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Projects & Patterns

Pattern Roundup: Zero-Waste and Sustainable Sewing

Some of our favorite pro-sustainability patterns

Sustainable sewing embraces shifts in behavior including selecting sustainable fabrics, mending your existing garments, upcycling, and more. If you’re looking to take your eco-friendly practices a step further, try choosing patterns designed to minimize or eliminate waste. These patterns help you sew sustainably by asking you to pull from materials on hand, or show you how to create a complete garment from a single piece of fabric, leaving no remnants behind.

That may sound a bit intimidating at first, or even limiting if you’re used to fabric shopping each time you start a new project. But take a step back and look at your stash. You probably have plenty of remnants that are too small for an entire garment but perfect for patchwork garments—or garments with many pieces. We have pulled a few of our favorite patterns together that work well for using what you have on hand to create a custom look.

If you’d like to make use of a larger piece of fabric or have a hankering for a shopping excursion, you can still sew more sustainably with zero-waste garments. Some of our favorites are listed below!

Sustainable sewing with stash-busting patterns

Deer and Doe Neige Sweatshirt

sustainable sweatshirt

Gather up your medium-weight knits for this fantastic sweatshirt with pieced statement sleeves. Version A has side slits and a funnel neck, version B is cropped and finished with ribbing. EU sizes 34 to 52 (bust 31 1/2 inches to 45 5/8 inches, waist 23 1/2 inches to 37 3/4 inches, hip 33 3/4 inches to 48 inches).

Chalk and Notch Marcel Dress

marcel dress sewing pattern

I thought I loved this pattern even before I saw @Sewlike‘s wonderful scrap-busting make. This woven dress and tank top design is fitted through the high bust and loose through the bust, waist and hips. Women’s sizes 0 to 30 are offered with two bust-cup options (A/B bust 32 inches to 56 inches, C/D bust 34 inches to 58 inches, waist 25 inches to 49 inches, hip 35 inches to 59 inches).

Ellie & Mac Adult/Kids Scrappy Top Pattern Bundle

scrappy top sewing project

Grab your pile of fabric scraps and try your hand at the Sew Scrappy Top. You’ll put all those extra pieces to use in this super fun shirt. This pattern comes in sizes 6 months – Big Kid 14 and Adult XXS – 6XL (see the link above for measurements).

Sustainable sewing with zero-waste patterns

Criswood Zero-Waste Envelope Dress for Beginners

sustainable zero waste dress

This zero-waste, beginner friendly envelope dress doesn’t even require a paper pattern. Sizing is customized to your measurements, and you can try it in various fabrics for a range of different looks. This dress is an easy way to create something unique to you.

Thread Faction Utility Jumpsuit for Kids

zero waste jumpsuit sewing pattern

This jumpsuit is the perfect everyday outfit for kids, with short sleeves and lots of pockets. It is a relaxed fit, best made with woven or knit fabrics that aren’t too stretchy. Kids sizes 2 to 14, unisex (chest 21 inches to 33 inches, waist 20 1/2 inches to 26 1/2 inches, hip 22 inches to 34 inches).

Birgitta Helmersson Zero Waste Gather Dress

oversized dress

Combining comfort with functionality, this oversized dress has a dropped shoulder and gathered skirt, plus pockets for a handful of your daily essentials. There are two options for making this dress, one of which does not require buttons. Available in sizes 1 and 2 (chest 33 inches to 50 inches, waist 26 inches to 42 inches, hip 34 inches to 53 inches). Each size has slight variations in design to ensure zero waste.

Make/Use Crop Top

crop top sewing project

For a customizable sewing project, try this cropped t-shirt. The cloth should measure the circumference of your body for a fit as shown above. To personalize the look, you can create a more voluminous form with a wider piece of cloth, or a closer fit with a narrower piece. Use chiffon or another soft fabric for a more fluid look, or try a stiffer fabric for something more structured. The pattern is free, but the sewing experience is different from working with a conventional pattern. Read the instructions through before starting.

Elbe Textiles Zero-Waste Maynard Dress

maynard dress

The Maynard dress features asymmetrical front panels and tie closures at the slightly relaxed waist. This pattern also includes a pleat in the back, and a folded collar V-neck. Women’s sizes A through I (bust 31 inches to 47 inches, waist 24 1/2 inches to 40 inches, hip 34 1/2 inches to 50 1/2 inches).

These projects are just a few of the fun and fashionable ways to embrace sustainability. Making use of your extra fabric, or creating items from other misfit materials, are some of the ways you can practice zero-waste sewing. Plus, these patterns are a great way to improve your sewing skills with items you already have at home.

If any of these patterns interest you, and you want to learn more about sustainable sewing- check out the Sewing with Threads Podcast, Episode 44: Sustainable Approach to Sewing with Wendy Ward.

We hope you will try making one of these designs. When you’re done, be sure to share pictures in our Reader’s Closet gallery or share on Instagram and tag #memadethreads.


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  1. user-6944640 | | #1

    If I was young and had a terrific figure, I'd really not be happy with most of these outfits. How does it save fabric as you still need the same amount of fabric to make a saggy, baggy outfit as you do a nipped, fitted outfit? Now start promoting crazy quilting and I'll get on board as that is a beautiful way to make use of leftover stash. I'm also thinking about some of the pieced fabrics used in clothing as was seen in the '70's (when we didn't fear colorful fabric). https://www.etsy.com/listing/1005604088/stunning-halter-neck-patchwork?ga_order=most_relevant&ga_search_type=all&ga_view_type=gallery&ga_search_query=70s+patchwork+dress&ref=sr_gallery-2-17&bes=1&sts=1

  2. User avater
    riot203 | | #2

    There are so many styles to sew, so many ways to sew sustainably, to each their own, as my grandmother always said. The pattern designers who made these patterns and the garments they show work hard at their craft - not all styles and colors will please everyone but many people appreciate them!

    Hopefully, you will enjoy some of our other articles, especially the great quilted jacket article in our next issue. For now, maybe this will be up your alley: https://www.threadsmagazine.com/2020/07/03/how-to-sew-crazy-quilting

    Becca Ryan, Threads Digital Brand Manager

  3. user-6944640 | | #3

    The latest "sustainable" outfits are somewhat improved over the first ones you posted; however, the grey "envelope" dress is so sad. I am very thrilled that there are businesses now that will send us a bag that we can keep in our sewing room and fill with scraps (and clothes too beat up to give away) and they will recycle them. There's no need to sew such depressing, Chairman Mao influenced looking outfits, especially for folks who try hard to be fit. A fun idea to reuse fabric is to cut up old jeans and make fringe along the long leg seams to add to a jean skirt or jacket. There are lots of similar ideas on Pinterest. I have also seen clever sewists on Instagram taking a big gown from the 1980's and cut and dye it into a fashionable dress. Please don't limit your sustainable ideas to sewing from selvage to selvage.

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