All sewists have various idiosyncratic ways of buying, using, and storing fabric. Personally, this practice crystallizes around an anxiety of discarding all fabric waste. No matter how small the remnant, swatch, or bit of fiber, I’m sure that one day a masterpiece will be formed with the aggregate of my horde of fabric scraps. From large black trash bags to big plastic bins, stuffed in a corner or pinned on the wall, I have scraps everywhere! When does the insanity end? If you find yourself in a similar situation, there are two choices: Start creating with the scraps amassed or create without producing any scraps in the first place. Either way you tackle it, the process is part of a global movement called Zero Waste. This movement centers around the idea of the reduction of waste sent to the landfill through an improved design on our use/reuse of resources in daily life. As sewists, this means re-evaluating methods, techniques, and overall design of projects to produce the least amount of waste possible, if any at all.
During the ‘80’s and ‘90’s garment manufacturing became very inexpensive as production was primarily outsourced to China and other regions where labor costs and environmental oversight were and still are limited. Today, I find the recent resurgence in garment sewing is fueled not out of economic necessity but because we enjoy it! We don’t want to look like a cookie cutter, we want clothes that fit and that express a unique facet of our personalities. With this resurgence of home sewing, Zero Waste is quietly making a name for itself by answering so many of our contemporary garment sewing needs. Following the Zero Waste philosophy, sewists are discovering new ways of cutting garments that produce little to no scraps, new projects for using scraps, new techniques for fitting, and an overall wonderful creative outlet.
Much has been written about of Zero Waste fashion design. So much so, that a quick internet search (especially on Pinterest) will result in many resources. If you are returning to sewing after a pre-internet hiatus you will find the pattern industry has changed drastically to include scores of independent patterns lines, .pdf downloads, shop copies, blogs, and Instagram pages. With this explosion, Zero Waste has found an emerging spotlight in the industry. A few pioneering names to know include Holly McQuillan, Julian Roberts, and Timo Rissanen. Projects like FashionRevolution.com and MakeSmthng.org are also inspiring a new generation to become more conscious of how and what we consume by supporting a movement in making, repairing, and reducing.
Below are some tips 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, and pleats have no standard placement.
- Decide if you want a clean and minimal finished product or handmade and artsy.
- 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.
- You will work with a maximum of 1, 2, or 3 pattern pieces when following a Zero Waste-inspired pattern.
- Develop a toolbox of finishing techniques for cleaning up raw edges such as slashes.
- Hand finishing is fun!
- Helpful materials include fold over binders, tapes, ribbons, and a selection various hand sewing threads like sashiko, silk button hole twist, and #50 silk tailoring thread.
- Visible mending – Perfection is out and individuality is in! Take advantage of “blemishes” by adding a bit of originality to your pieces. A simple internet search can help inspire different ways for mending your garments.
About the Author: Ina Celaya is a designer and owner of L’Etoffe Fabrics and the Center For Pattern Design. She studied at the Fashion Institute of Technology and Los Angeles Trade Tech. Visit Ina at Expo at the L’Etoffe Fabrics booth in the Pavilion. Visit sewexpo.com for booth assignments.