Hi, my name is Victoria (@victoriakonash) and I live in Melbourne, Australia. I am a dressmaker, artist, and mender - although in recent years I have started calling myself just ‘crazy creative’ as I am generally interested in trying my hands on many creative things - including but not limited to wool spinning, natural dyeing, weaving, and whatnot. My primary qualification in the creative sphere was dressmaking though.
I have a very traditional background in pattern making. I did a diploma in Tailoring and Pattern Making during my last years of high school as a starting point. And although for many reasons my university degree was in Linguistics I came back to dressmaking straight after university. I also studied although never graduated at London College of Fashion, and finished another diploma in Applied Fashion Design and Technology in Australia at Open Colleges.
Zero waste living in many areas was natural to me. During my school years in the early 90s in post Soviet Belarus (former Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic), shortages of everything was a norm. Nothing was ever thrown away unless it was broken beyond repair. Living with a coupon system where paper coupons were given instead of salary to families to receive an allocated amount of goods from the shops every month made people creative in many ways. Shops were generally empty and you could get your coupons exchanged for necessary goods only if you had proper ‘connections’ or if you were really lucky and came early. People started queuing in front of the shops hours prior to open time to get what they needed due to limited supply to the shops. Getting the basics was the target and buying ‘luxury’ items including extra clothes was only a dream.
So I started to make my own clothes, transforming my mother’s unwanted dresses or skirts into something new for myself. Now and again I was lucky and had the whole metre of new fabric my grandmother was saving for some special occasion garment to play with! You can imagine, that fabric was rather treasured, and after the cutting process was made NOTHING went into the bin. Pattern cutting was a long and creative process of fitting all the pieces into the fabric amount I had, compromising what I could and redesigning the rest. And what was left went into making toys and other creative little things.
I think this is my main approach to pattern making these days. I have a design idea in my head, and when creating a pattern I try to think how to use up as much fabric as possible without changing the design a lot.
The First Zero Waste Dress Design: Anna
My first introduction to zero waste pattern making was when I came across the Zero Waste Fashion Design book by Timo Rissanen and Holly McQuillan. It was such a game changer! I knew straight away I wanted to learn more and definitely play with that idea. My first zero waste dress pattern came into life quite by accident though! I had a beautiful piece of 100% merino wool jersey I got with a really huge discount from The Fabric Store because it had a faulty run on one side. I fixed the fault by stitching over it and eco printed the fabric with eucalyptus leaves. I was simply planning to make a dress for myself and had a rough design idea in my head.
Following my usual approach I was trying to think how to fit everything I need as tightly as possible, and then in the process all the pieces somehow connected together like a puzzle and I had nothing left! And here my first truly zero waste garment was created - the Anna Zero Waste Dress! It is quite a simple concept - the image below shows the main idea. Try it out yourself by downloading full cutting and sewing instructions in sizes 6-16 from my website (https://vixecodesigns.com) for a donation of your choice.
After that I did more research on zero waste pattern making processes, watching videos and reading articles. I came across Liz Haywood’s work (@lizhaywood3754), ZWDO Collective (@zwdo_collective), and found plenty of other inspirational resources from these pages. My next few zero waste designs were greatly inspired by Julian Roberts’ subtraction cutting. But after that I really came back to my original approach - fitting all pattern pieces as tightly as possible and thinking of how to use the rest of the fabric.
The Dakota Zero Waste Dress
My recent zero waste pattern - the Dakota Zero Waste Dress - was really ambitious. I wanted to create a shirt-like dress featuring traditional shirt sleeves with cuffs, collar and front button closure. I had a design idea in my head and the main work was how to make that design zero waste. Again, surprisingly, the dress - like a puzzle - all came together rather easily.
I started by creating a traditional 2D pattern for the design I wanted, and after that I played with positioning all pattern pieces on the fabric in various ways trying to fit everything with as little gaps as possible. A nested sleeve idea from the Zero Waste Fashion Design book I mentioned earlier was really helpful. I had to alter the sleeve crown shape to make the sleeves nested, at the same time trying to not compromise the fit too much. After that was done, the next target was how to incorporate all the remaining shapes into the design by creating various design elements.
I made a lot of notes on my pattern to remember how I want to use all the pieces. Some elements, like cuff opening, I tried to reproduce from some fabric scraps from my stash to make sure my ideas work. And after all the final checks and adjustments were done I cut the pattern and made the sample. You can download full sewing and cutting instructions for this dress from my website for a donation of your choice.
Now I am on an inspirational journey to create 10 zero waste dress designs. I have 4 ready dress patterns now available from my website (Dakota, Anna, Bella, and Charis) for a donation of your choice and at the moment I am working on the fifth one. I am learning a lot as I progress and I am sure I will come up with my own zero waste hacks on the way.
Please do follow my journey! And thank you to all those who have donated for my patterns so far. It really helps me to support my family during these hard times as I lost most of my other income starting from last year.
My advice to all who want to start experimenting with zero waste patterns - don’t be scared by the thought that it is too complicated and you need to have a specific creative mind to do it. Just go ahead and try!
If you are a home sewer and use ready-made patterns for your creations I can assure you a whole new world will open by trying zero waste patterns! The ZWDO Instagram page (@zwdo_collective) has plenty of resources and links to zero waste patterns. And after you have tried to make a few garments from the patterns created by various designers, I also highly encourage you to try adapting traditional patterns you already have to zero waste by following some simple steps.
4 Steps to Zero Waste Sewing
1. Play with the positioning of pattern pieces on the fabric, imaging it is a puzzle that can fit into your piece of fabric and see where your imagination takes you. The Zero Waste Fashion Design book contains quite a few great tips on how to transform some pattern pieces for zero waste adaptation.
2. See what fabric pieces you have left and try to think what else you can make out of these shapes. Some ideas to start with - extra pockets, belt holders, various stitch on design elements, fabric flowers etc. Or maybe you could make a handbag, reusable fabric storage bags, a hat or even a toy from these pieces - your imagination is the limit! I made a pretty flower brooch from fabric leftovers for my Charis Zero Waste Dress because the scraps were too small for anything else! You can download instructions on how to create this flower with the dress pattern for a donation of your choice on my website.
3. If you can’t use up all the fabric - don’t get disappointed! I am sure after steps 1 and 2 you have much less fabric left than after traditional pattern cutting anyway. Be proud of yourself and try once again next time!
4. And if you accumulate your fabric leftovers, like me, putting nothing into the bin, you could always use them as toy or floor pillow stuffing. Or even start a whole new craft by creating beautiful pictures from fabric scraps and use them as wall art or design elements on your new dress, handbag or a decorative pillow.
I share lots of sewing and creative mending ideas on my Instagram page @victoriakonash - follow to stay updated on this as well as my latest zero waste patterns.
As a reminder, we run ZWDO on a very small budget and dedicate our own time and money to keep the platform as educational and engaging as possible for as many people as possible. We would be extremely grateful if you are able to make a donation to contribute to the ongoing development of Zero Waste Design Online. Donate here.
Thank you for reading and for your ongoing support!
Follow @zwdo_collective on Instagram.
Sign up to the ZWDO Newsletter.