Monday, 17 May 2021

Yarn Dyed Linen Zero Waste Gathered Top

I have been intrigued by zero waste sewing patterns for some time now and there seem to be more of them available lately. I recently updated my list of Independent Sewing Pattern Designers to include a number of companies who have zero waste patterns if you'd like to explore. The idea of a zero waste garment is that it uses up every little bit of the fabric you have, using clever tessellating pattern pieces to leave you without even a tiny scrap left over. I'm always quite careful when buying fabric to not buy more than I need and often lay out the pattern pieces prior to purchase to figure out how little I can get it out of as pattern designers often over estimate to avoid disappointment. Despite this I still end up with large amounts of unusable awkward shaped and sized scraps which I never know what to do with in an environmentally responsible manner. A lot of work and resources go into the making of every single piece of fabric so shouldn't we do our best to use and not waste every single scrap?

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Birgitta Helmersson Zero Waste Gather Dress Top in Yarn Dyed Linen from The Fabric Store

The designer I have been particularly drawn to is Birgitta Helmersson who sells zero waste clothing as well as the digital patterns for some of her designs. I love the aesthetic of her designs and the patterns felt quite accessible. I've also seen some gorgeous versions of the ZW Gather Dress and ZW Cropped Shirt on Instagram. This here is the ZW Gather Dress hacked into a top.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Birgitta Helmersson Zero Waste Gather Dress Top in Yarn Dyed Linen from The Fabric Store

Looking at the different cutting plans for the three pattern hacks included with the pattern actually taught me a lot about the creativity and problem solving that goes into zero waste cutting. I opted to use the gathered sleeve hack which involves omitting the side seam pockets to enable you to increase the width of the sleeve and add a band to finish the cuff. Seeing how the pattern cutting layout changed for the different hacks really helped me to understand what is possible on a simple level with rectangular shapes. For example you could also omit the side seam pockets to increase the width of the sleeve and use patch pockets instead.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Birgitta Helmersson Zero Waste Gather Dress Top in Yarn Dyed Linen from The Fabric Store

I've had this beautiful yarn dyed linen (originally from The Fabric Store) in my stash for a while now. I've had various ideas for it but when I was rummaging through for something to suit this project it seemed like the ideal candidate. However, I only had 2m and this dress requires 2.6m. I carefully looked over the cutting plan for the pattern to see if there was anything I could do to make it work and ultimately decided to make the longest dress I could with the fabric I had. This meant a dress 30cm shorter than intended. Unfortunately, once sewn up it was just a fraction too short for me to be comfortable in. The billowing nature of this dress means it moves around a lot while you walk and there was too much potential for flashing! I did think about using a tiny hem instead of the deep hem the pattern has but the neckband piece is then not long enough as it is cut at the same length as the dress, then the extra band you need to get around the back of the neck is accounted for by the deep hem. Instead I decided to turn it into a top which I now absolutely adore! Obviously cutting a chunk off the hem no longer makes it zero-waste but at least I have a bit useable rectangle and no little annoying scraps to throw out. If you'd like to make the top version without wasting anything this top used exactly 1.5m of fabric.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Birgitta Helmersson Zero Waste Gather Dress Top in Yarn Dyed Linen from The Fabric Store

My yarn dyed linen has stripes which you will noticed are nowhere near matched. Zero waste pattern cutting prescribes where each pattern piece has to be cut in order to use all the fabric and therefore you can't move your pattern pieces about to match the pattern. Pattern matching can actually create an awful lot of fabric waste, particularly when attempting to match a large print. Not matching the stripes on this doesn't bother me at all as I'm not particularly fussed about pattern matching unless it is a really obvious bold stripe or check.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Birgitta Helmersson Zero Waste Gather Dress Top in Yarn Dyed Linen from The Fabric Store

One thing you will notice about this dress is that it is a VERY oversized style. I could quite literally take 4" out of each side seam and it would still be roomy! But I kind of love it...If we get a hot summer I will definitely be making more versions in the dress length to swan about in. When making the dress I probably would reduce the width of it slightly...but then of course it might not be zero waste. What I'd need to do to avoid wastage is use a fabric which is narrower to begin with. The width of this dress hinges entirely on the width of the fabric you start with. The pattern has only two sizes (I made the smaller which covers UK sizes 8-16) and it does state that you can use fabrics from 135cm to 155cm wide. My linen was 140cm wide so on the lower end of that but it is still big! I would suggest that if you are on the smaller end of the size range you can definitely get away with even narrower fabric.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Birgitta Helmersson Zero Waste Gather Dress Top in Yarn Dyed Linen from The Fabric Store

As the top is so roomy I sewed the buttons on directly through both layers and the closed button holes as I'll never need them to function to get it on and off. The little wooden buttons are also from my stash and the label is from The Craftivist Collective. The linen has a crispness and body that gives this style great volume and shape. I love the wearable drama of it. Many of the versions I've seen have been sewn up in linen or cotton but I also like the idea of making this in a fluid and drapey Tencel or viscose for a completely different effect. However, I think making it in this type of fabric would be more challenging as the crispness of the linen made it easy to draw the shapes directly on to the fabric and sew it up accurately.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Birgitta Helmersson Zero Waste Gather Dress Top in Yarn Dyed Linen from The Fabric Store

Despite being drawn directly onto the fabric using the measurements in the instructions there are still notches to follow and the garment comes together very smoothly and easily. The most time consuming part is certainly the gathering. The instructions are fairly thorough with hand drawn illustrations and some different constructions techniques that definitely feel a little more commercial than home sewing. The instructions reminded me a little bit of Tessuti patterns which I like as they usually get me to try something new.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Birgitta Helmersson Zero Waste Gather Dress Top in Yarn Dyed Linen from The Fabric Store

This pattern is mainly based around square and rectangular shaped which are obviously fairly straightforward to tesselate together to use up all the fabric. However, doing a bit of reading into the subject has made me aware of much more complex curved and spiral shaped pattern pieces which can also be zero waste. Mind boggling! This pattern eases you in to the zero waste thought process with a couple of curved and small pieces cut away from the neckline which are added back into the garment as facings. 

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Birgitta Helmersson Zero Waste Gather Dress Top in Yarn Dyed Linen from The Fabric Store

The neckline facing serves a bit of a purpose (as well as being decorative) as it reinforces that edge and also gives you a place to insert a label. The two triangular pieces cut away from the front neckline are inserted into the side seams just above the hem which is a purely decorative feature. I really like this unique little touch and it opened my mind to the creative thinking involved in making a pattern zero waste. Every tiny scrap of fabric is incorporated into this dress. You don't even trim or grade any seam allowances. Inserting the side seam facings was the one step of the instructions that I did get confused about and I had to refer to the handy photographed tutorial on the Birgitta Helmersson website to make sense of it. There are a handful of other tutorials on there as well as additional pattern hacks.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Birgitta Helmersson Zero Waste Gather Dress Top in Yarn Dyed Linen from The Fabric Store

I feel like making this encouraged me to drop a lot of my traditional thinking about sewing and construction and go with the flow, joining flat pieces of fabric together to make a three dimensional garment. I REALLY enjoyed it. It felt really freeing and reminded me of working on pattern's from Rosie's book 'No Patterns Needed'. The patterns in that book aren't zero waste but are constructed out of geometric shapes that you measure out directly on to the fabric. The deep v tunic in there is constructed out of rectangles and is one of my most worn garments to date. I made this top 5 years ago when I was less comfortable in my sewing skills. At that time the lack of pattern pieces made me a little panicked but this time around, now I understand garment construction better it was really liberating! I'm keen to try more zero waste patterns - do you have any you would recommend?

3 comments:

  1. Maybe you can find something buiten Pieke Shovel you like. It's old :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. That is an adorable top! First time I've seen the big sleeve look that looked good!

    ReplyDelete

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