6 Things I didn’t predict with zero waste patterncutting

It’s been just over 7 years since I first encountered zero waste patterncutting and I’m still as enamored with it. At the beginning of 2020, I decided I would only make zero waste patterns from now on. Here are some things I didn’t predict…

1. Zero waste uses less fabric

There are some who say that zero waste clothes “often use more fabric than regular clothes”, but in fact I’ve found the exact opposite to be true. However, I didn’t really notice it until I’d made lots of zero waste patterns.

The fabric savings can be significant, more than could ever be achieved with conventional patternmaking. To show how much is possible, I did a side-by-side comparison of two blouses in this blog post. Chris Nielsen of @agallopingcat on Instagram has also been calculating savings. Mylène L’Orguilloux shared the fabric savings from Decathalon’s minimal waste program.

2. The benefits of minimal waste

It’s easy to dismiss minimal waste as “failure to achieve zero” (guilty, your Honour!), but minimal waste is still advantageous. It can still save significant amounts of fabric, especially in high-volume production, and is part of a path towards change in the fashion industry.

For home sewing patterns, labeling a pattern “minimal waste” can free things up to create more sizes – I’ve done this myself, with some of the sizes zero waste and others minimal waste.

3. The nay-sayers

Totally didn’t expect this one. Sometimes when I check this blog’s analytics, I notice a jump in visitors via a link on another site. Occasionally they’ve come from a forum thread (usually Reddit) about zero waste. I’m not even going to link to these because they’re so toxic and snarky, but the title is usually something like How crap are zero waste clothes? or Most zero waste patterns are dumb. Typically the comments are misinformed and self-justified. I read them because I can’t help myself (then I feel like throwing up), but I never engage.

4. Things I didn’t think could be zero waste

Early on, I subconsciously wrote-off some items of clothing which I never thought could be zero waste. But I was wrong! Zero waste pattern cutting has been demonstrated for underpants, swimwear, bras, t-shirts, varsity jackets, a mans 3pce suit and even shoes.

5. Zero waste and hand weavers

Weaving wasn’t even on my radar until I took a copy of the then-unpublished Zero Waste Sewing book to my local yarn shop, Knit-Spin-Weave, to show Tracy the owner. She looked through the book slowly, and then commented that many of the patterns could be used for hand woven fabric. She pulled a 1970s weaving book from her library to show me some examples.

Zero waste patterncutting has its roots in weaving, and of course it makes sense if you’re a weaver to use every inch of the precious fabric you’ve created. Weavers have the enviable ability of being able to create cloth in a custom width.

6. The friendliness of the zero waste community

I appear to have fallen in with a really nice group of people!

The fashion industry has a reputation for being a cut-throat world of industry secrets and competitiveness. It’s not all like that, but the zero waste patterncutting community is exceptionally friendly and open (and small!). It was realised early on that if change is going to be made in fashion, we need to share our knowledge, and it’s such a pleasure to be part of.



  1. Tory on June 27, 2023 at 4:23 am

    The 1970s weaving book reminds me of another older book: Cut of Cloth by Ann Wiseman. That book has many ideas for maximalizing your handwovens for interesting clothing.

    I agree with about avoiding snarky people!

    • lizhaywood on June 27, 2023 at 10:32 am

      Thanks for the recommendation, I just looked it up and may have bought a copy 🙂

  2. Wendy on June 27, 2023 at 6:08 am

    Five out of six positive surprises isn’t bad!
    Social media is both a blessing and a curse, unfortunately.

    • lizhaywood on June 27, 2023 at 10:32 am

      Yes, not bad at all! On the whole, social media has been a blessing.

  3. Anthea Martin on June 27, 2023 at 10:59 am

    Great blog today Liz.

    • lizhaywood on June 27, 2023 at 11:10 am

      Many thanks, Anthea.

  4. Liseli on June 27, 2023 at 11:44 pm

    Wow! Shoes!
    About the less fabric needed, I still don’t understand how people can believe it uses more fabric as that’s how clothes were made before, when fabric was a luxury.
    Thanks for all your posts, I’m getting more and more convinced to try ZW patterns more often. My main stopper is the thinking involved (says the mother of two toddlers who hasn’t ahd a proper night’s sleep since three years)…

    • lizhaywood on June 28, 2023 at 6:19 pm

      Yes, the shoes are a bit wow!
      Fabric yield has had a lot of discussion – should modern zero waste patterns aim to use less? (Answer: Yes. What’s the point of saving scraps from landfill if it takes more fabric to do that which will eventually become landfill itself?)

      I so sympathize with your sleep deprivation. It won’t be forever.

  5. Chris Nielsen on June 29, 2023 at 8:34 pm

    Thanks for the mention. I have encountered all of your points as I became more vocal about sewing zero and minimal waste garments. Thaeywas the foundation for my construction of a zero waste vs standard pattern collection. I’ll have the report on that up on my blog shortly and will send a link. I think it makes the point that you can achieve the same look and feel with much less fabric if you opt for zero and minimal waste patterns. Re: minimal waste – I think that’s an underused term and we should embrace using it. When people make a pattern that is labeled zero waste but have some bits left over they get a strange sense of having been deceived. But all of us create some sort of waste as we sew – trimmed seams etc. That’s why I am weighing each final garment and the “waste”. When you do that you can see the chasm between zero and minimal waste which is always under 5%, compared to numbers like 30% when using standard patterns. BTW, I started as a weaver decades ago so remember the clever ways used by weavers to create garments from their hard won and often narrow) yardage.

    • lizhaywood on June 29, 2023 at 10:01 pm

      Thanks, Chris. When I see the fabric savings, I am even more determined to continue with zero waste – it has such huge potential.
      Look forward to receiving your link.

  6. Fred_SL on July 7, 2023 at 7:55 pm

    I was sceptical about point 1 before I started, but now I have started, the fabric savings are huge!
    I feel so much more confident to follow my own ideas based on the principles from your and other people’s patterns, too.

    • lizhaywood on July 10, 2023 at 5:43 pm

      I think it’s the biggest selling point of zero waste patterns, actually. The fabric savings can be up to 30% for some things.
      It’s very cool that you’re doing your own ideas 🙂

Leave a Comment