Book Review: Zero Waste Patterns by Birgitta Helmersson

It’s my pleasure to review Birgitta Helmersson’s new book, Zero Waste Patterns.

Birgitta is a Swedish/Australian designer and pattern maker based in Malmo, Sweden, where she and partner Sam Grose run a shop and studio. She has been making zero waste patterns for over a decade. Take a look at Birgitta’s website, where you’ll find zero waste garments, patterns and sewing tutorials.

The book takes the concept of “pattern blocks” (which are used in conventional patternmaking – these are base patterns which patternmakers use as a guide to develop new patterns) and uses the idea for zero waste.

The projects in this book are arranged around 5 pattern blocks/basic patterns: a tee, trousers, singlet, skirt and shirt. These can be made as-is, or modified to sew a further 15 projects. For example, the tee can become a dress, sweater or wrap top with just a few changes.

There are enough types of garments to form the basis of a zero waste wardrobe (with a cool minimalist Scandi aesthetic), for beginner or experienced sewers.

The book has three sections: an introduction/how-to-use/sewing techniques, how to make the block patterns, and how to make the block patterns into different garments.

There are no paper patterns to trace or print out. All of the projects are drawn straight onto the fabric with the aid of some curved templates found inside the back and front cover flaps.

If you’re new to drawing straight onto the fabric, you might find it a bit confronting to cut straight in without a paper pattern, but I can attest it will boost your confidence and you’ll feel more comfortable with it after a few times. The cutting process is quick with zero waste, because one scissor cut separates two pieces.

What of the sizes? There are two sizings used in this book. The singlet, trousers and skirt blocks all have 10 sizes, to fit from a 90cm to a 150cm hip (35.5″ to a 59″). The tee and shirt blocks are one-size patterns determined by your fabric width. Both of these are easy-fitting and oversized, and advice is given for the maximum sizes possible for different fabric widths.

Most of the projects use woven fabrics, but you could use knits too. None of the projects have zips, so if you dislike sewing zips, or are striving for a 100% compostable garment, this is very suitable. Bias binding is used frequently in the book.

Naturally, a sewing book review must include a completed project. I chose to make the Vintage Shirt. This is my first time sewing one of Birgitta’s patterns.

Before I started I had a thorough read of the instructions, and drew myself a cutting layout based on my fabric width, which was actually narrower that the book recommended. I used some 108cm wide quilting cotton. I lengthened the sleeves and body because I’m not good with cropped styles.

The layout was clever and the book’s measurements were absolutely spot-on, making it a pleasure to cut and sew.

My shirt took an extremely economical 1.43m (and I lengthened the sleeves and body).

The sewing instructions are good and show some techniques specific to the zero waste aspect of the pattern.

The sleeves are excellent – the wider your fabric, the more volume you’ll have. I made mine long enough to sew narrow cuffs at the end.

I didn’t have any suitable buttons handy, so at the moment it’s done up with safety pins (I’m calling it a Viv Westwood tribute).
The back has a lovely deep inverted pleat.

Very happy with this – I can see myself wearing it quite a lot, and think it would look good under a knitted vest.

Zero Waste Patterns was published in Australia in April (mine came from CanDo books), and will be unleashed on the rest of the world on the 23rd of May.

See here for stockists and pre-ordering, and to view more pages in the book.


*In the interests of full disclosure, this book was bought with my own money and is a totally independent review.


  1. Michelle Shaffer on May 15, 2023 at 11:27 pm

    After reading this review I am actually motivated to look for this book in the US. You addressed issues I normally have with patterns, talked about workarounds. The patterns look “doable” even for novice sewers like myself.

    • lizhaywood on May 16, 2023 at 9:17 am

      It’s a lovely book and everything looks very do-able. I probably chose one of the most involved projects.

  2. Isabel on May 16, 2023 at 8:44 am

    Hi Liz

    Very intrigued with this new zero book. Your shirt is really interesting, may need to have a go too.
    Thanks for your explicit review…always love your posts.

    • lizhaywood on May 16, 2023 at 9:32 am

      Hi Isabel, it’s a very well thought-out book, with some neat cutting layouts.
      Thanks for reading 🙂

  3. Lisa from Cucicucicoo Eco Sewing + Crafting on June 16, 2023 at 4:42 pm

    Thanks for the great review! I was curious about this book but not really sure if it would be the style I want. Now I’m really looking forward to getting it and trying it out!

    • lizhaywood on June 16, 2023 at 7:54 pm

      You’re welcome, Lisa. I hope you like this book as much as I did.

  4. Betty (Bet) on June 28, 2023 at 5:02 pm

    I have just started following you on Instagram. Thank for this review. I bought this book not used it yet but do love the idea of this blouse after reading this I need to give it a go yours looks great.❤️❤️❤️❤️

    • lizhaywood on June 28, 2023 at 6:09 pm

      Hi Betty, I’m now following you too. So many nice things to make in this book, I hope you get to try some. I’m planning to make the singlet top as a full slip next.

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