Do you have any tips on minimising material waste while sewing or projects that can be made with leftover fabric pieces after cutting out your patterns? I've just been getting into sewing, but I feel like I'm wasting a lot of materials because I'm not very good yet, which is somewhat the opposite of what I was hoping for :-(
Minimising fabric waste
How to cut fabric:
When cutting out a pattern, there will almost always be some fabric waste.
If you're working with a commercial pattern, you'll find a cutting layout among the pattern's instructions. Try to follow these guides, because they're usually optimised to avoid waste.
(Image source) [ID: cutting layout for a sewing pattern for two pairs of pants and a pair of shorts.]
If you'd like to divert from this layout, it's important to keep the grain of your fabric in mind.
A pattern that's designed to be cut on the bias of the fabric will often produce more waste than a pattern that's supposed to be cut on the straight grain. However, if you were to cut a bias pattern on the straight grain to save fabric, your resulting garment will hang differently. This is because cutting your fabric on the bias will result in a garment that has slightly more stretch and that will drape better.
(Image source) [ID: a diagram by sewguide.com showing the selvage edge, cut edge, width, length, weft thread, and warp thread of a piece of fabric.]
(Image source) [ID: a diagram by sewguide.com showing the difference between cutting a pattern on the straight grain, the diagonal/bias grain, and the crosswise/off grain.]
If you're using a self-drafted pattern or if you're working without a pattern, how you cut your fabric is up to you. Keeping your grain line, fabric print, and seam allowance in mind, try to place your pieces as close to each other as possible to minimise waste.
Piecing and patchwork:
One way to minimise fabric waste while using conventional patterns is to use fabric piecing. This means to sew bits of fabric together until you've got a large enough piece to fit your pattern. You'll have to piece in a tactical way as to minimise awkward seam placements.
Another approach you could take is patchwork: this is similar to piecing, but instead of making the most out of the same piece fabric, patchwork pieces different fabrics together as a design element.
(Image source) [ID: a patchwork dress made out of different fabrics in shades of gray, white, black, and dusty pink.]
Zero waste sewing patterns:
A lot of our current sewing patterns have curves that follow the shape of the body. These curves are usually what creates fabric waste because the more complex a pattern gets, the harder it is to lay it out without waste.
One way to avoid this is to use zero waste sewing patterns. These patterns are either more angular as to avoid curves, or have been laid out in such a way that the curvature has been optimised to avoid waste.
(Image source) [ID: a blouse design by Elisabeth Haywood. The left of the picture shows the pattern layout for the blouse, which has been designed in such a way that every part of the fabric is used. The right of the picture shows a woman wearing the finished product: a white blouse with short tulip sleeves and a bow at the neck.]
This concept is not new. One notable example is the kimono which is traditionally cut in such a way that it wastes very little fabric. Another example is the bog coat, a design that goes all the way back to the bronze age.
We also see a lot of fabric piecing in general in historical garments. Whenever fabric is a scarce commodity, people will look for ways to maximise what they have.
(Image source) [ID: a two-part diagram on how to cut and sew a bog coat. The pattern consists of a rectangle with cut slits that fold into a coat.]
If you have a lot of fabric scraps left after cutting out your pattern, don't throw them away! Either reuse them in different projects, use them to patch up worn garments, or use them as stuffing for plushies and such.
If you're looking for small projects that can be made out of leftover fabric, the word you're looking for is "stash buster". Use this search term to find tons of different project ideas that only use a small amount of fabric. Some ideas are tiny plushies, pot holders, keyrings, jewellery, small pouches, fabric flowers, home decor, embellishments for your clothes, quilts, pin cushions, scrunchies, rag rugs,...
(Image source) [ID: a fluffy textured rag rug made out pastel fabric scraps. Text at the bottom of the picture: "Gemma Cooper on Grillo Designs".]
Even though we may not see it that way any more because fast fashion has become cheaper and more abundant than ever, fabric is a precious commodity. It's important to try to make the most of what we have when sewing.
On top of disposal problems, fabric production is a resource-heavy process, and the industry doesn't shy away from unethical labour practices.
While we may not be able to change this system overnight or abandon it altogether, reusing what we have at least lessens the amount of money we spend to support it.
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Hey! First of all I'd just like to thank you for this blog, it's given me ideas for a lot of new projects that I'd like to start and helpful tips for how to make my clothes last longer. I'm not sure if this is a question you've answered before or not, but do you know how to fix a boot where the top has become separated from the sole? This has happened to every pair of boots I've ever owned, and I'm never sure how to repair them.
Glad to hear this blog has inspired you! :)
I've talked about upcycling shoes and mending Converses before, but I don't think I've discussed this particular topic yet.
Last time that happened to a shoe of mine, I fixed them with super glue which held pretty well.
If you're not sure what glue to try and you've got access to North-American glue brands, check out This to That, a website dedicated to glue advice. This list of shoe repair glues might also be helpful. Ask around at your local craft store if you can't decide on which one to use.
This shoe repair tutorial by Frugal Upstate shows how to reglue the top of your boot to the sole.
If all fails, you could always take your boots to a shoe repair store.
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