Listen to the episode
30. Zero Waste Sewing & Clothing – The Asian Sewist Collective Podcast
Patterns & Designers mentioned
Basque Dress by Stitchwitch Patterns
Sofia Knit Tank Top by Staystitch Patterns
Nikko Top and Dress by True Bias
ZW Coat by Birgitta Helmersson
The Bog Dress by TheSewSew
Zero Waste Strap Dress by Process of Sewing
Iris Zero Waste Blouse by Fibr & Cloth Studio
Zero Waste Fanny Pack PDF Sewing Pattern by Process of Sewing
ZW Wave by bag.uettes
Episode 180: Zero Waste Sewing, Love to Sew Podcast
Zero Waste Fashion: What it is + 7 Brands Implementing It Today, Conscious Life and Style
Zero Waste Sewing, The Sewcialists
Zero Waste Sewing: Zero Waste Across Cultures — Rectangles on Display, The Sewcialists
Zero Waste Sewing, Wendy Ward
The Zero Waste History of Kimonos, Zero Waste Millennial
Shop Your Stash – 4 Ways to Use Your Fabric Leftovers, Wendy Ward
Nicole: So I attended my first in person sewing meetup yesterday.
Nicole: Yes, thank you someone who even though I have a podcast and speak a lot to people generally find it terrifying community people, particularly in person, but I did it. Yay.
Ada: Welcome to the Asian Sewist Collective podcast. The Asian Sewist Collective is a group of Asian people from around the world brought together by our shared appreciation for fiber and textile arts, and our desire to see more Asian representation in the sewing community.
Nicole: In this podcast, we explore the intersection of our identities and our shared sewing practice as we create a space for Asian sewists and our allies.
Ada: I’m your co-host, Ada Chen, and I’m recording from Denver, Colorado. Denver is the traditional territory of the Ute, Cheyenne and Arapaho peoples. I’m a Taiwanese-American marketer turned entrepreneur and these days you’ll find me running my own natural skincare business called Chuan’s Promise. That’s C-H-U-A-N-apostrophe-S promise – and sharing my marketing tips on my blog. Most importantly, for this podcast, you can find my sewing at @i.hope.sew on Instagram.
Nicole: And I’m your co-host, Nicole. I’m based outside of Chicago, the original homelands of the Council of the Three Fires, the Ojibwe, the Potawatomi, and the Odawa people. I’m a Philippine-American woman, a lawyer by day and a sewing enthusiast the rest of the time. You can find me on Instagram at @nicoleangelinesews.
Ada: Before we dive into this week’s episode, Nicole, can you tell us about your current sewing project?
Nicole: Yes, it’s not something new. And it’s not in progress yet.
Nicole: It’s something that I’m thinking about. So maybe you can help me think this through. Last year, at some point, I tested the Basque Dress from Stitchwitch patterns and it is a close fitting slight a line dress with an option for a gathered skirt instead of an a line. And what makes it Basque is that the oh, I don’t know if it’s what makes it Basque but like I assume it is, is that the way that it’s designed, you can very easily do the top portion is a different fabric so that it brings out the V shaped point at the front, like a rug where the bottom of like your work around where your waist is. And I made the test with this cotton sateen that you sent me. So we have matching stuff with which is fun, I think. And it still fits me. And I like wearing it. But I say I like wearing it because I find it to be a little bit too short for comfort from my heart. And if it wasn’t part of a test, I might have thought to lengthen it. And maybe I should have just lengthen it. But whatever is already done. But I have a work function. I work for a nonprofit, and we have our annual fundraiser in a couple of weeks. And I was really determined to make a turnout top because I thought I had been thinking a lot about this. And I’m like, why am I saving it? Why am I wearing Turner? Like just for Philippine themed things? You know? So I said, Okay, it’s, you know, formal wear cocktail wear. Just because the sleeve is unusual for Western folks. It doesn’t mean it’s not appropriate. So I’d like to normalize wearing turned no more is what I’m saying. And this shirt on the mannequin behind me is a Basque top, so just the top version. But when I made it, I didn’t measure so you’ll probably hear this in an earlier episode is too small. And like, oh, no, not before. Yeah, it’s all right. And I haven’t finished it. But my goal was to put removable terno sleeves.
Ada: Oh, okay.
Nicole: We’re getting to the point where I’m like, I don’t know if I want to finish that necessarily, or do I want to improve upon something that I already have made? And so my idea for the Basque dress to wear to this cocktail party? Or is a yes, I guess technically it’s a cocktail cocktail attire is to add removable ternos, and then add so. Okay, so there’s that that’s kind of easy, quote unquote easy because I’ve done it. But I’ve tried to figure out a way to lengthen the skirt. Haha. Okay, so there feels more appropriate. It is a work event, but even just walking around, I feel like my, the very tops of my thighs, the very bottom of my butt is going to touch the chair, which is like gross and I don’t like that feeling. So I would like to lengthen it somehow. But I can’t. And I’m not really sure what to do. And I have plenty of fabrics to do it. Because I think I got a bunch of yardage when you sent that to me from the creative restore near you. So you have any suggestions or ideas on how to lengthen the dress?
Ada: I mean, you could take, I don’t know what the construction is like but you could take the current skirt off and just make a longer skirt. Although that you know unpicking the whole waist It’s probably a pain in the butt. You could add a ruffle, you could add many ruffles, you could add tiers. I think it depending on how much yardage it was like a rather narrow yardage to if I recall. So, maybe being creative with that I think the easiest thing to do is gathering a raffle and get like many of them, so you can kind of conceal if you have to cut in multiple places to piece it together. But it also depends on how long you want it to go agreed that you know, when it’s too short, it’s almost sometimes like when you’re wearing shorts and like you sit down and it’s kind of warm or humid and you get you’re like trying to avoid that. And I totally, I totally agree.
Nicole: So, okay, would you do a ruffle or a flounce? Oh, I wonder if a flounce. So a ruffle. And then listeners if I get this wrong, feel free to let me know if Ada doesn’t let me know right away. So so when we talk gathers, right, we’re talking about like a rectangular strip, primarily that we’ve like scrunched up, right? So in that sense, we would be limited by the width potentially the length, depending on how much I had left, because I don’t really think it matters which way you cut it right for for a gather?
Ada: Well, it is a patterned fabric, it is like quite a patterned of fabric. So I would just make sure that if you’re cutting it the opposite way, that when you like maybe line it up, before you takes scissors to it.
Nicole: Okay, yeah, that’s a great idea. It’s not directional, I don’t think oh, no, I got it. It’s
Ada: But it is very bold.
Nicole: No, fair enough. I get it, I will, I will look into that. But then a flounce is going to be a curve, right? So in theory, couldn’t you get more out of a flounce from a narrow cut? Because you would just deepen? Because you because what you need to attach is the inside of the flounce. Right? So if you do kind of a loop, would that be. Would that work?
Ada: So kind of like making a circle skirt? Yeah, I mean, you could do that. I think it would just give you a different like, it would give you two different shapes, right? Like a flounce has less fabric, as you said, going around. So it will probably fall closer to your body. Whereas like, depending on how much you’re gathering, because gathering usually takes like, let’s say the width is one down to like half. That means that around that seam, there will just be more fabric coming out. So volume wise, it’ll probably be more stark, if that makes sense.
Nicole: Yeah, it does.
Ada: But you could I mean, you could do something in the middle.
Nicole: Yeah, that’s true. I just was thinking, I don’t think I want a ton of volume. I wonder if like a longer flounce, maybe cut into pieces, even like a quarter, instead of like a full circle so that I can use more fabric. But the angle is like cutting a mini circle skirt, like you said, right. Yeah. So I think, do you think that cotton sateen would drape nicely for a flounce? Or is it too stiff?
Ada: I think that that particular fabric that you’re talking about is too stiff? And I only say that because I made shorts, too. I mean, my other suggestion was going to be I think you made the kind of not pencil skirt, but like closer fitting. Yeah, I’m on the dress, you could just make a second panel to add on that. Like imagine you were lengthening the original skirt of the dress. And just add that on. And then you would just have an extra seem kind of above your knee. Yeah, by what if I could pattern match it? That would be really sick. But that sounds like so many options, only constrained by the width of the fabric and the amount that you have left.
Nicole: Yeah. And I think that it’s still more appealing to add on to this dress than finish this, this one for whatever reason, but maybe I’ll think about it. I don’t know. So to answer your question, what am I working on literally nothing right now. But I have thoughts and they will need to be executed over the next week and a half for this event. So I’m just trying to figure out an easier way to get to where I want to get but at the end of the day I’ll have something to wear already. I don’t know just thoughts about something like doing it differently for me, but hopefully you have something fun you’re working on right now.
Ada: I am working on what could be called a palate cleanser. I just finished a very long arduous Big Four pattern and then if you follow me on Instagram you’ve probably seen over literally the past year and I think just struggling with a pattern for so long and putting it in so many timeouts and coming back to it and the whole process just kind of really wore me down and it by the time I finished it I was just like I just want to like finish this I’m not even care anymore. And, and I knew that like, for this particular dress, I wasn’t going to get more excited about it unless I do it again, completely differently, which, you know, it’s not out of the realm of possibility, just probably not tomorrow. So my palate cleanser is also going to hopefully satisfy my pre-trip wanna sew something kind of craving. So I’m making a Staystitch Patterns Sofia tank top, I believe you pattern tested this pattern. Yeah, and it was as cool zebra print you and you did the long sleeve version, I’m doing the tank top version. Because it’s not really a vacation, we’re doing a wedding prep trip. And it’s going to be warm. And I am not wanting to wear sleeves when it’s warm. But as I realized this morning, I don’t have that many tank tops, I have a lot of tees, long sleeve tees, like workout tops, but I wanted something that could be casual and like thrown on top of shorts. And that seems to be something that I am lacking in but I have patterns for. And it seems much more straightforward from the instructions that I pre read before cutting. Then some of the other things that I was eyeing from my stash and you know had ideas about or have kind of already cut out and ready to go. And yeah, cuz after just struggling with terrible instructions and an overly complicated pattern for so many weeks, I was just, I was just over it. And I kind of wanted to prove to myself, I guess that I could do it. And I get to squeeze it out of, I guess the last not quite yard of a net, I already made a Nikko dress out of in the winter. So this is just like the last final pieces of that fabric. And there’s just enough to make this tank top. So I’m pretty excited that I get to use it up. And that I know this fabric is gonna be comfy because I already made something with it. And that it looks like a pretty straightforward. So I hope I don’t eat my words later, though.
Nicole: It is and Staystitch does a really good job of writing instructions that are beginner friendly, which I know we’re probably I mean, I’m at least a little bit of an advanced beginner. But it’s always good to have clear, clearly written instructions. And I think the Sofia is for how simple it is to construct. Its high impact.
Ada: Yeah, and I think we’ve been discussing personal style a bit, it’s definitely something I wouldn’t have worn before. But it’s something that I’m tending to gravitate towards more now. So as I kind of like relearn what my personal style is, I want to try out things that I might not have reached for before. But I’m definitely like my interest is piqued and perhaps is a silhouette that I want to see myself wearing more of because I just don’t have it in my closet right now.
Nicole: According to the sustainable apparel materials report produced by MIT’s material Systems Laboratory in 2015, 400 billion square meters of fabric are manufactured each year 15% of that is wasted in the cutting process. So that’s 60 billion square meters, which to put it in perspective would cover Switzerland and Wales. So to continue our discussion about sustainability, fashion and sewing. Today, we’re going to talk about zero waste fashion and zero waste sewing. You may have heard these terms being used in the online sewing community in the last few years. But what do they actually mean? Zero waste fashion tends to focus on utilizing existing materials to their full capacity, and not producing textile or other material waste. So this might mean using zero waste patterns, which we’ll define in a minute, but it could also include changing habits around fashion or repurposing scraps or leftover fabric. Some slow fashion brands do this by either selling their scraps of nice fabric to soloists or creating smaller accessories like tote bags out of their scraps.
Ada: And zero waste sewing is a process of creating a garment or garments without any waste. So either no fabric scraps left after you’re done cutting because you’ve used the whole piece of fabric to create a garment or you’re using any scraps that result from cutting a pattern to make something else. It’s a pretty broad concept. Zero waste patterns are designed specifically so you have no fabric waste at the end. So it’s the first type of zero waste sewing that I mentioned. You might have seen some sewing hashtag starting with z w meaning that these are zero waste patterns. And these patterns generally have few if any paper pieces to printout. Instead, they usually provide like a cutting layout instead of your traditional pattern pieces. So you can cut the fabric into various shapes following that layout. either having an app on your computer or something else to reference. Usually these are simple geometric shapes like squares, rectangles and triangles. But sometimes there are more complicated shapes and they’re too. Similar to zero waste patterns. Low waste patterns are sewing patterns that generate minimal fabric waste or scraps. I’m talking like a strip of fabric or a small piece leftover that could be easily repurposed into something else. Low waste patterns can be a part of zero waste sewing because if you use that little piece of scrap that you have at the end to make something else or use it for something, then you’ve essentially use all that fabric and have zero waste.
Nicole: Of course, right now that we’ve defined these terms, there’s a slight distinction between zero waste fashion and zero waste sewing. For the purposes of today’s episode, we’re going to be talking about both how they’re related, and how many cultures have actually practiced this kind of sewing for centuries. And of course, we should note that there’s still waste in the production process for fabric from manufacturing all the way through to delivery from the water use to produce fabric to the carbon impact of shipping fabric throughout the supply chain. It’s not really possible to be completely zero waste from start to finish right now, at least for almost everybody. But zero waste fashion and zero waste sewing are a start. Now before we dive into that, Ada, I know you are into sustainability and zero waste sewing, can you share why you’re so interested in this particular topic?
Ada: I guess you could say that I’ve always been practicing zero waste sewing even before I knew what the definition was or found zero waste patterns. Because when I started sewing, I kept all of my scraps of fabric and thread weights in a big repurpose shopping bag, it was plastic. And then I actually stuffed those into a pillow that I made out of some bigger scraps and put those pillows eventually into one of those giant proofs that I made with the classic waterproof pattern. And I also cut the pieces for that pattern out of scraps, then I realized I could skip that middle step of transferring them from a plastic bag into a dry pillow. So I just made the pillow and like to use that as my scrap bag. And now I just keep my scrap bag nearby so that whenever I’m searching or have thread cuts, I just dropped them in there. And I am well on my way to making more proofs for friends because you can only have so many proofs around your house. And I feel like some of this stemmed from just wanting to be thrifty and resourceful. And not always spending the money that I spend on fabric because we all know fabric can get expensive. But I also know that throwing fabric scraps into the trash means that that fabric ends up in the landfill. And it probably won’t biodegrade for a very long time, especially not if it has polyester in it. And while I primarily so with natural fibers, I know that a lot of fabrics just have poly blended into it or other non biodegradable materials woven into them. So literally, I was thinking like the scarfs would take hundreds or 1000s of years to decompose. And so I think I just started by asking myself, like, what is the best way to use all of this fabric and diverted from the landfill?
Nicole: Right, and so that’s zero waste sewing practice. But you’ve also sewn with some zero waste patterns, right?
Ada: Yeah, I discovered zero waste patterns probably about a year ago. And I found that there were more fairways patterns coming from Europe than out of North America. But didn’t actually so my first official zero waste pattern until this winter, when I made the Birgitta Helmersson ZW Coat, which I think I’ve talked about on previous episodes. And now I have that pattern, a low waste pattern called the Bog Dress that I tested for at the underscore sew underscore sew the sewsew and zero waste dress pattern from Process of Sewing. What about you, Nicole, I know you’ve sent me some zero waste patterns before.
Nicole: I have and I have worked with some zero waste patterns. And we’ll talk about you know some of the things that prevent me from buying them great and concept just why I have not gotten into it more. But I recently purchased the Iris Zero Waste Blouse from Fibr and Cloth Studio. But I haven’t started to dig into that one just yet. It’s supposed to be true zero waste and I look forward to making it. It looks like it will be a great shirt for work for me to wear to work and a style that I would otherwise have purchased, you know ready to wear or a different pattern. But if it’s your waist, I’m into it. So I’m looking forward to that. But my first pattern testing gig ever since way back in the day was actually for a zero waste garment. That was a shawl type of pattern from the pattern maker Bambini Del Mar. And she no longer sells patterns. So it’s not even available online anymore. But I learned a lot about sewing and reading pattern instructions just from that experience. And like what I imagine many so zero waste patterns are like like you said there was no actual pattern so nothing to cut out. Nothing to print out, just drafting instructions. And for this particular garment, it was straightforward and super simple. Basically it’s three rectangles. One for the back, two for the front. And I’m sure anyone can figure out how to make this shawl type garment using a rectangle on the back, and two rectangles on the front. And I’ve made the same type of garment again, but I’ve never used the drafting instructions, it’s like you figure it out once you do it, and I’ve used it with, you know, different finishes, different cuts, you know, different types of fabric. I’ve just through some, you know, lines of stitching so that I can create like sleeves instead of it just being draped over my body. And it was a good experience because the pattern itself gave me foundational knowledge to create my sort of own zero waste shawl or straw shrug from any rectangular piece of fabric. And Ada, do you remember listeners know that I often secondhand shop vicariously and actually for Ada. I was gonna I said vicariously. I’m like, no, no, that’s not I do it.
Ada: You buy by literally me sending you photos.
Nicole: Yes. So this was last summer. You were saying? I guess I’m drowning and poly chiffon hell and I was like, but tell me more about that polish. Because I like that color. And that pattern. Do you remember sending me like crazy multicolor? Crazy is not a good word. Multicolor poly chiffon.
Ada: Yes, it was like a rainbow.
Nicole: I am wearing it right now.
Ada: It looks good as a shawl.
Nicole: So I just took the whole length that you gave me, I folded it in half from cut end to cut end. So not the selvedges. So I met the cut ends, and I snipped it down the middle of the front. And I just did a rolled hem around the cut ends. And I just left the selvedge edge done like undone or unsewn. And then I did a couple of lines of stitches near my armpits. And that was it. I didn’t even I didn’t finish it, it took me less than 20 minutes to finish. And it’s just a rectangle, like I can make these and you know, give them out as gifts, you know, for the pool or whatever. It’s very summery, friendly, and very zero waste at the rectangular design. It’s a concept that’s so simple. And I can imagine the same techniques being employed by many of our ancestors. And we’re going to be talking a little bit about that too.
Ada: 20 minutes, or less than 20 minutes is so fast to finish anything and I love that you just took advantage of the selvedge edges because that’s not going to fray and I probably would have taken longer to do a rolled or a baby hem on poly chiffon, because poly chiffon and I are not friends. But I’m just, it looks so good listeners, you should check out our YouTube channel, if you haven’t already to get a view of this. Nicole is waving it in front of the camera. Perfect. And I think what’s interesting is that the term zero waste is relatively new and modern. But the concept is not as you mentioned, right people around the world have been following this, for example by like using a boltl of fabric and a garment or using all the parts of an animal for centuries, if not longer. And I think part of this gets looked over by the mainstream zero waste and sustainability movement now which although there are people of color in it, including myself is a predominantly white space. And if I’m being really honest, also space of privilege. But again, as we touched upon during the mindful fabric selection episode, sustainable practices, like reusing and repurposing your cookie tend to become full of sewing notions. Those have been practices that communities of color have used for years.
Nicole: I think everyone knows someone with a cookie tin that needs to best repurposed into something and sewing notions is just sort of the perfect thing. And yeah, it’s it’s not like that’s a new thing either. But the term zero waste quote unquote, or we as we use it today, is about 40 years old and is widely attributed to Daniel Knapp’s concept of total recycling. So Knapp and his wife created a salvaging operation in Berkeley, California in the 80s. Based on the idea that all waste could be diverted away from landfills, and reused or repurposed by the community. This concept has gained popularity over the last 20 years as the impacts of climate change have become more and more evident. Now, you’ll find a lot of references to zero waste living or zero waste lifestyle all over the interwebs and a lot of zero waste stores are popping up around the world offering reusable cotton round silicone bags. You know the ones that you use to replace the plastic bags in your kitchen beeswax wraps, or replace wrap plastic wrap and the list goes on and on.
Ada: Right and I should disclose that my day job is basically selling my products that I make to small businesses in stores like this around the country. So this topic is near and dear to my heart and my livelihood. For listeners who don’t know, I started a natural skincare line called Chuan’s Promise and I create and sell products like clay masks, cleansers, facial oils and lotion bars. And I care a lot about sustainability as you can tell. So I spend a lot of my time in my day job working on creating more sustainable solutions for skincare, which starts with packaging, and goes all the way through the actual ingredients and materials, right that go into the product. And so this isn’t an infomercial for my brand, I’m just saying I spent a lot of time in the zero waste and sustainability space. So the zero waste movement as it stands today, it represents a shift away from consumerism, and instead pushes lifestyle changes towards reuse, repurposing, and composting. Basically, going back to what Nicole said about diverting things away from landfill, which is great if you have the privilege to do so. So I want to acknowledge that a lot of the practices and products recommended by the modern zero waste movement, require money and time. And for many people, that’s just not an option. Right now, it’s not mainstream enough or easy enough to do that. Like you have to have time to go to a refill store with your empty clean containers, versus just picking up everything you need in one quick trip to a big box store. So I’m not hating, we’re not hating on anybody who can’t do this right now, whether it’s because of cost directly, like in terms of what you’re buying, or cost and time, or energy or all that other stuff.
Nicole: Yeah, and I’m not zero waste. I’m not, you know, I’m not involved as I’m as immersed in zero waste as a culture. So just throwing that out there as well. You know, when we do these podcasts, we always want to make sure that people understand that we’re humans, and it’s a confession, I am not as zero way certainly minded as Ada, although, you know, I’m, hopefully like everyone else trying to be more mindful. And I’m glad to learn more about some of these new zero waste techniques. But like you said, zero waste, it’s not new. So let’s revisit some of this history for centuries, maybe even millennia, people around the world have been creating clothing without waste, which makes perfect sense because unlike today, where we could just buy fabric wherever we want to fabric was hand woven, a limited resource, and so people had to make the most out of what they had. And not only was it a limited resource, but it was also so expensive. So there was just a need to repurpose older fabric to. And when I think of traditional zero waste garments, the first that come to mind are things that you’ve probably already heard of a sarong, a tunic, a poncho and the robe. All of these garments are staples throughout history. So let’s walk through you know, if you might have an idea of what it is, well, let’s break down some of you know the components of these garments. A sarong is a length of fabric wrapped around the waist or over the bust, not a pattern per se because there actually isn’t any cutting involved. However, it illustrates the nature of many no waist traditional garments that put regional and culturally specific textiles front and center. And these include checkered or pattern prints, but also designs and patterns made using batik dyeing, which we just did an episode on. And many of us are familiar with sarongs from South and Southeast Asia, and sarongs are also worn throughout many Pacific islands and parts of Africa. There are also similar garments to the sarong throughout Asia, like the longyi from Burma, which we referenced in our episode on gender nonconformity and sewing. It’s a two metre long piece of fabric that can be twisted to form different shapes so it can resemble a skirt shorts and many other options. In some parts of the Philippines, people still wear a covering that resembles the sarong, whose origins date back to pre-Spanish colonial history. And could very well have been adopted from other parts of Asia at some point in history. They are worn by all genders, and are called malongs, patadyongs, alampays, or tapis depending on the length of the garment and where the people were from. The piece is made from a single cut of rectangular cloth that was wrapped around the lower part of the body. It was worn by all genders, though sometimes varied in length, depending on what part of the Philippines we are talking about.
Ada: Another garment example, tunics have been worn around the world and are usually a waist length or knee length garment or somewhere in between, consisting of a simple bodice with a neck hole opening an arm holes or sleeves in archeologists have actually found tunics dating back to the Iron Age around 200 to 300 AD. The poncho, while it has been reinterpreted and appropriated again and again in modern fashion actually originates from the Andes of Chile. It is made from a rectangle or square of hand woven textile and has a slit for the wearer to use as a neck hole. The simplicity of this garment shape allows for the textile to be the focus and at the same time, it’s super practical like it’s warm, and it allows the wearer to still work with their arms and hands.
Nicole: Similarly, the huipil is an indigenous garment worn by women in Mexico and Central America. It’s made from two to three rectangles of fabric that are sewn together to form a bodice and skirt and the size of the rectangles can change the length of the garment from blouse length to flooring. It was actually worn by indigenous women before Spanish colonizers arrived has evolved over time and with outside influence, it still remains popular today. We’ll have photos of all of these examples in our show notes, so check them out. And similar garments to all of these can be found in West Africa and with the Vikings and also in Japan. So everywhere.
Ada: Similar to the zero waste garments that you mentioned. There are also other examples of zero or low waist garments from specifically Asian cultures that are still widely worn today. Saris and dhotis are examples of whole cloth garments that only require finishing at the edges. A sari is a long rectangular piece of cloth commonly around six yards or five and a half meters long, and this cloth is usually draped over a blouse or a petticoat to complete the outfit. Definitely check out our episode on saris if you want a deep dive on the history of this garment, but the sari is an unstitched piece of fabric that usually has a hem and a decorative border, and a pallu, which is the loose end and it’s usually goes over the left shoulder depending on how you’re doing the draping. So again, we have a whole episode you should definitely check it out. Saris are amazing. Dhotis, like saris, are a South Asian whole cloth garment as well. They require a bit less fabric linen, sorry, around five yards or four and a half meters, they’re usually wrapped around the bottom half of the body and tied to resemble pants or trousers and the knot ends up in the front or back of the garment. So in that way, it’s kind of similar to a sarong. Koss, from the ASC team, also pointed out that there’s a traditional Khmer garment called the sampot which is also a rectangular piece of fabric that is carefully and skillfully draped/folded on the wearer. It resembles what we think of as a modern skirt and is traditionally worn in Cambodia, and also in Laos and Thailand where it’s called the pha nung. There’s a similar “pants” version that Koss says they adore, called the kbne, too. Unlike modern garments that rely on pattern pieces for their shape, these whole cloth garments relied on pleating and knotting to provide them with shape, which is really resourceful and ingenious if you ask me.
Nicole: Another example is the kimono originating from Japan. These are technically zero waste garments since they contain a whole bolt of fabric as a whole bolt and the bolt is cut to form the sleeves. But the cutting process leaves no waste because all of the pieces are used now. Yeah, that’s so much fabric, right? It is an entire bolt of fabric is a lot but we should note that these bolts of silk are generally only 35 to 37 centimetres wide, so a little over a foot wide. There are traditionally seven rectangular pieces that are folded and overlapped to fit the body. This way of construction makes it easy to take apart and reconstruct the kimono for cleaning and storage which is traditionally done at the end of each season. It also makes it easy to adjust in case of any body size or shape changes. Or in the case the kimono ends up being passed on to someone with different measurements. In this way. It’s endlessly adjustable and it means that a kimono doesn’t produce any leftover fabric. It also means that if you stain or damage a kimono, there’s probably enough fabric in the garment to repair or adjust it so that you can continue to wear it and use it. And though the garment itself uses a lot of fabric, many kimonos don’t end up in landfills. Instead, many are reused and repurposed to create different clothing, children’s clothing, children’s kimonos or accessories and handbags. Made by Yuki who is @made.by.yuki on Instagram is one example of someone doing this with kimonos. She is an owner, proprietor, seamstress and Japanese American. Yuki grew up in the United States before moving to Japan and she has been working with kimono textiles as a way to reclaim her culture. She carefully deconstructs kimonos and turns them into other garments while also using your scraps for accessories and other projects.
Ada: I love following Yuki, she’s so thoughtful and deliberate in her posts and her makes and definitely check out her shop and follow her on Instagram if you aren’t already. If you want to grab a piece. You gotta get on it because it’s literally like one of a kind. Yeah. And so we’ve talked mostly about garments that are resourceful with their fabric usage so far and in transitioning to talking about Yuki and her work. I think we’ve kind of brought up another part of zero waste. Sewing which is reuse or repurposing. For the kimono in particular, our research found that worn out kimono fabric can be torn into strips for weaving a process called sakiori Similarly, thread can be removed some tomatoes and also woven together into fabric. So these two processes are definitely different, we should note.
Nicole: I know we don’t think of it as this today. But quilting is another very old practice that could be categorized as zero waste sewing. In many parts of the world quilting was a way to put scraps or leftover pieces of fabric to use. As we mentioned before, a fabric was a limited resource, so it was still expensive and time consuming to produce. Therefore, people around the world would make the most of it.
Ada: Nowadays, fabric is not as expensive though it is still time and resource consuming to produce. And a lot of people turn their existing fabrics like T shirts into things like memory quilts too. I remember, near I guess there was probably right after my dad passed the hospice service that we were using, kept asking me if I wanted to repurpose some of his t-shirts into like teddy bears or quilts. And I was like, first of all, you have never met an Asian man in his seventies who exclusively shopped at Costco and wore khakis and polos. I want none of this as a teddy bear. Second of all, I know how to sew, so like, why? I think they obviously do it for most people who don’t know how to sew and it’s very touching. But they have a lot of volunteers who actually do this in their free time to offer that as a way to preserve or put together textiles owned by someone when they were alive after they passed away. Personally, I didn’t go that route, as you can tell. And instead, we chopped up a bunch of Dad’s old ties and my sister and I now have matching dead dad’s scrunchie scrunchie ties, yeah, dead dad’s scrunschies that I wear my hair every day. They’re actually great, because some of these guys were really high quality. Some of them were polyester. So you know, but they’re, they’re colorful and fun. And I get to mix and match them and keep that with me every day. So although the intention of doing this and memory colts or memory barriers is not zero waste the act of doing it both keeps the fabric that we’re talking about out of the landfill and gives you something practical, like I said, scratching my hair to remember that person by. So I guess my question is, now that we know all these different ways to use fabric. Why did we end up moving away from these traditional types of zero waste sewing and clothing?
Nicole: For one thing, there’s fit. Humans, as I’m sure you can agree, are not rectangles. So when we create garments out of rectangles, we either have to use pleading and nodding to curve the fabric like our ancestors did, or just live with a boxier look. Now, once sewing techniques got a little bit more sophisticated and trends started changing a couple of 100 years ago, we realized that we could just cut the curves into the fabric to give a better fit and more shape to the garment. And this shift led to more waste in sewing and in sewing patterns.
Ada: So nowadays, zero waste sewing basically relies on smart cutting layouts to minimize waste and the reuse or repurposing of those waste or scrap pieces, which doesn’t mean that we’re going back to those simple rectangles and shapes. On the contrary, it means using gatherers, pin tucks and even smoking are all examples of techniques to give a zero waste garment more shape and volume without creating more fabric waste.
Nicole: And I think people have gotten really creative with what to do with those small pieces, whether it’s by using them as facing pocket bags or linings or creating small details on the garment. We don’t all have to make pillows for poufs. That is a great idea. There’s a space for that. And I did think about one but I just don’t know where I would put it like you said, how many proofs you really need. Right? Yeah, I don’t even think I need one. To be honest, but I heard that those are so heavy. Is that right?
Ada: Yes, it is quite dense in that, it is well the fabric itself that I used for this one is a wool so it is already thick itself. But then what I put in it in terms of the scraps Yeah, it’s pretty dense and pretty heavy and most of the fabric scrap pillows that I’ve made like I’ve made a few to go inside our existing not ready to wear but ready made pillow covers that you buy those pillows or you can you can tell which one it is when you sit back because it’s a bit stiff.
Nicole: Yeah, there’s a lot of volume, but okay, I have an idea. That might be crazy. But when I when I think about poufs, and I think about how people are like, oh in order to really stuffed them, they end up being heavy. So bear with me here. zero waste idea for the day free one for all the listeners. What about making a punching bag? I like it. Know what I mean? Like isn’t a pouf just a punching bag on the butt I’m thinking like something that if you have the you know, space or rafters or something I don’t know, rafters maybe it’s the right word, but I clearly am showing that I don’t know anything about construction. But you know, where you would hang up like a punching bag for kickboxing or exercise. And you could definitely make a good size punching bag, right? Just filling it with fabrics, or old clothes, you know, like underwear. You don’t want like, that doesn’t suit you anymore for whatever reason or socks that, like my socks that have holes in them.
Ada: I’ve done that. Yeah, the old fabric scraps that you aren’t going to be easily be repurposing into a project. They go into the fabric scrap bag, because that bag will get used as stuffing somewhere.
Nicole: Yeah, a punching bag. What do you think of it? I think it could work?
Ada: I think it just has to be reinforced to hold it up with a weight. You know, when you’re hanging things.
Nicole: I’m like using a single stitch, with just quilting cotton on the outside!
Ada: One day?
Nicole: Yeah. Oh, my goodness. I mean, I could work with that idea. I’ve always wanted one, and then maybe just finding or oh jeans to be the outside, like I had like a heavy denim, and like at least a triple stitch and glue and whatnot. Okay, listeners, maybe you’ll see a punching bag in my future. Maybe you won’t. But if you decide to think that’s a good idea, let us know I just, I probably have more use for a punching bag than I do for multiple poufs. But we shall see. We also have some other ideas for zero waste, right punching bag aside or poufs aside. You can also use your scraps to piece them together to make a bigger piece of fabric. And you can either use them as patches on garment if they’re smaller or even use them for quilting. So using scraps to make fabric. And if we look back to the beginning of quilting, one of the ways quilting came about was because people needed to use up their fabric scraps.
Ada: True. And if you’re hearing all of this and going okay, yeah, but that’s not for me, there are still other ways that you can incorporate zero waste or low waste practices into your sewing. For example, most patterns come with a cutting plan. And most designers optimize this plan for the easier layout. But that doesn’t always mean that it’s the most efficient or effective use of fabric. So by taking a few extra minutes to figure out a cutting plan that is more fabric efficient, you can lay out your pattern pieces to check and cut that way and said, one way to do this is to stop cutting on the fold. Now it takes longer I know then you kind of have to trace it and do things. But often it does mean that you can increase your fabric efficiency. And not only that, it means you just get to use less fabric to create the same garment. And I’ve always done this and I find that usually I can squeeze quote unquote, a garment out of a cut of fabric by I guess versus the actual chart on the pattern, I will usually be squeezing it out of something that’s a cut that’s either half a yard to maybe a 10th of a yard less, which not only saves that fabric from being wasted or turned into scraps because what are you going to do with that weird, odd shape. It also is just like a nice way to save money when you’re sewing is an expensive hobby as we know. And so just make sure that if you’re gonna do this, you’re following your patterns. Advice about grainlines – don’t accidentally cut something on the bias that isn’t meant to be on the bias and play with your pattern and pieces of it. Move them around. It’s a puzzle. Nicole, have you tried this before?
Nicole: I have and one thing on top of the you know “Don’t forget to cut things on the grain if you need that” is I learned about fabric nap through obviously not getting it. I had a scrap inexpensive velvet, this really cute like yellow mustard, yellow velvet. I was like I totally can make a skirt out of this. And I don’t remember how or why I ended up cutting it the way that I did. But I got the pieces that I needed to put it together. And I put it on and it fits fine. It’s great. And then I turn around. I’m like, Why does the velvet look weird on the backside. I cut one of the pieces upside down. So it’s not really a waste thing in this case, but something to consider if you are being creative, like so one side of the skirt, the fabric looks different because the nap is going up or it’s going the way it’s not supposed to go. It’s something to keep in mind. But working around that, you know with the suggested layouts if you could make it work, but then yeah, totally do it. But nap and I didn’t know I’d see it on the pattern envelope. Like this is probably important. I don’t need to know about it. And so I need to know about it. And then there you go. I made it all the way to the end of the skirt and I was like this is very weird. Why does this look weird? And it’s because the velvet was upside down. So okay, I do consult this justed layout because I think it does help me kind of understand how to lay out the pieces. But I will always try to maximize fabric. And, you know, it’s a lot easier if you’re not worried about things like nap or cutting things on the grain. And I think I can navigate that, you know, to make sure that now now that I know about nap, right, but navigate that to make sure that I’m not cutting things on the bias, like you said, and I don’t know, Ada if, if I, if something needs to be cut on the grain, but you can fit it better, you know, cutting out on the grain line. So like a waistband, right? Do you think it even matters? As long as you cut it like not on the bias? Do you think it even matters which direction you cut it if you’re going to interface it anyway.
Ada: I think sometimes. I think for a woven less. So for knit definitely because that informs the stretch, right? Yeah. But for a non stretch woven, honestly, just kind of look at the fabric and see if it changes rotated 90 degrees. And in my experience, not really.
Nicole: Yeah. So you know, you can disregard some of those, I was going to call them suggestions. But yeah, they are suggested fabric layouts, right. And then just thinking critically through that type of thing and trying to get more pieces out of the cut of fabric that you have. And another thing that I do is instead of cutting fabric, you said you know, not on the fold, right. And just a note, you know, if you’re not, if you have a single piece that’s supposed to be cut on the fold, you could either not fold down the center. So that’s one way, you know, I started doing that because I was like, Yeah, let’s just fold this in half, right. But now of course, if I do cut something on the fold, I will often move it to the edge and cut it that way. Or I would just cut to pieces and either sometimes I’ll pattern match, sometimes I won’t. And that will give you the flexibility of using different parts of the fabric, just adding you just make sure you add a seam allowance. Because you know how I learned about that? Just yeah, enough said, right. But getting you know, creative with your cutting layouts is great. But it can be challenging if you’re using a specific zero waste pattern. And most of them are usually designed for a specific amount of fabric or a specific length. So sometimes it can be really hard to squeeze anything more out of a piece of fabric if the cutting layout has already been optimized by the designer.
Ada: That is so true. In my zero waste coat, I kind of blended both, I guess I had a little over two yards of really nice wool coating from Fab Scrap in Brooklyn that I got when I was volunteering there. And I knew that I wanted to make this coat with it. And the pattern for the long version calls for more fabric than I had. But I knew that the coat was oversized, and that looking at the sizing, I was on the smaller end. So to squeeze it all into the cut of fabric that I had, I did some math and I reduced the ease around the side seams by about a foot all the way around. Yeah. And I liked that I could do some quick math on basic shapes and just know that it would probably work. And the, I mean, before I cut into it, I obviously like did the math of “here’s a final measurement minus 12 inches”. What does that look like on my measuring tape? Let me wrap that around myself and make sure it fits and will still close. But it was pretty straightforward without having to make certain adjustments to pattern pieces and getting out my French curve and all that stuff. And so that adjustment gave me a closer fitted look which I prefer without sacrificing the zero waste nature of the pattern. So double win.
Nicole: That’s excellent and you know sizing definitely matters which brings us to the size inclusivity of zero waste patterns. Now, zero waste patterns in theory can be more size inclusive, because they allow the sewer to calculate their measurements and figure out which pieces to trace and cut instead of using their measurements to find their size and a pattern and adjusting it from there assuming they fit within the designer size range to begin with. But we have noticed some flaws with this assumption that you know, zero waste patterns have expansive size ranges or possibilities. Now first of all, even though zero waste patterns usually involve less printing and pattern piece assembly, they oftentimes still have sizes or size bands for their minimal pieces and cutting layouts. These size bands might provide more flexibility in sizing, but they also enforce a minimum and maximum on a pattern sizing. Not to mention the size bands might mean the garment looks drastically different on bodies at different ends of the size band.
Ada: And I’ve had this experience with kind of those size bands and patterns, so like when it’s a small, medium, large, extra large etc and zero waste or minimal waste patterns. If I fall on the high end of a size band, the garment might look too small on me or smaller on me than it will look on someone who’s in the middle or lower end of the same size band. On the other hand if I fall on the small end of the size band, I genuinely feel like I am swimming in fabric. Like this happened to me recently on another pattern test and I could have adjusted it like my coat. But again, I really wanted to follow the directions as anyone making the pattern for the first time so I could provide accurate feedback. And it’s definitely a wearable garment. For sure I wore it this weekend, but not my favorite. Probably adjusted a bit, I don’t know. Let’s see how it does in the wash. But I did notice that in this pattern, the larger sizes got different cutting layouts. And some of those layouts even meant that the pattern pieces were cut on the bias or rotated, which brings up the other barrier to size inclusivity and zero waste patterns, which is fabric, right?
Nicole: If you’re making a zero waste pattern, the limiting factor here is the width of a particular pattern, particular piece of fabric. Because you can’t just grow fabric, once it’s made, it’s a certain width. And once you cut it, you can’t uncut it unfortunately, as much as I would like to have to do mistakes that I’ve made in the past, what I mean is your cutting layout will always be constrained by the width of your fabric, meaning your pattern pieces can only ever be as wide in one direction as your fabric. I recently had this experience where I saw a really cute, single piece top pop up on my feed from someone I don’t follow, you know, Instagram is now you know, see who you follow. You see a lot of suggested stuff. It wasn’t technically zero waste. But the way that the bodice was designed, it was meant to use a single cut of rectangular fabric. So it would be low waste if you eliminate the sleeves that you would attach. But when I went to the designers page, I saw that the pattern was only sized up to a French size 46, which is a very limited size. And that’s roughly a maximum size chest of 42 inches or 106 centimeters, which I type out. So I would be the largest size for this pattern. And that’s not that unusual for me and certainly excludes a whole entire host of other bodies that are the same size as mine are larger. But what was really disappointing was that someone had commented on one of the posts to the effect of I’d love to see this drafted for larger sizes. And you see that a lot. And the response the designer gave was super disappointing. Their designer said unfortunately, due to the nature of the design utilizing a single piece, we are constrained by the width of the fabric and I can’t go bigger than that. Like, right, we just established that that’s like a problem or a constraint of zero waste design. But it just seemed really lazy and dismissive to me to be like, well, I can’t accommodate larger sizes with my design because of the fabric. Sorry, it just seemed really lazy, you know? And I was just like, well, I don’t follow you. So whatever, you’re out of my life anyway. But how should we use that? Right? Like, sorry, but I cannot go beyond the bounds of the fabric. Like that’s just really lazy. And I was really disappointed to see that on that page.
Ada: Yeah, like literally, wouldn’t you just create another rectangle of fabric? The shirt would require more fabric, but make another rectangle size, give people instructions on how to size the other rectangle and then tack it on? Sure it doesn’t become no waste or low waste anymore, because you might have, again, a rectangular piece of fabric leftover. But what like if I can figure out with math how to hack a zero waste pattern that I haven’t made before. A designer should certainly be able to create a design for larger pieces.
Nicole: Right? And it was just the way that the designer appeared to be making an excuse for something that just simply wasn’t possible. And I’m like it’s possible. You just don’t want to do it. I would rather you just say I don’t want to do this for you, you know, like, I’m not a designer. But there’s got to be a way to create instructions, like you said, I mean, some of these other sites, they’re at the zero waste patterns that you said have multiple size bands, they have different cutting layouts for different sizes. Like how lazy can you be as a designer, and I am being obviously, maybe overly critical to some folks, but I should not be the largest size available. And you should not be blaming fabric widths for your decision to not design for larger bodies. Like I will not apologize for holding that opinion here. And you know, if you need a bigger piece, you could do that or no, there just seems to be a lot of ways that you could go larger than someone of my size. Right?
Ada: Like yeah, like you said, with the cutting layouts, you could cut it in two. So you could split a piece, which adds the theme, but like, that’s kind of a design feature, right? I mean, I know everyone doesn’t want to be piecing their pattern pieces together. That’s why it’s originally in one piece to save you that time and effort. But I guess what we’re trying to say is that it’s not really that hard. If you stop and think critically about it for a second and aren’t just going for, like, what is the easiest thing to do here, which is just not designed for people who are larger than a 42 inch bust? So now that we’ve kind of ranted a bit on that limitation, and, you know, as with the podcast, I am curious, Nicole, do you have thoughts on how you can incorporate some of the zero waste sewing patterns and techniques into your sewing practice?
Nicole: Yeah, there’s checking out the patterns, not the one I just mentioned. I mean, I’m not gonna give you the name anyway. But some of the ones we’ve been talking about, you know, if you liked the pattern, of course, and if you’re not ready for that, or not currently, into any of the zero waste designs, you know, you can just try to be more mindful about how you cut your pattern pieces, like we said, and you know, think about moving the pieces around, see if you can, you know, get away with cutting multiple pieces instead of a single piece, if you need to keeping in mind the things like seam allowance, grainline, nap, like I said.
Ada: Some pattern designers I think also like to estimate higher fabric requirements than are really needed. And I think once you get to know a specific designer, at least in the independent design world, designers don’t come after me for this, you can kind of guess how much extra you’re always going to be left with once you make one of their patterns. So before you buy fabric based on the patterns, fabric requirements that are listed, do a little research and see if that’s how much that’s really needed. Or if the designer has added in a little buffer. I like to sometimes play with my pieces on yardage. I’m definitely not using just to see what I can do with them to say, Okay, this is a good benchmark of how much I really need. And you’ll see that on my Instagram captions, that when I say like I quote unquote, squeezes out of x yardage, which I definitely realized as a terrible way to put it. So I am working on coming up with a better way to put that. But on that topic, I can say that when I’m being resourceful when I’m cutting with my fabrics, sometimes I will end up with odd large scraps that can range from a quarter to three quarters of a yard of extra versus what the patterns fabric requirements call for. And so you would think that those requirements are kind of firm. And some of them definitely are, like, if you’re making a maxi dress and a call for five yards, maybe, you know, don’t just automatically assume you could do it in three and not lay the pattern views out, like be smart about it. But most cutting layouts, I would hope would be optimized to use up an entire piece of fabric, right.
Nicole: And I think this is a point in the column of having a pattern you want already in mind and probably that you already own versus you know, before you pick out the fabric, right? Sometimes, you know, sewers their practice is to have fabric and then come up with an idea or to have an idea or pattern and come up with fabric. I think I used to say I was one way or the other honestly, I’m not either way, but you know point in the column of knowing your pattern first, and then picking up the fabric or seeing which fabric that you already have is going to that’s going to work for your layout. Like I was telling you Ada about a pattern test I’m doing right now, I spent way too much time agonizing over this. But you know, it’s a bias cut skirt. And I’ve never made one before but I know it takes up more fabric because of the nature of the design. And I don’t know if I even ever told you we spent a lot of time trying to figure out fabric options and then I ended up having enough fabric to begin Yeah, yeah. Sorry, I wasted your time like that.
Ada: But no, I mean it was nice. It’s like an exercise to kind of think about it in my brain too. So I always like that.
Nicole: Yeah, so I thought I couldn’t, I didn’t have enough to make the length I wanted and I was going through other options. I was like wait this piece works. How do you think this will look and then I sat down with the original two yard cut. I was like, I feel like I really feel like this should work, I really feel like this should work and then I laid it out again and yes I had enough to begin with but it I had now that I think about it, the pattern calls for a half yard more than I had. And so and that’s on a bias cut skirt and so really again knowing the pattern a little bit better ahead of time and then selecting your fabric might be a way to help you reduce the waste that’s involved in the cutting and you know I get why designers do it you know, they don’t want I mean they don’t want folks who are working on their patterns to say like um, you didn’t account for enough fabric like I bought this pattern and I bought this fabric based on the recommendations and your I get it like they don’t want you angry customers emails or mentions like that over estimations especially vast over estimations though they just lead to more scraps and ultimately waste. Now with those scraps, I suppose they’re at least large enough so that you can repurpose them so for me that half yard that in theory, I would have needed a two and a half yard cut. It was a bias cut skirt. So I’ve got these triangles. I’m not really sure what to do with them. It’s you know, a slinky thing. So it’s not all you might not always be be able to figure out, I feel like Ada, you’ve got ideas for me. Your face looks like you do. Do you have an idea for this?
Ada: I mean, no, I think what just got pointed out to me by our helpful producer Mariko is that sometimes some patterns, which I don’t think it’s the case on this particular pattern you’re talking about, but sometimes on some patterns, they only provide one fabric requirement number for all sizes. And so when you’re doing that, obviously, I think they’re thinking with the largest size in mind creating that estimate. But, you know, the majority of patterns aren’t like that, that I’ve seen out there. And so if I don’t know what your pattern, the fabric requirement was based on the size you were making, right?
Nicole: I think so. Yeah, I think so. And then also the different widths, right, right. So some designers will have different widths of fabric, like, oftentimes, and I’m not speaking about a specific pattern, I’ll see a pattern that calls for like a 54 inch width. And like, I rarely see 54 inch with fabric. It’s usually you know, your standard quilting cotton or other weight like woven 44 inches, or like 58 to 60. So I kind of don’t know what to do with that. Sometimes I just assumed that I could use less. If I have a 60 inch width. I just assumed that I could use less. But it’s tough. It’s tricky. But you know, just, I was just thinking about that skirt like, oh, man, I ended up having way like enough, like, well enough. And I thought I was short half a yard based on the recommendation.
Ada: Yeah, I think there are also those patterns that just give one number for the fabric requirements that are those patterns that give you the kind of like lump sum range of sizes into one fabric requirement. So kind of like what I said before, if you’re on the smaller end, if you’re on the smaller end or smaller one of those sizes in the ban, you will use less fabric. I think the moral the story here is just like, be smart about your fabric. So if you’re purchasing fabric for a particular pattern, and you already have the pattern pieces cut out, lay them out, do it on your floor, do it on another piece of fabric, lay them out, see what you can do with it creatively to actually get an accurate estimate of how much fabric you need. So you’re not leftover with all these random scraps because I can say that from sorting through a lot of fabric that’s donated at the creative reuse center here. You get a lot of those like half to quarter inch or yard scraps from when this happens to people. And I think it’s something that we could avoid if we were just kind of all thinking and taking a pause before cutting the fabric, more or less. So I guess I’m curious, Nicole, you kind of sound like you have some experience with zero waste sewing? Can you share more about what your experience was your way sewing has been like?
Nicole: Yeah, so that first pattern experience really gave me an idea of how to think about sewing and rectangles as a way to maximize the use of fabric. So I feel like I can make almost anything and just sort of be creative and belt things for shape if I feel like I need it. And a side effect of that has been me not really wanting to purchase a lot of the zero waste patterns. I think that when I look at some of the designs, I’m like, pretty sure that’s just rectangles, and that I’ve seen it before. And it’s valuable to have these patterns out there. I’m not saying don’t buy them. I just think with my past experience, I can look at it like I’m pretty sure I know what they did. And then if I wanted the look, then I could approximate it. And this isn’t all zero waste patterns. There are lots of really complicated looking designs, but that they are all very, you know, utilize creative cutting, but some of the simpler ones. I’m like, Oh, I could just do that. I mean of course again, something to be said about paying people to tell you how to do it instead of be just trying to figure out but those types of designs just they don’t intrigue me enough to pursue them. But if I’m honest about zero waste sewing designs in general, the style itself doesn’t appeal to me or appeal to my personal sense of style. Generally speaking, I don’t favor boxy and oversized silhouettes, and the techniques that are used to employ taking in fabric for shape like cleaning, gathering, ruching, you know, sharing all that they’re not designed elements that appeal to my personal style. So I have yet to see see a zero waste pattern that really wowed me with the exception of that Fibr and Cloth Studio Iris Blouse because I can see myself wearing that as a very classic silhouette that when I saw it I was so impressed because I’ve been looking for a tie blouse, blouse that’s what I’m trying to say a tie neck blouse to make new shirts for work because I feel powerful and a tie neck blouse and a blazer and like some nice pants or a skirt and some heels like when I go to work. So I’m really looking forward to it. And for listeners the Iris blouse, is loosely fitting long sleeve blouse with a tie neck. So I think Alexis, the designer does employ ruching around the wrists, which I have to learn and would ordinarily not be a fan of myself, like on, let’s say, a bodice. But I’m super thrilled about how this blouse looks. And I can’t wait to try to make it and learn how to ruche. So when I do decide to use it in the future, I’ll know how to do it. What’s your experience, then with zero waste patterns? I know you talked about your coat, but you have any other patterns or experiences.
Ada: Yeah, I guess I’ve mentioned most of it, I do have a handful of zero waste patterns in my pattern collection. And I’ve made all except for one so far, that Process of Sewing dress, which I believe is kind of a V neck tank top bodice with ties for straps. And I am looking forward to trying that one, especially as it gets hotter here. And I think I’m pretty up to date on which designers are focusing on zero waste patterns, but always open to new suggestions. And I agree with you on the oversized boxy look, I’m not really I’m kind of moving away from that in my personal style. And I definitely did find it hard not to jump on the bandwagon of some of these patterns too, because lots of these designers have a lot of people hyping their new releases. And it’s really tempting to get swept up. But as I’ve gotten deeper into sewing, or maybe more thoughtful with what I’m making, I’m realizing like I said that there’s not there’s some styles, I guess, that I just don’t gravitate towards as often that and like, I’ll sometimes panic, send you a pattern on Instagram DM, and ask you for your opinion, Nicole, and you kind of check me there, you’re like, do you need this pattern? Or is it because you saw it on someone that you follow that you’re like, Oh, I like their style? Or is it because everybody’s posting it on your feed right now. And I’m so grateful for you checking me on my ability to be swept away. And kind of the urge to purchase definitely goes away once the hype bit kind of dies down a bit.
Nicole: Yeah, the Instagram hype is so real marketing works. People do the same for me. And we’ve just been recently talking about this. And I will revisit it five or six times. But Ada, are we sure? Are we sure that I actually don’t want this really badly. Or am I, is the marketing working?
Ada: I go back and forth for like two or three days until we’re like yeah, yeah, I’m sure I don’t need this. Like, and I wish that I could do that with like, almost anything that I buy. Yeah. Because like I’ll calculate something that I need for work like a piece of equipment, or, you know, the decision to sign like a longer term agreement on something. I will sit on that for days and weeks and be like, do I really need to spend that money but like, give me a hyped up pattern? I’ll be like, take my money. Nicole stop me.
Nicole: Yeah, and if I’m very honest, which listeners you know, I’m very honest. So there’s things I shouldn’t be saying all the time. But I do. You know, once that initial release discount is gone, it’s a little bit less compelling for me and again, that’s the height but you know, part of mindful sewing sustainable sewing zero waste sewing is not purchasing things to you’re not going to use so I think it’s okay that we’re you know, talking about not getting into everything that zero waste but still being mindful about our choices. And one area we haven’t touched upon this yet and I’ve actually probably dived a bore into this part of zero waste but we haven’t talked about bag making. Oh yeah, like zero waste bags. So we’ve just been talking about garments but there are zero waste bag patterns out there. And my most recent recent purchase was one that I got hyped for on Instagram. I’ll just throw that out there. And I haven’t made it yet. But it is the zero waste fanny pack by the Process of Sewing the designer that you’ve mentioned previously for their dress, and I bought it. I haven’t dived into it yet but I am looking forward to checking it out. The Process of Sewing is a relatively new brand that is dedicated to zero waste and size inclusive designs. So fanny packs are bum bags if you’re not American because fanny means your ass in America. Those, I don’t remember where that joke is from but that is true. Fanny means something else in England but I am looking forward to trying to make something that works for me that you can wear as a sling. So zero waste very, very cool. And have you heard of the company Bag.uettes?
Ada: No. So it’s a cute name though.
Nicole:It is. It’s very cute. BAG dot EUTTES, bag.uettes and I have made their zero waste the Z W Wave bag and the it’s a tote bag but you can they’ve given you instructions to draft anything from a tote bag to I think there’s a longer bag bag that can accommodate a, what am I trying to say, oh, a yoga, a yoga bag, a yoga mat, a yoga roll up. And so it’s long and deep, but it’s still zero waste. And the wave itself has a really cool design element, you do have to assume you have to use fabric that’s double faced. So that means that the fabric itself is double sided. So if you can just use a, like a plain color, like a canvas that’s the same on both sides are not printed. But when I made it, I just use two single sided fabrics and made two bags. So something to think about, you know, bag.uettes, they make other zero waste bag designs, so something to checkout as well. Zero waste sewing isn’t just for garments.
Ada: I love that I will be the first to admit that I’m a bag lady, I’ve always been a bag lady, like, you know, even before I could afford them, I was always looking at bags like it was it used to be my tradition to treat myself to a new bag every year like it. It’s a thing, I have quite extensive bag collection. And I’ve been into fanny packs lately, too. They’re just so practical, like, yeah, you can wear them in the front, you don’t have to wear them, or I think most people right now who are wearing them don’t wear their waist. But you can just keep everything on you. And it’s so useful. And this bag.uettes pattern is super cute too. And the fact that it’s long enough and deep enough to stick a yoga mat in it. Not that I’m like going to yoga classes anymore. But like it just gives you kind of have a sense for how large that could be and how practical it could be in terms of how much you are holding and coding around. And yeah, that’s a good point zero waste sewing extends beyond garments.
Nicole: And you’re already practicing a lot of zero waste techniques. But can you tell us why you’re practicing zero waste? And maybe Is there anything you could think about that’s holding you back from incorporating even more zero waste patterns or practices into your sewing?
Ada: I honestly think my desire to be more mindful and less wasteful with my sewing has a lot more to do with how I grew up and how my family grew up than it does necessarily with my environmental and sustainability beliefs and preferences. Like if I really sit down and think about it, don’t get me wrong. Sustainability is a huge issue that I care about, obviously, like I’ve built a whole business out of it. And I think it factors into my work and my sewing practice and everything else in between. But at the back of my head, there’s always that kind of reminder of wanting to or maybe like out of like needing to survive to save and make the most of what I have, especially if it was like pricey or expensive, like a lot of nicer fabric can be, even not nice fabric, right? And I think this kind of trigger into survival mode comes up a lot in immigrant families, and especially like Asian immigrant families, and you again, I’m only the second generation so the first generation to be born here. I think it also sticks out to me because I was always reminded growing up that you know, quote, unquote, everything my parents did was for me and how much better I had it than they did or previous generations like the idea of you’ve been given this opportunity, don’t waste it. And I was thinking about it the other day, like I have some of my dad’s original immigration papers that were translated and notarized. And in it, my grandpa’s occupation was listed as tiller, he tilled land, he was a farmer. So within three generations, like we’ve gotten to a point of making clothing to wear, to work, or, you know, be in society to this is my hobby now, and fabric being something I can buy on a whim. And kind of just position wise, coming to terms with it, I think. And all of that is to say It’s not wrong to have these thoughts. But I’m definitely better about recognizing them now than I was before. And I try not to work in my zero waste practices into my sewing process out of guilt when I can, but the thought does come up from time to time. And I think the one thing was also limiting about the way that I incorporate zero waste practices into my sewing. Fabric I saved and I repurpose a lot going back to that sustainability and how much I care about it. So whatever fabric I have is a fabric I have, like you said you can’t grow fabric, and you can’t control Z on cutting it. So if a pattern, is not going to fit into the cut of fabric I have in mind or that I have on hand. I can’t use it unless I do some heavy modifications. So I need to be more resourceful and mindful of how I’m using this fabric. And I also just don’t know how many more scrap pillows and poufs I can make. There’s only so much home dec I need. And so future poufs will be going to my friends as gifts, maybe like one pouf a year and I’ll just rotate who’s getting a pouf for that year.
Nicole: Yeah, over the weekend. I went to my first in person sewing meetup. And it was terrifying because it’s scary to meet new people in person and I’m pretty awkward. I feel awkward anyway, I’ve told them not whatever. I doesn’t feel very good. So anyway, one of the things that came up was scraps and so I am looking forward to sharing scraps with the group. So we were talking a part of the discussion, because it was Earth Day the day before. It was, you know, how do we reduce the waste in our sewing practice. And one of the ways is to find other people who would use your scraps, whether it’s, you know, coming up with an exchange, some sort of event where you can bring usable cuts of fabric, and you know, someone’s like, oh, I can make a bag out of that. And you’re like, I’m sure I thought about making a bag out of it. But I’m not going to do it. Because I already, you know, for me, it’s like, I’ve already did my work with that fabric, like, I’ve already had my relationship with the fabric. But instead of making poufs, or things that you don’t really want, like, maybe it can be a community thing. And, like full cuts of fabric swaps, you know, there can be some scrap swaps, too. And someone had mentioned at the meetup yesterday said, “Oh, if you have like unusable scrap stuff that you would stuff the poud with talk to XYZ, because she will find someone who would use them for stuffing or for whatever”. And so that is something that I am looking forward to becoming a part of, I was gonna say, take advantage of because it’s like, I’m giving them my stuff. But no, it’s a community thing, right? We are. I’m not one one person’s trash is another person’s treasure, right? And for me, instead of like, forcing it and forcing myself to make a punching bag, although that’s a really cool idea. You know, if someone else needs, you know, a support pillow, or stuffing for dog beds, or a pouf themselves, like, you know, we can we can work together in a community to pass it along. So that’s something I’m going to be thinking about as a way to be sustainable and to incorporate zero waste so it doesn’t end up in the trash. That’s, that’s zero waste, right? All right. Now that we’ve been talking a lot about zero waste, it’s time to turn it over to you listeners. We have tons of resources in the show notes per usual. And if you have other zero waste sewing tips or resources you want to share, let us know.
Ada: Thank you so much for joining us on this week’s episode of the Asian Sewist Collective podcast. If you like our show, please consider supporting us on Ko-fi. Your financial support helps us with overhead expenses and allows us to give back to our all-volunteer team. You can make a monthly or one time donation at ko-fi.com/asiansewistcollective. You can find this link in our show notes, on our website and on our Instagram account. Check us out on Instagram, at @asiansewistcollective. That’s one word, asiansewistcollective. You can also help us out by spreading the word and telling your friends. We would appreciate it if you could rate, review and subscribe to this podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts PocketCasts or wherever you get your podcasts.
Nicole: All of the links and resources mentioned in today’s episode will be in the show notes on our website. That’s asiansewistcollective.com. And we’d love to hear from you. Email us with your questions, comments or even voice messages, if you want to be featured on future episodes, at firstname.lastname@example.org. This episode is brought to you by your cohosts, Ada Chen and Nicole Angeline. This episode was researched by Aarti Ravi, produced by Ada Chen, Mariko Abe and Nicole Angline, and edited by Shilyn Joy and Henry Wong. Thank you so much to the other members of our collective who made this week’s episode a reality. This is the Asian so as collective podcast and we’ll see you next week.