Monday 9 May 2016

The zero-waste jacket

When I cut out my 1944 Simplicity jacket I had to work hard to get all the pieces facing the same way, because I hadn't realized that the fabric had a directional design, and the pattern layout didn't allow for this. I cut everything from a single layer of fabric, spent ages working out the most efficient arrangement of the pattern pieces, had very little wasted material, and felt very pleased with myself.

Then today I read this article, and felt positively profligate. Scotland-based fashion designer Dan Vo has designed a range of men's jackets with no waste whatsoever; all the pattern pieces fit together on a 200cm by 145cm (79" by 57") piece of fabric like a jigsaw puzzle. (Sadly the article didn't explain how, or even if, different sizes are accommodated - that may be just too nerdy for the average reader!)

One of Dan Vo's jackets. Photograph: Handout/Igor Termenon via The Guardian website
The figures in the article make interesting reading. Vo reckons that in some clothing manufacture between 15% and 30% of fabric is not used. Add to that the estimate that just 20% of textiles are recycled each year around the world, and that's a lot of waste.

As someone who makes a lot of her own clothes, I'm well aware that I'm a long way from a zero-waste setup myself. But reading this article, and the associated paper by Fashion Revolution, has encouraged me to try a bit harder.


  1. This reminds me of 18th century sewing. They were quite frugal with the use of the fabric, because it was so expensive.

    1. Yes, fabric wasn't thrown away lightly then. I've seen some really clever recreations of this in the Historical Sew Monthly, with scraps ingeniously pieced together to make the best use of limited fabric.

  2. The problem that I have is that a lot of zero waste patterns are really weird looking. I mean, we could go the T tunic route and have zero waste, but most zero waste designers are like "I want it to be fitted, but now I have a weird piece of fabric that I guess I'm going to just dangle off of the front".

    But I love the concept as well.

    1. I wasn't familiar with the concept of zero-waste before I read this, but I can imagine that any sort of shaping of clothes does create really hard to use leftover pieces.

  3. If you want to learn more about zero waste, check out the book Zero Waste Fashion Design by Timo Rissanen and Holly McQuillan. Both authors are currently active and are pioneers of this approachh.
    I was fortunate enough to attend a lecture by McQuillan a few months ago - very inspiring and enlightening.

    From this book, as well as online sources by Mc Quillan, you'll see that zero waste garments do not result in a "weird piece of fabric" that just "dangles off the front" because ALL fabric is used. For centuries people wove fabric themselves so wasting it was unthinkable. The width of the loom used to weave the fabric dictated the style of the garment -- think Japanese kimono made from 14 inch wide fabric.

    Anyway, while we can develop zero waste patterns ourselves, it would be helpful and educational if one of major pattern companies would publish a couple of designs using this approach.