Sunday, September 10, 2023

Weekend Review: Zero Waste Patterns


Zero Waste Patterns / Birgitta Helmerson
London: Quadrille, c2023.
192 p.

I've been looking forward to this new Zero Waste book by Birgitta Helmersson, and was happy to find it in my library. I enjoyed looking through it, and reading her background to how and why she got to the Zero Waste pattern making stage. I also enjoyed the layout; logical structure and lots of nice large photographs of various models wearing the projects. 

The subtitle of the book is "20 Projects to Sew Your Own Wardrobe". There are 20 projects by virtue of variations on 5 basic blocks - Tee, Trouser, Singlet, Skirt and Shirt. They are all in the traditional zero waste aesthetic - natural fibres, no prints, very loosely fitting with not many shaping options in them. And elastic waist skirts and trousers. If you like this aesthetic or can see past the oatmeal/beige colours, I think this will be a great book for you! 

The instructions are well laid out, with cutting diagrams all fairly large and clear, including coloured notations for folds, slits or other special things to note. There are a handful of actual patterns for facings, pockets etc but these are so minimal that they are all printed inside the front and back covers (double fold covers) to trace off. She also explains the sizing of each pattern and the limitations when using the width of fabric as the base for a pattern (sizes are UK 6-30/US 2-26). There are suggestions given to enlarge a pattern when needed, by adding side panels or other ideas. But the fitting is pretty loose on most of these items also.

Unfortunately for me personally, I'm not really a fan of this kind of really oversize, boxy clothing. There is one variation on the shirt block that was interesting to me, as it has longer gathered sleeves and a bit more interest in detail. But I don't think I'm that likely to try any of these out very soon. I appreciate this book, though, and can see how the right reader will find this very helpful, as it not only has pattern charts but quite a lot of information on the zero waste approach. And it's pretty! 

I was glad to have the chance to read this through my library, and appreciate the availability of this kind of sewing book. 


  1. I suspect the clothing would be more appealing if made up in soft, flowing, luxurious fabrics such as silk charmeuse and wool gauze, and in gorgeous colors. Some designers include these features in their clothing lines.

    1. It might look more 'fashion' in more fabulous fabrics, but with the way the cutting is done I can't see many prints working out well. There is a definite aesthetic here, but it's just not mine!

  2. In her defense, it's much easier to photograph lighter colors. But like most others of this genre, instructions are quite specific to fabric width and garment size. But also the larger you are and the less likely it is that you will look good in these, even if you made them of the drapiest silk. There is a grand total of one concession to the need for a dart in the entire book. I am grateful my own library was carrying it..

    1. I agree, I was wondering about how adaptable these would be for varied sizing. Most zero waste seems to be planned according to fabric widths so I imagine the flexibility is low.

  3. An interesting discussion. I agree that for the home sewist the fabric width is a problem, and I have had to sew pieces together to make the width in the past, which really isn't zero waste then. I haven't made any designs from this book, but I love the bias cut 'zero or low waste' garments I have made from another designer. Bias cut garments naturally give shape to the garment . (Think Vionnet).
    Another really interesting aspect of zero waste design with more shaped clothing is the design features. It is said that creativity is sparked when you have to design (or do anything) within limitations, and I would generally agree this occurs. Zero waste pattern makers have to think totally differently to the regular pattern makers.
    But I still like and make more conventional patterns as well. Thank you for the great review Melanie, I am sure it is an informative book I will try to borrow from my library.

    ... Sara

    1. I know you're really good at this technique, and I have seen other books with patterns that are a bit more interesting to me, some of which I think you've made. Like you say, the details and a bias cut really add to these designs.


Share your comments, ideas or suggestions here -- I am always interested in hearing from readers. It's nice to have a conversation!