Revisiting the Boho Dress

The boho dress is a pattern in the Zero Waste Sewing book. I made this pattern in 2018, only a couple of years into my zero waste adventures.

The dress is a good example of using tessellations for zero waste, as the single pattern piece is top-and-tailed to nest perfectly together with itself.

It has the armholes in an unusual position which contributes to the drape. It’s cut across the fabric.

The model in the book is my sister.

It’s her birthday soon, a significant one, and I wanted to make her a present. But as you know, one must be careful with handmade presents! It’s important not to blunder in and make “what Liz thinks sister wants to wear”, and instead make what sister actually wants. It’s far better to make a useful present and have it not be a surprise.

Unlike me, my sister tends to wear neutrals, and she suggested a boho dress in some black linen I already had, with a V-neck.

The linen, however, wasn’t long enough, which I discovered a mere days from needing to finish the dress because I left it to the last minute. No matter – I just changed the dress’s proportions to fit the fabric. I think it even worked out better this way. The sleeves are 10cm shorter and less voluminous (I curved the tessellation only 5cm instead of 6.5cm), and as she’s tall I made it 8cm longer.

Even made narrower, the layout is still too wide for our deeply unfashionable faux-wood laminate kitchen table – note the addition of the ironing board on the left.

It crossed my mind that this would be a good Little Black Dress pattern, and has sparked off some possible variations in my mind.

Just by plugging in some different measurements, it could have a slimmer silhouette like my sister’s dress, or it could be a tunic or a top. As it has a centre back seam, it could be reversed and made with an opening at the front as a long-line jacket. (I haven’t tried these, by the way, but there’s a caftan version in the book.)

Any neckline from another pattern could be transposed onto this dress, including high necklines because you could put a zip in the back seam.

Pockets could be added to this dress – I wish I had now! I would use the zero waste in-seam pocket pattern from the January zine (which is still available – download here for free).

So I cut the dress to suit the fabric available, and all went together quite smoothly. I tried it on to see what it looked like on me. Bear in mind that my sister is 10cm taller, bigger, curvier and has broader shoulders than me.

Then it got pressed and tied up with its own selvedge.

Cheers! Liz


  1. Anthea Martin on April 29, 2024 at 3:53 pm

    Well done!!! Clever you.
    Love it and the different possibilities. All adding value to your pattern.
    Ps can’t wait to see C wearing her dress.

    • lizhaywood on April 29, 2024 at 4:35 pm

      Many thanks Anthea, I’m sure you remember this one when it was new!

  2. Denise on April 29, 2024 at 8:31 pm

    This inspires me to take another look at the pattern. I have made a few garments from your zero waste book, but not this one yet. Your black linen dress looks terrific.

    • lizhaywood on April 30, 2024 at 9:33 am

      Thanks Denise. I, too, think this pattern has more potential than I’d originally thought.

  3. Sheila on May 17, 2024 at 1:03 am

    I am so excited !I bought your new book…cannot wait to make up this one. I have been getting thrifted sheets from the thrift shops…ready to have a go.
    Thanks for all the fabulous info here on your blog Liz. Hope you are feeling like you are on the mend…
    From Canada
    Sheila aka woolbrain on IG

    • lizhaywood on May 25, 2024 at 6:17 pm

      Hi Sheila, many thanks so much for getting my book. Are you referring to the right book? This dress is in Zero Waste Sewing, not A Year of Zero Waste Sewing.
      Thanks for reading this blog, and for your well wishes. Cheers! Liz

  4. DSGear on May 25, 2024 at 2:25 am

    Hi Liz,
    I love how you continue to make zero waste sewing so accessible. I remain in awe of how creative you are.
    After reading this post and looking at your diagrams, I have decided I MUST have this as a top. I’m looking at the instructions in your book, and now I’m looking to beg for a little advice please:
    – Would I still use the same “hip width+” measurements from the original pattern in the book for appropriate ease?
    – Since it will be shorter, should I keep the half way line, but maybe reduce the curve out line on the diagonal?
    I am looking forward to Making Zen next week; I have a piece of printed twill ready to go.

    Happy Weekend!

    • lizhaywood on May 25, 2024 at 6:29 pm

      Hi DS, I haven’t actually tried it for a top, but am very interested in how yours goes!
      In answer to your questions:
      1 – Yes, I think so. This measurement might depend on how long the top will be (waist length, hip length, high hip, whatever) but you still have to be able to get it on over your head, so I would stick with the “hip width +”. If it ends up too wide around the hemline, it’s easy to run it in and adjust the pattern for next time.
      2 – Yes, you have to have a half way line because that’s how the tessellation works. The top half and bottom half have to have the same curve so they fit together. Yes, I would reduce the curve – see what looks right when you make the pattern.
      Cheers! Liz

      • DSGear on May 28, 2024 at 3:09 am

        I did it and could not be happier with the results! I used a slightly-aged piece of sunny yellow cotton-blend lawn and it floats and drapes beautifully. Your kind advice helped me with the following mods:
        1 – I reduced the starting length to 76 cm and used the “hip width+” formula from the book. The finished length is 68.5 cm–perfect for my height.
        2 – I reduced the curve to 5 cm. For shorter arms, more might be advisable, but it’s just right for me.
        I also left the back open 10 cm instead of slitting the front and used a button and loop closure.
        Next stop is the jacket version! I made the one seam jacket from the book last month and almost wish I’d saved the fabric for this…but the stash will yield something appropriate. And, after tomorrow, I’ll have a sunhat to work on first.
        Thanks again! – d

      • lizhaywood on May 28, 2024 at 1:25 pm

        That is great! So happy it turned out well for you. Hadn’t really appreciated how versatile this pattern could be until now. Please report back on the jacket!

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