How I came to write the Zero Waste Sewing book

Last week, the Zero Waste Sewing book turned 3. Many thanks if you’ve bought a copy or borrowed one from the library. I hope you enjoyed reading and making things from it.

I thought you might be interested in how I came to write this book…

Back in 2016, I happened to read about zero waste patterncutting in Shaping Sustainable Fashion (edited by Alison Gwilt and Timo Rissanen, 2011 Routledge). It’s a collection of essays on making fashion sustainable, and there was one by Holly McQuillan on zero waste patterns.

Shaping Sustainable Fashion book

It was early in my blogging career, and I wrote about it in a post called Considering Zero Waste Fashion.

And as you do, when you read something interesting, I looked to see if the author had written anything else. They had: Zero Waste Fashion Design (Timo Rissanen & Holly McQuillan, 2016 Bloomsbury) has just been published. I got a copy, and I cannot deny that a shiver of excitement ran up me as I opened the first page!

Zero Waste Fashion Design book

I experimented with zero waste patterncutting, and a couple of years passed. I happened to notice in my website analytics that Considering Zero Waste Fashion was the second-highest ranking post. (The #1 post was a free pattern, as was #3 and #4.) It looked like readers arrived on the page via Google images. Hmmm… people were searching for zero waste fashion?

I wondered if anyone else would write a book about zero waste. I wished someone would. No-one did. Then I thought: that person could be me! I already knew how to publish a book (The Dressmaker’s Companion, 2017), and had learnt a lot of hard lessons from it.

In June 2018 I decided to write a book of zero waste patterns. I spent a very happy 12 weeks making patterns, then the majority of 2019 writing instructions and formatting a book.

Alas, the publishing date I had picked (in the carefree days of 2019) landed on the eve of worldwide lockdown, 2020. I had planned a book launch in collaboration with our local library – I was going to do a talk, then all the garments in the book were going to be paraded.

The week before the book launch, with the news reports on covid growing more alarming, I phoned the librarian to discuss what we were going to do. The libraries in the city had already closed their doors. Should we go ahead?

In the end we did, and it was the very last event the library hosted (and also the last event that most people went to). By the Friday of the same week, the library was closed. Just 30-40 people came to the book launch, mostly friends and family of the models, but it was livestreamed on Facebook and several thousand eventually turned up there.

Liz Haywood speaking at book talk
Photo courtesy of Allen Kelly.

A blog tour was a feature of the book launch.

Three months later, when South Australia opened up, there was an exhibition of every garment in the book, including a walk-through on YouTube for everyone outside the still-closed state borders.

Birthday Cheers!


  1. Sue Stoney on March 20, 2023 at 10:41 am

    Happy third birthday! I’ve sometimes wondered how I met you and it might be because you contacted me to review this book? Or did I already follow you? I remember you offered me a giveaway and I was thrilled when Wendy won it. Happy memories on a happy day.

    • lizhaywood on March 20, 2023 at 11:05 am

      Thanks Sue! I think we properly connected when I contacted you to see if you would like to review it, but I had been reading your blog for a while before and saw you were interested in zero waste sewing. Maybe you read mine?? You were the only one to do a giveaway – I recall the book took months to reach Wendy on the other side of the world.

    • Wendy on March 24, 2023 at 6:47 am

      Technically I didn’t win it but came second! I think the first name drawn already had a copy so it defaulted to me; I think that must have used up a lot of my lifetime supply of luck (that’s how luck works, right?). I’m so very pleased that it came my way (eventually !) and for the friendships and creative joy it has brought.

      • lizhaywood on March 24, 2023 at 8:17 pm

        I’m so glad it came to you Wendy!

  2. Mary E Warner on March 21, 2023 at 8:02 am

    I love the origin story of “Zero Waste Sewing,” Liz. I can see my copy on the shelf across the room as I type this. If anyone questions the usefulness of blogs, they ought to read this post and check out your book! Love that it was your blog stats that led you to writing the book. Happy third birthday to “Zero Waste Sewing!” 🙂

    • lizhaywood on March 21, 2023 at 9:53 am

      Yes, I would not have predicted that looking at the website analytics would lead to a sewing book. Many thanks, Mary!

  3. Kelly on March 21, 2023 at 2:32 pm

    Most interesting to hear about the back story of how it came to be. I have the book and am keen to try the coat dress pattern closer to winter. I’m fascinated how historically weaving determined the available widths and combined with the precious nature of fabric have determined silhouette and clever use of material, particularly to allow it to be re-used. And as a chonky middle aged sewist, always interested to see how patterns might work on my figure. Great work, Liz!

    • lizhaywood on March 21, 2023 at 4:57 pm

      Thanks so much for getting my book; I hope the coat dress goes well for you. A few months before the book came out, I did a talk to a sewing group about it, with all the book’s garments to try on afterwards. The coat dress was THE one that looked great on everyone, regardless of their size.

  4. Emily on March 22, 2023 at 11:27 pm

    What a good story, I’ve always wondered about this. I absolutely love the spirit of wondering who is going to write that zero-waste sewing book and deciding that if no one else would do it, it might as well be you! Thank you and kudos for taking zero-waste from fashion to home sewing, from theoretical to practical!

    • lizhaywood on March 23, 2023 at 5:49 pm

      Many thanks, Emily. Since Zero Waste Sewing, a couple of other excellent books on zw have come out, and hopefully many more to follow.

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