Tag Archives: slave to fashion

Zero Waste Sewing

Zero waste fashion, zero waste design and zero waste sewing are all terms that have started to pop up more and more recently and it’s a topic that’s closely linked to my recent series on stash busting and carefully planned sewing versus rushed sewing that never gets worn.

What exactly is “zero waste sewing”?

According to Wikipedia:

“Zero Waste Fashion refers to items of clothing that generate little or no textile waste in their production”

logical so far, yes? Especially in the light of these staggering statistics:

  • 400 billion square metres of fabric are manufactured each year, 15% of that is wasted in cutting
  • that’s an enormous 60 billion square metres, which to put it into perspective would cover Switzerland and Wales

That’s a lot of fabric!!

As makers of our own clothes, we can immediately see how this can happen when we’re carefully trying to dovetail pattern pieces together to get the most out of our fabric, only then to be left with a collection of awkward shaped offcuts. Also as makers, like with so many issues that emerge from the global clothing and textile industry, we have the power to start making a change!

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to find out more about zero waste sewing at a seminar organised by the champion of all things sustainable and ethical in sewing – the lovely Charlie Ross of Offset Warehouse.

The key to zero waste sewing is in clever cutting and creative use of offcuts. Designing a zero waste dressmaking project is an exercise in putting together jigsaw puzzles!Photo © Charlie Ross

At Charlie’s seminar there were a couple of creative pattern cutters showing us how they (and others) manage to do just that. Eve Tokens (www.thecreativecurator.com) is a creative pattern cutter who specialises in zero waste pattern cutting techniques and here’s what one of her patterns looks like!

Here is Eve again with a dress she made on the mannequin

and what was left over after she’d made it:

just a few overlocked seam allowances!

Franki Campbell (www.frankicampbell.co.uk) is also interested in zero waste design and introduced us to the work of some well established zero waste fashion designers (a list of links to the work of these designers is at the end of this post):

  • Holly McQuillan a designer, maker and writer who mainly works in sustainable design,
  • Timo Rissanen a fashion designer specialising in zero waste fashion design who also teaches his techniques in New York,
  • Julian Roberts is a UK based designer and teacher who has developed a technique of “substraction cutting” where the aim is to shape a piece of fabric by taking away strategic small parts.

Now you only have to spend a few minutes flicking through the pages of any book on the early history of clothing and you will realise that a zero waste approach isn’t new; kimonos, saris, clothing worn in medieval Britain you could say that all of these garments are zero waste designs.

However, these garments were all created at times when fabrics have been considered precious and therefore expensive which was the main driver behind their design and minimal wastage.

The fact that we now need to re-educate ourselves about zero waste design is another symptom of our cheap throwaway culture in which many people don’t think twice about wasting great chunks of fabric.

It’s also symptomatic of the way that making clothes has become an industrialised mass production activity as opposed to small-scale craft production. In large scale mass-market garment manufacturing, designers are usually very remote from (and often never even meet) the pattern cutters within a company and this harks back to one of my bug bears about much of the fashion industry (and fashion education); how on earth can you successfully design a really meaningful, well-designed, quality garment that will have a long and well worn life if you don’t have at least some idea of how it will be made? When I’m designing, I don’t just sit down with a pencil and a piece of paper and make pretty drawings of ideas buzzing around my head. I start with a vague idea, I research it and see how it’s been done before and then I start playing with patterns and fabric, it’s only then that my idea really starts to take shape.

How can you incorporate some zero waste techniques into your sewing?

  • Use your leftover scraps creatively (have a read back at my first stash busting post for ideas and inspiration on how to use offcuts for small garment parts and how to use them as embellishment on your garment).
  • Don’t always follow the cutting plan given in your sewing pattern – they’re usually on the generous side so you might find with a bit of jiggling you can get your pattern pieces to fit together in a more snug layout and save a more useful sized chunk of your fabric.
  • Piece together leftover fabrics creatively to use them again in another project.

Sadly we couldn’t stay beyond the seminar at Charlie’s event, which was a shame as the rest of the day was spent making a zero waste dress that Charlie designed for a new book “Slave to Fashion” by Safia Minney (founder of fairtrade clothing brand People Tree). zero waste sewing

If you follow Charlie on Instagram (@offset_warehouse) you’ll see some photos of the gorgeous frocks participants created on the day.

I also want to mention the venue where the event was held – Building Bloqs (www.buildingbloqs.com) a wonderful open access making space in north London. They have a fully equipped sewing studio complete with a range of industrial machines and pressing equipment and the team there aim to offer affordable spaces for designers and small scale manfacturers and honestly, I’d love to work in that studio!! The whole thing was just spot on, we need more spaces and events like this.

I’ve got my copy of “Zero Waste Fashion Design” by Timo Rissanen & Holly McQuillan,

here’s some suggested reading and watching if you’re inspired and want to know more:

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My Month on Social Media – April 2017

Not everyone does social media, but as someone who does, I can see its pitfalls:

it’s so quick that sometimes it’s easier to post something on social media than to give it more time and space in a blog post,

not everyone uses social media and I have no real control over who sees what I post as they’re now all controlled by algorithms (with the exception of Twitter)

and its advantages:

because I post regularly on social media it acts as a kind of diary.

So, for a while now I’ve been trying to think of a way to bring the 2 (blogging and social media) together and this is what I’ve come up with. A blog post at the end of each month to collect the highlights of my news and news I’ve found elsewhere and shared on my social media channels.

So, here goes……

INSTAGRAM

  • I started doing the #100daysproject, where you set yourself a creative theme or challenge and post a photo a day of your progress. I set myself a #100daysofpattern challenge to continue the work I started on my screen printing course at the end of last year and have included some of my posts here: top centre is work I started at a collage workshop led by local Brighton artist Esther Cox, centre left is a one of my designs printed on a length of cotton poplin from Spoonflower that I’ll be sewing up very soon and centre bottom is one version of a pin print I started working on.
  • Some gorgeous makes from my patterns old and new popped up on Instagram this month, my highlights were these 2 completely different Fulwood dresses (centre right) – I just love how the same pattern can produce such different results! Bottom left is Naz’s 2nd make from a new pattern I’ve been working on for a while (perks of being a MIY Workshop student), she’s a big fan of it already.
  • We shot the last batch of samples for “A Beginner’s Guide to Sewing With Knitted Fabrics” this month (centre image and top left). I got the neon pink fabric paint out for that top left sample and I was soooo happy with the results, I can’t wait for you to see the finished thing.
  • Finally I had a relaxing long weekend with the dogs back home in Sheffield for my dad’s birthday (top right and bottom right), highlights included visiting one of my favourite places – Yorkshire Sculpture Park. If you’re ever up that way (just off the M1 between Sheffield and Leeds), go visit; if you like art and the outdoors you’ll love it.

FACEBOOK

I have two Facebook pages; a MIY Collection one and a MIY Workshop one. Occasionally I share interesting things I’ve seen elsewhere on Facebook, my blog posts and this month links to my Sewing Dictionary and Fabric Dictionary. Have you seen them? They’re right here on my blog:

SEWING DICTIONARY     FABRIC DICTIONARY

TWITTER

On Twitter I shared this review of the the Granville Wrap skirt from ” A Beginner’s Guide to Making Skirts”,

this great tip for zip ends from C-L Hardie (sewing producer on the Sewing Bee TV shows)

and a polarising piece about feminism and labels which really is a thought-provoking read if you’re a woman, a feminist, running a business, or all of the above…..

PINTEREST

I have to confess I mainly use Pinterest for my own ideas / inspiration (I’m thinking I really should up my Pinterest game……..one day, soon…) and have most recently been collecting images that have been inspiring my print / pattern experiments…..

I’ve recently discovered John Piper’s beautiful collages thanks to Esther Cox

and have become a little obsessed with Ellsworth Kelly’s beautifully simple line drawings of plants and flowers.

I did also find and pin some great sewing resources recently,

such as this great illustration of how to sew a cuff placket.

Last but definitely not least, each April sees growing awareness for Fashion Revolution Day and this year I had a timely postal delivery of this Kickstarter project by Safia Minney (founder of ethical clothing company People Tree) that I backed way back last year.

Anyone who buys clothing from high street brands should read this book, but I know that most sewists in particular will find it useful (if not shocking). You can get a copy here.

So, that’s it, my April on Social Media. I’d love to know what you think?