Ahh sustainable fashion - one of my favourite subjects to ramble on about. I can’t help but wonder if people on the receiving end of one my rants about fast fashion are desperately wishing I would pipe down and stop hating on Kmart.
But that's another post entirely.
There are so many different aspects to what constitutes a sustainable piece of clothing.
The longevity of it- how many wears you will get out of it. The fibres used. Will this fibre break down quickly in landfill? Can it be recycled? The amount of waste generated when making it. Production methods. Dyes. Water usage from washing. Are the materials local? How much shipping was involved in getting this garment to you. The list goes on.
It can get a bit overwhelming.
For this post, I’m going to focus on zero-waste patterns. As the name suggests – there is no waste left over from this type of pattern. Every little bit of fabric is used, and thus saved from landfill.
I love this type of pattern making. It really challenges you to forget what you know about conventional pattern making and play around with different shapes, seam lines placements and silhouettes. Having a blank square or rectangle of fabric in front of you can be a bit daunting. My favourite thing to do is cut the fabric into two or more big triangles (don’t ask me why, but I think triangular shapes have the most manipulation potential) and drape it on the mannequin in interesting ways – using pleating, twisting, darts and folding to shape the fabric pieces around the form. I prefer to hem these pieces first, so once it’s all artfully arranged in a sweet configuration, you don’t need to worry about finishes.
I'm currently sans mannequin, so here's a (very old) photo from a previous time I played around with draping triangles on a form.
Today I am providing the dimensions for a basic, zero-waste robe pattern.
For the record, this picture below isn't an exact replica of this pattern - the silhouette and measurements are the same, but I have used 3 different types of fabric in my version as I was trying to use up leftover fabric I already had in the house. Because of this, there is a seam halfway down my sleeve where two different fabrics meet, that is not on the pattern provided.
Buuuut, the way this pattern is set out - you can totally use 3 different lengths of fabric and it will still be zero waste (as long as your fabrics are all from a 140cm wide roll). This is what you'd need if you wanted to use 3 different fabrics.
Fabric 1: Main Body (80cm)
Fabric 2: Sleeves and Lower Front/Back Panels (80cm)
Fabric 3: Sleeve Hem Band, Neck Band, Pockets, Underarm Gussets (30cm)
I'm keeping the instructions relatively low key, as drawing digital images is my least favourite thing to do and I think the steps are pretty straightforward - but please don't hesitate to get in touch if you'd like any steps clarified!
Let's get to it.
WHAT YOU WILL NEED:
This pattern is based on fabric that is 140cm wide - 190cm is needed
Chalk or fabric marking pen
Optional: Bias binding is my preferred choice for finishing the seams in this garment, but any finish of your choosing is fine. Cutting fabric scraps into bias strips to make your own binding is a great way to up leftover pieces of material.
Make sure your fabric is pre-washed. I'd recommend any fabrics with a nice drape to it. I used double gauze cotton I found at the op shop (old baby blankets) and an old cotton bed sheet (also op shop) for the neck and sleeve hem bands. The third fabric is a bit of a mystery blend I had lying around in my stash. I did a burn test but jury is still out on what the blend of fibres is. My guess is a poly-cotton.
STEP 1: Transfer measurements from the pattern to your piece of cloth. Use chalk and a ruler to measure and draw the lines on.
Cut the pieces out. Because they are all rectangles, you may find it useful to tape a bit of masking tape onto each piece, labelling what it is. The similar sized pieces can easily get mixed up.
The slit running up the centre of the main body piece has a small V cut into it to allow the neck band to be sewn on more easily in a later step. Keep in mind, the seam allowance is 1cm, so the V shouldn't be cut bigger than 1cm.
STEP 2: Attach the front and back panels to the main body.
Using a 1cm seam allowance, place the right side of the panels, against the right side of the main body and sew together. Finish the seam in your preferred method. Press seams towards the raw edges.
**If you have spare fabric in your stash that can be cut into bias strips, a bias bound seam in a contrasting pattern/colour is my recommended finishing technique.
STEP 3: Line up two of the gussets against the edge of the sleeve as shown. With the right sides facing, sew together using a 1cm seam allowance (use the 1cm seam allowance from now on, unless otherwise specified) . Finish seam. Press seam outwards. Repeat this step on the other sleeve.
Step 4: Align the notch on the top edge of the sleeve, to the notch on the main body. With the right sides facing together, sew along the edge to join the pieces. Finish the seam and press outwards.
Repeat on the other side, for the other sleeve.
Step 5: Fold the robe in half, so the right sides are facing together. Sew along the edge, from the edge of the sleeve hem, all the way down to the hem of the bodice. Clip into the corners of the seam allowance under the arms. Finish the seam. Repeat on other side. Press the seams towards the back.
Step 6: Turn your hem up by 4cm - if you are using bias binding on your seams, you may like to bind the raw edge first, before turning the hem up towards the wrong side and sewing down.
Another option for a clean, enclosed finish, is to fold the fabric in 0.5cm towards the wrong side, then fold up again by 3.5cm. Stitch.
Press hem flat.
Step 7: Patch pockets.
Fold the top of the pocket piece over by 2cm, so the right sides are facing. Stitch along both edges of the fold, using a 1cm seam allowance. Trim the corners off and turn the fold back out to the right way. Press fold down and stitch along the edge. Fold the remaining raw edges up and press in place.
Place the pockets on the bodice as desired. I haven't marked the pattern with pocket placement, as it is such a personal preference.
Stitch along the remaining edges to secure pocket in place.
Step 8: Neck band.
Place the 2 neck band pieces together, right sides facing. Stitch along one of the skinny edges. Press the seam outwards.
Align the seam of the neckband with the centre back neck of the main body. The right side of the neckband should be facing the wrong side of the main body.
The small V cut into the end of the slit will help spread the fabric out along the straight edge of the neck band. Sew the band to the main body using a 1cm seam allowance.
Press the seam towards the band. If your fabric is bulky, you may like to grade the seam.
Fold and press the other edge of the band inwards by 1cm. Fold and press the remaining raw edge upwards.
Fold the band in half, so the folded edge just covers the line of stitching. Pin in place and top stitch neatly along the edge to secure in place.
Step 9. Sleeve Band. Fold the band in half, right sides together, and sew up the skinny edge.
Press the seam outwards. Repeat on other band.
Fold one edge of the band in by 1cm and press in place.
Align the band over the sleeve, so the seams are matching. The right side of the band should be facing the wrong side of the sleeve. The raw edge of the band should be lined up with the raw edge of the sleeve. Sew in place.
Press the seam outwards. Fold the sleeve band in half so the folded edge is just covering the line of stitching. Top stitch in place.
Give everything a good ol' final press and you're done. Huzzah!
I'd love to see any photos if anybody decides to give this a try. Tag me on Instagram @elbe_textiles and use the hashtag #elbetextiles