Sometimes I hear the throwaway line: zero waste patterns often use more fabric than regular patterns. Maybe that’s the person’s experience (or they’re repeating something they’ve heard), however, my own observations show the opposite.
Actually, I didn’t notice just how economical zero waste patterns could be until I’d made lots. Sometimes the fabric savings are huge, more than you could ever achieve with conventional patternmaking.
I’d go so far as to say that if there’s only one reason why a fashion brand should consider moving towards minimal or zero waste patterncutting, it’s the fabric savings (and therefore obviously the $$ savings).
Here’s an example of the savings to be had…
They both have a bow cut on the bias (the same width and length) and have short sleeves. The white blouse also has the body cut on the bias, is one size bigger than the spotty blouse and is 5cm longer (all things which should increase the amount of fabric required). So I’m not exactly comparing like with like, but the comparison is weighed against the zero waste blouse.
The white blouse uses exactly 115cm x 115cm of fabric, with this layout:
The spotty blouse was a pattern I got free with a sewing magazine.
The back of the envelope states that 160cm of 60″/150cm wide fabric is needed, but I definitely would have got it out of less, and I know I used a narrower fabric.
I tried quite a few arrangements (on 115cm wide fabric) to discover the smallest amount that would be required, trimming centimetres every time. I finally got to a “personal best” of 148cm.
That’s 33cm above the zero waste blouse.
Then I tried marking out two spotty blouses and taking the average. This is often done in industry estimates but of course wouldn’t be done with a home sewing pattern.
I could get two in 280cm, so that’s 140cm per blouse. You can see I created a centre back seam to do this – sometimes tiny tweaks to the pattern can result in a better fabric yield.
I also tried marking out several body & sleeves separately from several ties and finding the average, but couldn’t beat 140cm.
So let’s call it 140cm for the spotty blouse and 115cm for the white one – I’m still knocking it out of the park with a 25cm difference, which is a 17.8% saving.
You only have to do a quick bit of maths to see how these kind of savings mount up. Eg If you cut 1000 blouses you would save 250m of fabric by cutting them zero waste, along with other associated savings: less freight costs because less rolls of fabric need to be ordered; less rubbish removal costs for fabric scraps; less cutting time because zero waste consists of shared lines rather than separate pieces.
This might be offset by the extra design/development time a zero waste pattern takes, and the time taken to sew together the extra pattern pieces that the zero waste blouse has, but the savings will still be considerable.