[Module 7] Draping | 7. Draping Zero Waste - Part 1



The concept for this Challit is Zero Waste. This is a garment created without throwing away any fashion fabric, being creative with a restraining bow tied around it. However in order to get the pattern accurate, as always we still need to drape and create a Test Garment, so all fabric used to Test must be recycled.


Unlike the last Challit these garments can be made from more than one piece of fabric, or just one piece if you prefer.


The extra challenge if you want to go the extra mile is that the garment has to be everyday wearable and have a personal style that suits the wearer so to ensure that the pattern will be a well loved one it must be a Flexible Pattern and have lots of making options to allow the design to be changed up.


A Zero Waste fashion movement has come about in response to an awakening of the impact of fashion as an industry on the environment. Here we come full circle to the beginning of the Threadelicious ThreadBox where I threw around a few statistics on this matter.


A Zero Waste garment therefore needs to be very cleverly created so that it fits together with some element of style, otherwise would we want to wear it? It would be so easy to create something tied around the middle that looked like a sack of potatoes, but who wants to look like that!


For those of us that do not have access to wonderful all singing all dancing software that will aid with design and fitting a pattern or even access to 3D printers or a manufacturing system to knit the exact shape for you then we have to think about pattern making in other ways.


For a garment with multiple pieces to be cut from a piece of fabric with Zero Waste we have to think jigsaw puzzle. We have to become creator and maker of the puzzle.


As a home sewer we all know very well how much the fabric is costing us and if you are like me you will squeeze every last drop out of it even tripping over and using that selvage edge that we all have a love hate relationship with. All the pattern pieces necessary to make the garment will fit into the one piece of cloth. All of the gaps between the pieces need to be worked into the pattern pieces that are required for the garment but very importantly this does not mean cheating and making an outsized garment because you must use up the fabric, to me that is not Zero Waste that is definitely excess wastage.


I have observed that many Zero Waste designers today are making garments out of very large pieces of fabric to create outfits that would not be worn by the average person. Yes they have fabulous shapes and silhouettes but they are impractical and use such large pieces of fabric that they make me gasp.


That is not to say that I think this is wrong, don’t misunderstand, I feel we need this kind of creative focus on this issue to help us move forwards with ideas and concepts of design that can help to shift manufacturing mindset and bring designing, pattern making, cutting and construction back into a harmonious workflow.


So I believe that we have to be very mindful about making zero waste clothing that is fit for the job and is also not using more fabric than a traditionally tailored piece that offers a similar garment. If we can’t do that then we are wasting fabric full stop.


Very simple examples of using up the full piece of fabric are traditionally to do with cultural influence on garments such as the kimono and sari where preciously printed or fully embroidered pieces of fabric are very highly valued and the wasting of it would be sacrilege. These clothes are very beautiful and look lovely as pieces in any wardrobe but if it’s not part of your culture would you wear them every day? These garments use much more fabric than the average garment that we would wear typically, but work great for a garment worked with one piece of fabric. What is the point of a Zero Waste garment if we end up using more fabric to make it?


Just taking this a teeny step further I will also say that you do not have to use the full width of the fabric for your garment because then you are using excess fabric if you don’t need it. As long as what you leave on the edge does not impinge on the space required for the next garment to be cut off the same roll or if this little piece can be used for another purpose then this is not wastage.


Also something I wanted to look at in more detail, we should not allow current pattern pieces to define how big the fabric piece needs to be if we have a piece of valuable fabric already cut that could be fit for purpose (perhaps recycled or from the bargain bin or end of bolt) then we need a way to alter the pattern pieces to accommodate the size of the fabric without creating fitting issues. Sometimes it is what it is and we have to make it work.


It is definitely a puzzle because the design and the layout have to work hand in hand and can get very complex indeed.


Consider creating a full collection of garments on one piece of fabric to use it all up with all pieces interchangeable and dotted around the puzzle, identifying the pieces at the cutting stage would be interesting and may need to be part of the print of the fabric, well now that is a challenge that might have to go on my bucket list!


Print is something very important to consider when making garments such as these because typically a pattern piece can be completely unrecognisable as it will never be a traditional shape so there needs to be a clear route through for construction. You need to very clearly be able to see which piece folds or twists and in what direction so you could invent a whole series of symbols that can be used much like notches and in fact there are some designers that do this with screen printing and incorporate the movement into the print.


A starting point with a garment like this is to go back to your early school days and think about Pattern Blocks. Not the pattern blocks that reflect the size and shape of the body like your Base Template but basic shapes such as squares, rectangles, hexagon, trapezoid, rhombus and triangle.


Remember this?




Well how does this help? Because pattern blocks fit together really well because they are fractionally related to each other, if you can remember that far back in school.


The triangle is half the size of the rhombus and one third the size of the trapezoid and the hexagon is 6 times bigger than the triangle, twice the size of the trapezoid and three times the size of the rhombus. Then throw in the square and rectangle and all of a sudden we have quite a few relatable shapes to play with.


Pattern blocks are used as an example of an area model, but we can use them to help us fit pieces together. By sticking to these simple shapes we can get closer to the Zero Waste point.


This does not mean we can’t fit pattern pieces together with curves, of course we can. In fact I have seen lots of Zero Waste garments that use curves even to the point of using intricate laser cut lace pieces that are seamed inside out so the lace cut is the feature. Curves can create angles in shapes and we touch on this a little with the Wrap Skirt Concept.


The real challenge though with this kind of clothing I think is to find a way to make the garments look stylish, chic timeless and less like a Lego man outfit. Being tall is something I worry about with this kind of clothing if you get it wrong you are really going to stand out, if you are small for some reason you can get away with it a little more, it can look cute!


Which begs the question why do manufacturers not do this all of the time. Well to put it simply to cut completely Zero Waste means that you are negating shape and style in a traditional sense. To get a fabulous garment out with no waste at all using today’s ideas of what looks good and practical and not too over the top is very very tricky when you are talking about a garment with many pieces to the puzzle. I know this because I have tried. Simple shapes do not easily flow around the body, yes we can use volume controls and stretch fabric but even then can we get to a stylish or even an acceptable outfit or do they always end up looking way overdone? Perhaps Zero Waste is just simply too much to ask.


To be able to create these kinds of clothes it does help to have a repertoire of knowledge and you will bring everything you know from your whole lifetime of experience to the table and I don’t just mean your sewing or thread of any kind skills. This is why this unit is right at the end. It is here because you will be squeezing your knowledge sponge to get all of that logical thinking and creativity out onto the table. You need to know how to sew, how to cut, how to design, all about fibres, draping, construction, pattern making, incorporating maths, other merits from knowing how to knit, crochet, weave, spin.


Zero Waste making is not thinking out of the box it is thinking in the box, it is the box and the outside of it all at the same time. We need to experiment, think, compare, reflect, inform, share, research, don’t underestimate, mistakes are opportunities to learn so change your mind set about making them, compare to leading designers, use, enjoy, create, think, and importantly learn to Pause.


Having said all of this Zero Waste creation does not have to be hard. You don’t have to go to college to learn how to do this you can teach yourself. I have brought my whole life to the table with Threadelicious, my Project Management and IT skills computer design skills, maths, and my lifelong love affair with all things Thread. Love your hand made things and get those around you to see the value, become obsessed, dive in, work hard.


Ok that’s the pep talk so now onto business.


From my experience here is a list of things that you can consider and do when designing a Zero Waste Garment and in no particular order;


  • Be creative and let go.

  • Creativity with Technique can lead to new Methodologies, I think I read this somewhere however this rings a bell for me because Technique Computer Consultancy was the name of a previous business I owned so this one comes from the heart and it is something I have always done naturally, find the flow the workflow, the method.

  • Be mindful of the fabric width but as long as you have a plan don’t worry about using the full width of fabric (I think we have this covered now!).

  • Also… when designing a piece if you just can’t find a place for a little bit of it then consider how it can be used for a different garment in the same or different fabric.

  • You need to consider your construction, ease of construction and incorporate seams and Seam Allowances.

  • A slightly oversized outfit could fit more people, a concept to think about for handing off garments or sharing clothes.

  • Pockets.

  • Consider switching your mind to thinking about what you can cut away to make a garment rather than how different pieces need to be cut to fit it together.

  • Consider your opportunities for embroidery or print.

  • Think Movement.

  • Think Shape.

  • Think Flexible Pattern to allow for variations on the theme to be made. As we have learned already in the Threadelicious Workflow doing this during draping and drafting while your brain is in the space is easier than coming back to it.

  • Extending on this - Drape iteratively as defined and discussed in the previous Unit.

  • Mistakes will take you to a different place, allow it to continue and grow like a flower.

  • Problem solve.

  • When designing think from all angles, inside out, cross sections, negative space.

  • Remember Gravity.

  • Don’t work in a straight line sometimes working backwards will help the pieces fit in place more easily.

  • Origami is a route to consider.

  • Ugly is not cool.

  • The average body has curves to work around which need to sing.

  • You will still need measurements.

  • Think Construction (I know I put this twice it is very important!)

  • Think finishing’s, for example other thread related skills or closure ideas.

  • Which fabric will be used, knit or woven….heavy or light.

  • Think about lifestyle, garment use.

  • If using big darts cut them off and use it somewhere else.

  • A half size Body Form will help.

  • You will learn new ways of looking at and using your full pattern collection as you think Zero Waste.

When designing the layout you need to also consider the following;

  • Grainlines, although with Zero Waste pattern pieces this can get crazy it’s still very important to know where they are.

  • You need a nebulous idea of the width of the fabric

  • An idea of which way you are going to cut with the Grainline or across the Grainline, this depends on the garment features and how wide the fabric is.

  • How the fabric will travel over the body and what features it has that will take up extra fabric, i.e. gathering and pleats.

  • Start with the bigger pieces.

  • Think Construction (here it is again!).

  • Cutting on the fold can waste fabric.

  • Remember Seam Allowances and Hems.

  • Play around with the shapes to see what will fit on. I know this is obvious, hey!

  • Drawing is not enough you need to create a Model unless you can think in 3D.

  • Keep track of right and wrong sides of fabric.

  • In order to finalise the layout you must be clear on the design and the construction.

Simple Creating

Keeping all of that information in mind lets jump straight in with the simplest of shapes, rectangles and squares and consider the possibilities. An obvious garment is the Kimono shape. Actually this gives us a chance to break free of the very rigid traditional shape of the Base Template and all of the fitting that it entails and go with this more free flowing shape.



Starting really simply collect your Mini Body Form and a few squares and rectangles of scrap fabric of various sizes, the largest of which will need to be able to cover at least half a front of the body form or bigger.





With the Kimono shape in mind pick up one of the largest pieces and start draping. You may drape different shapes, the following is simply a descriptive demonstration of where this thought process can lead to.














You have a draped piece and can see some flow but immediately you start thinking about construction. Where does the piece sit on the Front? How is it attached in on the Shoulder? Should you use one piece for Front and Back? Construction, Construction, Construction.



So joining a Front and a Back piece together. What shapes can be made and how will it be sewn?



















Lets not forget what is happening in Back.




















Also the Side.




















Settling for this shape I turned the piece inside out to keep the seams on the inside so that they did not distract me from the overall silhouette.
















Next I played around with controlling the mass of fabric.


These shapes don’t fit the body easily unless you are going for an outsized look, which is difficult to pull off if you have a larger than average frame.


So extending from previous Units thinking about how to control the volume.



I placed a little volume control in the Front to create some shaping.



















Also in the Back. Not overdone just a simple pinch of control.


















We have the starting point here for a number of garments, a short/med/long length robe or a dress of some sort. A cut along the Waist and we have an option for the beginings of a top or a skirt. Thinking of fabrics this could be made out of anything, a lovely crisp linen or a soft silk or chiffon to layer over something else. Which leads to thinking about who would wear it and what would they be doing whilst wearing it?


We might want to lift the design to change it up a little and start adding features to take the eye to a certain area.



Here a Border frames the Neckline.





















A happy situation in the Back where my fabric was not long enough creates a collar like feature in the Back, I like this so keep it.




















Wearability thoughts about how will you access the piece can lead to beautiful design features, like a this little tab in the Front. Always thinking about proportion.



















Whats a Kimono without a pocket? Here I have added a pocket that sits on the Side Seam straddling it. Always thinking 360 degrees!

















How will this look like with sleeves? The Front piece could be cut wider to increase the sleeve but what a waste of fabric as its not needed anywhere else. So another option is to use a different rectangle to create a sleeve extension.















Which can also be used to control some of the volume in the torso.



















So we can extend the garment by adding extra fabric on the outline, or on top such as in the pocket or we can insert into the current shape. Here a little flounce is added into a back split which adds a decorative feature and may assist with thoughts around opening the base as it fights to close up.












These simple shapes can create something very quickly and easily that can look elegant and not overdone.


You could play around with them for hours trying to come up with new garment profiles, moulding and sculpting as you go.



Threadelicious Zero Waste Design Concept Collection

The following Zero Waste Design Concept Collection has been created to show how a method of cutting can be defined from using basic shapes because the garments are basic. They really are about as basic as you can go and they are the foundation of a simple capsule wardrobe.


But rather than focusing on the actual designs because they are really fluid depending on your own personal choices, this is a Unit about concept as I wanted to go in to the subject a little deeper. From a home user perspective we need a process that is easily scalable for different body sizes and design variations to make the clothing more for everyday use and wearable. A one size fits all option may not be the way to go to accomplish this because not everyone can pull off oversized clothing.


I wanted to see if there is some way to model this out to allow for scaling. Also I wanted to get a little more accuracy with pattern pieces so I have expanded by considering my own designs, draping, patterning, method and perspective. I do feel that construction needs to be a little more obvious also. For the Threadelicious Zero Waste Concept Collection I am placing my so far resolved ideas from my research and knowledge here for you to have a meander through but have tried to simplify it for ease of use. I caveat that I may update all of this from time to time as I come up with new ideas as I expect that I will be thinking about this for a long time to come.


This work has been done in an attempt to help you find a way through to creating your own zero waste designs to fit your own body whether they are similar to these designs or not.


Quite a lot of work has gone into creating these concept ideas, methods and instructions, surprisingly as on the surface they look very simple.


Each of the garments can be made with a multitude of variations, opening the designs to your own creativity and each piece can be worn with every other piece. This flexibility means that the collection can fit into any number of different personalities and lifestyles from work or day wear, to evening wear or leisure on the beach resort wear. The most Flexible of all Patterns I think.


The collection consists of;


· Furtive Pocket Wrap Skirt – A basic wrap skirt with big aspirations and a little secret.

· False Wrap Dress – A loving curve wrapping asymmetrical option.

· Fragmented Top – A scrappy top made beautiful and a two way symmetrical design.


Of course you could always add to this a take on the Kimono design as described above.


One of the main considerations for the Zero waste garment then is layout, how will all of the pieces fit onto the fabric without impacting the next garment to be cut.


I have put quite a bit of thought into this to try to devise a way to control this mass of creativeness whilst at the same time allowing some variations for sizeing and complexity and number of pattern pieces.


The system needs to be as simple as possible and allow for static and variable pattern pieces.


So I have devised a very simple (if not obvious) way forward by creating a flexible layout table which will be used in all of the designs in the Zero Waste Concept Collection. This table relies on what I have called Green Flexible Measurements so I am calling this the Green Layout Model, which basically gets you to a position where the pattern layout on the fabric is just enough to make the garment. This simple model will be shown in use for all the following pieces in the collection and the theory is malleable enough to fit any pattern design, so more to follow on this theory.




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