I didn’t develop this concept-  or name it-  but I’m going to use the popular name.  It means using practically all the fabric and trims you acquire, and designing patterns that are very fabric efficient.

The concept itself is hardly new-  if you look at ancient, historical, or third world type fashions, they tend towards using the entire width of the fabric-  which can look more blocky or drapey, since fabric is rectangular. Think of togas, saris, etc.

If you imagine the typical pattern, or if you’ve ever worked with vogue or butterick patterns, you’ll notice they have a pattern-pieces layout guide on the back-  diagramming the most efficient way to position the pieces on your fabric yardage.  As in this picture below, there’s always some leftovers (the shaded gray areas)…this is the fabric waste, and fashion companies generate huge quantities of these scraps.

Now, you can recycle them (salvation army accepts them, I guess they turn it into thread).

But if you are working with an expensive fabric, you’d prefer to waste as little as possible.

This is what I started doing with the organic wool garments. I make these jackets, which have intricate applique stitching-  because they are virtually zero-waste.  I can’t stand to throw out any of the fabric!  Ultimately, tiny scraps will be thrown out, but only when they are less than a few square inches.  I’d guess 99% of the fabric is used.  The end result is something that I consider “borderline manufacturable”-  there is an aesthetic sensibility necessary to do the initial layout and applique stitching.  It could be transitioned to another worker, but the worker would have to have a proven ability to comprehend and simulate the aesthetic.

Posted by:Brook DeLorme

4 replies on “zero-waste fashion

  1. Hello,
    I was curious about where you might have gotten the tidbit about the Salvation Army using scrap cloth to make thread? For some reason it struck me as humorous.


  2. hey xopher- you know, a friend told me that, and he’d done some work with salvation army. now that I think about it, it does seem a little funny. I would guess most thread is actually made overseas. however, they definitely will take bags of scraps! maybe they use them to stuff cushions or something. :)


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