During March 2021, the lovely vloggers that are Sam (Fruglaisama) and Ruan (The Yorkshire Sew Girl) hosted an Instagram challenge whereby you use fabric from your stash, and sew a free dress pattern. Hence the title ‘Frugal Frocks’
I don’t often wear dresses, so spent the first half of the month feeling a little despondent and at a loss about what to do. Then a chance conversation about zero waste sewing launched me down a rabbit hole, and I was itching to get started with this pattern from Offset Warehouse. Which rather fortuitiously turned out to be free, and therefore suitable for the challenge!
I am very keen on anything that reduces waste. This is the Fabulosew HQ, which is a converted shed, making use of patio doors and windows that someone local was throwing out during an upgrade.
I use shampoo and conditioner bars, and even eat every part of apples, core and all so that there’s nothing to throw out (even though it would go straight to compost). My teenagers still expect carrots to be peeled, but I prefer to scrub them, primarily to avoid the wasted peel (and the need to clear it up and put it in the compost bin). Of course we aren’t perfect, but being environmentally friendly and questioning the need for a product and whether there’s a viable alternative with less packaging is a way of life. And our Fabulosew paper uses far less paper per pattern, saving not only trees and storage, but also fuel used to transport the same number of printed patterns compared to those printed on heavier paper. When John finishes printing for the day, he uses a bike to get to the post office.
Fabric waste is a sad by product of garment manufacture (15% according to Milan – AV-JC), and proportionally more for home sewists than in commercial manufacture where garments can be squeezed onto every last scrap of fabric (I can’t validate this assumption). In a world of masks and covid, I’m sure many home sewists have made face coverings to match their latest creation, in order to reduce the amount wasted. or Ogden camis from larger woven scraps, and knickers from knit fabrics. But there are still those tiny scraps left over. I make tailors hams and sausages and stuff them with my overlocker offcuts, but it’s a bit ridiculous really, I have more than I could possibly need!
Enter the zero waste pattern. There are a variety available, and the premise is that you use every inch of your fabric.
When you ‘purchase’ this pattern from Offset warehouse (it is a free pattern), it is downloaded as a set of instructions. You then calculate the amount of fabric required based on your measurements. They suggest to draw it on paper and to put this onto your fabric, but you could draw it straight onto your fabric. There are 3 different cutting layouts depending on the width of your fabric and pattern pieces.
As I used a super wide duvet cover, none of the suggested layouts worked exactly, as it was wide enough to put all 4 main pieces next to each other and the extra bits alongside them.
Step one of the instructions does say to head to www.offsetwarehouse.com and order your ethical fabric. As this was for the frugal frocks challenge, I didn’t do this, and I do feel a little guilty that I’ve benefitted from this lovely pattern without buying anything in exchange. So I will at some point order some fabric, as their selection is beautiful, and all thoughtfully procured.
The sewing is fairly straight forward, it felt like an introduction to draping. I didn’t put pockets on, but I wish I had – my belt is pretty long, I could quite easily have used some for pockets.
I love the clever shoulder detail, and I googled stopper knots to tie a thicker knot (it might have been an Ashley knot) that wouldn’t get lost in the shoulder channel, which was fun. It reminded me of paracord crafts that I did with scouts some time ago.
Overall, I really love the cleverness and finished product achieved with this pattern. I will definitely wear it, even though I don’t often reach for dresses.
For those interested in zero waste patterns, here are some patterns and resources I’ve come across. Most of these are patterns to buy, so are relevant to zero waste rather than Frugal Frocks!
- Offset Warehouse – the link for the pattern I made
- Schnittchen Patterns – have a couple of free zero waste patterns that look pretty interesting
- Elbe Textiles – Australian based designer, with a zero waste pattern. It’s quite an involved make, Alex Judge Sews has done a really good YouTube video on it
- Birgitta Helmersson – several zero waste patterns including a coat, a dress and a shirt!
- Milan AV-JC – fascinating company with loads of zero waste designs, and heaps of really interesting information and facts about waste in manufacturing and what happens to it (hint – landfill).
- Cris Wood Sews – this is a zero waste design, but the whole ethos of the company focuses on reducing wasted fabric in clothing manufacture, so all of the patterns are zero or minimal waste
- Sewcialists – not a pattern, but a fascinating blog post from with some pattern ideas. Liz Hayward almost made zero waste jeans!
- The Craft of Clothes – the author of the blog post above has a brilliant selection of zero waste patterns in her Etsy shop
I hope you found that interesting, let me know if you try any zero waste patterns, or if you’ve got any ingenious solutions to your own fabric scraps!