Zero Waste Sewing with Debbie


As an avid home sewist the subject of sustainability has been gnawing away at me for the last year as I’ve found myself sewing more and more clothes and building up quite the scrap bag of offcuts.

I’ve been dressmaking on and off for about 25 years, but I really threw myself into it properly at the beginning of the first UK lockdown to keep my hands and my mind busy and made a pledge to not buy any ready to wear clothes in 2020…which I did stick to. I think not having anywhere to go helped with that though if I’m honest!

So really my focus shifted from buying clothes to making them and ultimately I’m the one then creating the waste…it’s a tough one right?!

When I saw the Birgitta Helmersson Zero Waste dress pattern knew I had to give it a try, hoping it would inspire in me a more mindful way of making. Luckily, I love an oversized smocky dress so it was already right up my ally. The pattern is essentially a set of cutting instructions and with no pattern to cut out you simply draw measurements straight onto your fabric.

Line drawing of a smock style dress pattern

When Steph approached me about a blog post and I looked through her beautiful fabrics and chose a gorgeous viscose/ rayon/ tencel blend that also had the benefit of being ex-designer deadstock…step one in sewing in a more sustainable way!

Close up image of instruction booklet an a piece of fabric with green and pink

I only started sewing with viscose last year and it’s fast become my absolute favourite fabric, not necessarily to work with as it can been slippy and tricky but it’s so worth it for the feel and beautiful drape, this fabric was no exception.

Image of the top of a colourful dress on a hanger

After downloading the instruction booklet and carefully reading the instructions I worked out I had just enough to make the version with the boxy sleeves. This is a very clever pattern and not like anything I’ve ever worked with before, It’s given me so many ideas for hacking too as the shape is so simple yet so effective. As the pattern pieces are broken into simple blocks there is lots of scope to modify lengths depending on fabric width and lengths.

Image of a multicoloured dress on a hanger

I used every single scrap of this gorgeous fabric and didn’t even cut away the selvedge, the only scraps were some very small slivers of fabric cut away while overlocking.

Things to note about sleeve construction; I put each sleeve in differently to see which worked better for me. The first sleeve I inserted as per the instructions, and I would probably not do this again as it was quite fidddly and didn’t give a particularly neat finish. The second sleeve I added on the flat as it’s just rectangles and this worked much better for me.

I also did my gathering a different way…and it’s been life altering (ha!) I used the method of zig zag stitching over a piece of string and it was so simple and much quicker than doing two or three rows of gathering stitch, game changer or what! 

Close up image of gathered fabric

Overall, I love this sewing pattern and dress so much and the addition of some beautiful Pigeon Wishes buttons finished it off to perfection. This is definitely a garden party dress and I’ll be floating all over the place in it this summer.

It was really satisfying sewing something up with no waste, though I would have liked a hair tie to match so maybe I’ll factor that into the pattern if I make it again! It’s definitely made me more conscious about using what I have and trying to be more mindful when shopping for fabric.

Image of Debbie, a white woman, standing in a garden in a multicoloured dress.

As for the rest of my scraps…they’ll be going in a Closet Core Pouffe very soon!

 This fabric has now sold out. You can check out our range of Viscose, Tencel and Cupro that will be perfect for this style here.







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