Zero waste with hand woven fabric

Ashford spiral skirt

Last year I had a very special sewing experience: I got to sew hand woven fabric for the first time.

The fabric was woven by Tracy of Knit-Spin-Weave, our local yarn shop. You may remember she made a zero waste bolero in hand woven fabric for the Zero Waste Sewing blog tour. I dropped in to visit before Zero Waste Sewing was published to show her a copy of the book.

Tracy thoughtfully turned the pages and said Hmmmm, you know, a lot of these could be made with hand loomed fabric. Why don’t you contact Ashford and see if they’re interested in a zero waste project for their magazine?

So I did, and they were.

Ashford are a New Zealand company who make spinning wheels, looms, yarn and related accessories. They were wonderful people to work with.

I designed a spiral skirt; Tracy wove the fabric for it then I did the cutting and sewing.

Zero waste spiral skirt for Ashford
Skirt front and back sketch

As this was my first time with hand woven fabric, I pumped Tracy for information. Here’s some of the things I found out:

What’s the best way to sew seams? They can be sewn like regular plain seams, bearing in mind the fabric is fairly thick. Selvedges can be lapped-and-stitched, maybe with decorative stitching.

How do I control fraying? Iron a strip of lightweight interfacing over the cut line before you cut it and/or stitch the edge (eg rows of straight stitching, zig zag or overlocking).

Can you only weave rectangles? Yes. Squares and rectangles. Not triangles.

What’s the widest width fabric you can make? Up to 100cm (on a Gilmakra Viking 4 shaft jack loom) but many weavers use a narrow loom then join pieces as needed. The popular Ashford SampleIt loom weaves 25cm or 40cm widths.

What do you do with the beginning and end of the weaving? Control the fraying in the same way as a seam allowance.

What’s fulling? Fulling is slightly ‘felting’ the fabric. It causes it to shrink and locks the warp and weft together. You do it after taking the fabric off the loom.

How much does the fabric shrink? About 10%-15% during fulling.

How do you calculate the amount of yarn needed? There’s an app to help calculate it based on a swatch.

Weavers are in the enviable position of being able to make unique fabrics in custom widths, however, Tracy says many weavers are hesitant to cut their fabric and some don’t move past scarves and table mats (albeit beautiful ones). She thought zero waste might make it easier to cut, since none of the precious cloth is wasted.

Tracy’s fabric was so lovely a visiting sewing friend wanted to take it home with her.

We actually did 3 skirts for the article but in the end only one was used. Ashford kindly sent us all the yarns. Here’s a gallery:

Ashford spiral skirt closeup
The skirt is woven in Yoga 2 ply; it’s 82% cotton wrapped around an 18% nylon core. It’s lighter in weight than 100% cotton. Tracy said it was a joy to weave with.
Ashford Tekapo 3ply skirt for Liz
We did a shorter skirt in Tekapo 3ply wool. The fabric handled like a dream – very similar to wool you’d use for a tailored skirt or coat.
Tekapo 3ply wool skirt closeup
Tracy wove it in a random check pattern.
Ashford spiral skirt Tekapo wool
The third skirt was also in Tekapo 3ply wool, but Tracy wove it on a narrow SampleIt loom and I joined the strips together.
Not everyone has access to a loom that’s wide enough, and Tracy thought it would be good to show the skirt woven on a narrow loom. I like this skirt the best.
Back view Tekapo 3ply wool skirt Tracy
The joined-together-strips accentuate the spirals. You can see that some strips were dark, some light and some a checked fabric using both yarns.
Close up of Tekapo 3ply wool skirt woven on narrow loom
At Tracy’s suggestion, I lapped-and-stitched the strips with visible stitches. She gave me some of the leftover wool to use.
Joining the strips together
Here’s the strips laid out, as I’m sewing them together. I basted them together first to be sure I had the correct total measurement.
Original spiral skirt for Ashford
This skirt is the original sample, which I photographed and sent with my submission to Ashford. It’s sewn in shop-bought fabric. You can see it’s a wee bit tight by the horizontal drag lines, but this was rectified in the final pattern.
Stopping the fabric from fraying
This is what I used to arrest the fraying. I ironed lightweight jersey fusing onto the fabric before I cut it, then overlocked over the top.
Seam in handwoven fabric
I made sure the fusing strip was wide enough so the actual seam was stitched through it.

If you ever get the opportunity to sew with hand woven fabric, take it!!!

The pattern for the skirt is in Ashford’s annual magazine which came out in November. The mag can be bought via subscription direct from Ashford, or a newsprint version is available from your Ashford dealer.

Ashford magazine 2020-2021

If you’re making the skirt, I recommend making a little paper model first so you can understand how the skirt is constructed. I also recommend making the lining first and trying it on, then when you make the skirt you’ll have the lining all ready.

The skirts in this blog post are on display at Knit-Spin-Weave, which re-opens tomorrow.



  1. Tricia Sharkey on March 1, 2021 at 8:14 am

    Love this pattern. I will try to use with fabric from my stash.
    I tried to subscribe to the wheel magazine but the payment link wouldn’t work for me.
    I’ll keep trying.
    Love your blog Liz!

    • lizhaywood on March 1, 2021 at 9:55 am

      Thanks Tricia:) Wheel magazine is a lovely publication, and interesting even if you don’t weave or spin.

  2. Lesley on March 1, 2021 at 9:02 am

    Beautiful and amazing

    • lizhaywood on March 1, 2021 at 10:02 am

      Thanks Lesley!

  3. Anthea Martin on March 1, 2021 at 12:38 pm

    Can I now make up this skirt please?
    Today’s blog was great and I enjoyed re reading this ZW
    Pattern using Tracy’s beautiful hand woven fabrics.
    Well done, clever Liz.

    • lizhaywood on March 1, 2021 at 1:51 pm

      Thank you Anthea 🙂

  4. Mary E Warner on March 2, 2021 at 12:52 pm

    I love that you’ve worked with handwoven fabrics to create a zero-waste skirt, Liz. My major in college was weaving and though we never had to make any garments, I was always wondering how to make a garment out of a handwoven fabric without cutting it. I think it’s part of why I’m drawn to zero-waste sewing.

    Thanks for taking on this challenge!


    • lizhaywood on March 2, 2021 at 9:37 pm

      I didn’t know you did weaving, Mary….but I’m kind of not surprised!
      Tracy told me about a fb group called Get Weaving, which encourages weavers to wear their weaving – check it out 🙂 It isn’t zero waste but it’s lovely to see hand woven fabric being worn.

  5. Corinne on May 23, 2021 at 7:29 pm

    Love the design! Does the magazine include details about the yarn and sett used for the plaid fabric?

    • lizhaywood on May 23, 2021 at 8:24 pm

      Hi Corinne, they talk about the yarn but the sett is random and made-up-as-you-go.

  6. Mary Lynn VanAlstine on June 22, 2024 at 11:05 pm

    Very pleased I finally found this!

    • lizhaywood on June 23, 2024 at 12:02 pm

      Thank you!

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