complicated! I love the last two egs..... so good!!!

Anika http://www.byanika.com said...

I love this concept, so respectful in a way. Thank you so much for sharing! I am also very interested in design, and dream of starting my own business some day. I sew or rework all of my own clothes, and I am always saving my scraps of fabric, because they always find a home in one of my designs. No waist. Love it! I shared your post on twitter.

Fashionistable said...

What a great concept. I applaud those who can do it and you for your efforts. Cool post. Xxxx

Corinne Monique said...

wow! it really is ZERO waste!! amazing!

Corinne xo

Danah said...

I feel like this would come in great use when designing color-block and geometric pieces - two things I love!


Sofia said...

I have really enjoyed reading your article. I really support all this kind of initiatives. I´m sure you will be interested in the work of the Ethical Fashion Forum. I have written an article about their work. Here is their website: http://www.ethicalfashionforum.com/
and here my article:

If you need their contact details just let me know. Best,


Anonymous said...

Ali, I never thanked you for posting this - thank you! All my best with the new home. My dad lived there in 1994-95 and I visited twice; an amazing country and people.