A bit of a waste…

Sometimes, a good idea just doesn’t work out.

I was interested in the idea of no-waste clothing, which uses up every last scrap of the stipulated fabric quantity to construct. In October last year, I bought online the how-to pdf of the steps to make a no-waste dress. I had some very pretty light linen fabric, I wanted something comfortable and loose, and I bought the larger of the two size options because the measurements in the description seemed to indicate this was the better choice for my size.

The layout was easy to follow, the measurements were clear, there were only a couple of instructions which were not totally clear, and it didn’t require any major sewing skills. There are several hacks to change the construction and appearance of the dress, all within the no-waste scope.


It’s perfectly awful. I could see it was heading for disaster, but I finished it and put it on. I wandered out to show the Husband. His instantaneous, unconsidered response was %$#@}&, that’s horrible”. Although this was not a response I’m used to from him (normally he manages to find something nice or supportive to say), I could not disagree. It’s monstrously enormous and shapeless. It’s a catastrophic Waste of perfectly nice fabric.

Before we go any further, I’m not going to publish the designer’s name; I don’t want to damage a small business person’s business and reviews of this pattern have been OK (perhaps for the smaller size). If you really want to know, you can contact me, but please don’t do it out of simple curiosity, only if you were thinking of doing something along the same lines yourself and wanted to avoid this particular pitfall. On a taller and even more generously built person, this might look dramatic and swoopy. I’m short, and it makes me look like a stumpy floral outhouse. With wings….

The problem with the pattern is, I think, because it was designed by and for a much smaller person, and the no-waste principle became forced when it was scaled up for larger body types, leading to inappropriate sizing.

I haven’t seen the layout for the smaller size, but I suspect it doesn’t use two full widths of the fabric for the skirt. Following the pattern piece dimensions exactly, I have ended up with a bodice which is 62 – yes, sixty-two, you read that right – inches around. The hem is 110 inches around. The arm scye hits me just above the elbow.

The shoulder seams are 12 inches long, and that’s after I put in three generous tucks on each side because I couldn’t see how it was going to fit a human body otherwise. The skirt joins onto the bodice at a really unflattering place in the bust area; 3 inches longer would have been more becoming and less lumpy.

There are three small scraps left once you have cut the pieces out: two long triangles and one small curved shape, all three left from cutting out the neck opening. In the interests of the no-waste principle, these are to be ‘stuck on’ to the garment without apparent practical function, simply as a decoration. I abandoned the triangles and made a sort of false facing from the curved piece to sew my maker’s label onto. A wasted effort, as it turns out.

I look as if I’m wearing a small tent, or perhaps a collapsed hot air balloon. I agree with the Husband that it looks horrible, so I’m not even happy wearing it for lounging around the house – why make us both miserable? I’m going to give it a bloody good hard look and see if I can take the scissors to it and rescue something wearable from this great big heap of, well, waste. Don’t get me wrong. I still believe in the no-waste principle, but I want something that isn’t just a load of random rectangles sewn together.

I do feel civilisation has moved on past the point of wanting simply to cover the body. These days we like a bit of style too.

70 thoughts on “A bit of a waste…

  1. cedar51 says:

    totally get your point – on how to design a pattern that is “waste free” – hope you can rectify the mess…

    sorry I’ve had to skim posts, health not crash hot. And I only just discovered that it’s about this time of the day, late arvo, I start to think I can manage a few hours. Rest of the time, resting…but went to another doctor yesterday, a fresh pair of eyes – so I may come well in fullness of time…..

    • katechiconi says:

      I’m thinking that cutting entirely new side seams and armholes may work; also new and shorter sleeves. There may be enough fabric left from that to insert extra bodice length, although the pattern will run the wrong way…. We shall see. I hope the fresh eyes on the problem will soon have you feeling a bit better.

  2. Oh my soul! Um, I like your photos, and admire your perseverance, and quite like the fabric…I hope you can re-cut using another pattern, it IS much too nice to waste!

  3. My reaction mimics both HoC’s…. %$#@}& and your’s… Can you fix it? Yes you can! But your facial expression gave me the best laugh I’ve had for a while 😀

  4. Oh my. Yes, please rescue the pretty fabric. Use it in quilts or in a pretty top with a diagonal ruffle or a fantastic apron. Unfortunate. BUT you learned a lot, right? 🙂

    • katechiconi says:

      I learned that the 3D human body and flat rectangles are doomed never to meet successfully. I knew that anyway, but hoped the outcome might be simply shapeless rather than monstrous. Still, I will certainly find a way to make something wearable, generating some useful and pretty scraps along the way. No waste? No way!

  5. kymlucas says:

    Oh, my! Sorry to smile at your misfortune, but that picture! Still, I don’t feel TOO guilty because I know you will find a way to make something beautiful from it.

  6. Ok I’m seriously holding my face in check now … Js expletives are tame by far….
    On the brighter side … I’m absolutely DEFINITE u will make something out of this tent and won’t waste it 🤩

  7. That pic of you is an absolute classic, it will be with me for a long time. Just remember – it’s not what you wear, it’s how you wear it…. 😉

  8. claire93 says:

    i like the photo of you laying on the dress, in snow angel style ^^
    Hope you can save fabric!

  9. tialys says:

    I am hoping to finish my own zero waste project today – and I think it might be wearable but only after some ‘tweaks’ some of which, to be fair, were due to my fabric grain being ‘unreliable’.. I know we both like the principle of zero waste but, hopefully, there’ll be some more flattering patterns on the horizon.
    Great photos – I especially like the ‘fabric angel’.

    • katechiconi says:

      I don’t see why one can’t use more conventional pattern shapes, but just piece together the less visible parts from the offcuts, such as pockets, collars, etc. Maybe not zero waste, but less/low waste? I’ll look forward to seeing what your shirt looks like. Do you feel the lack of shaping is going to be an issue for you too?

      • tialys says:

        Well, it’s a boxy shape but is quite cropped so not too much fabric swathing going on. I don’t think the dress would have done much for me though.
        I know there are other ways to save on fabric. Most dressmaking patterns have you cut the pieces out on a double layer which saves time but cutting on a single layer saves fabric. Maybe pattern makers could concentrate more on that. I don’t mind a little waste but, sometimes, there’s a scandalous amount of fabric leftover which could be avoided . I just need somebody more gifted in pattern design (almost anybody) to tell me how to do it.

      • katechiconi says:

        I almost never follow the layouts shown in the printed instructions for the very reasons you set out. I also never buy as much fabric as they suggest because I know I can be more economical. I’ve been known to cut waistbands in three pieces, make pockets in several pieces, piece facings, etc. This seemed like a natural progression, but in the end has been less successful than my own efforts.

  10. cazinatutu says:

    My first reaction was that it’s the basis for one of those old-fashioned agricultural smocks, waiting for the smocking on the yoke and the sleeves, but even that wouldn’t end up looking any less gross I think.

    • katechiconi says:

      That would help to nip things in, certainly, but really, there’s just far too much bulk. I shall lay it flat and cut normal armholes in a normal place, and then see how much spare I have. Maybe I can increase the bodice length and make more normal sleeves. It would still be a large, loose dress, but not so crazy-huge.

  11. I’m sorry Kate but I have been laughing like a drain! It is hideous – which is such a shame because the fabric is very pretty. I know it is sensible to think about fiddling with the cutting layout to minimise waste fabric and to piece the unseen bits from offcuts. But really, garments have to look nice too! And I know that any pieces which are left will go in your scrap stash and get used in a quilt or something. So why compromise?

    • katechiconi says:

      Laughing like a drain was the intention, or I’d never have shown those photos! I think it’s a case of lesson learned, and I will continue to be frugal with fabric in my own way rather than trying to force the issue.

  12. craftycreeky says:

    I thought you liked camping 😀 I like the idea of no waste clothing, but the patterns I’ve seen just seem to use up every scrap for the sake of it, it’s got to look nice too! I’d take it apart and make a smaller bodice with a skirt as full as you like, either sleeveless or short sleeves, it’s such pretty summery fabric.

    • katechiconi says:

      Yes, I think as a bare minimum I have to remove the skirt and sleeves and pick out those tucks in the shoulders. Then at least I’ll be able to see how much usable fabric I have. The bodice is the problem, really.

  13. Debbierose says:

    Oh my goodness, words fail me. On the flip side its nice to see the “dark side of stitching”

    • katechiconi says:

      Yes, it’s a big fat fail for good intentions, isn’t it? Great concept, awful result. The worst thing is, if it had just used less fabric in the first place it would have looked so much better!

  14. Emmely says:

    Wow, that is uhm… huge…
    I get the idea behind the no waste patterns but I’m not so sure whether it’s better to stuff more fabric into a garment so that it’s not “wasted” or use a similar amount but end up with some unused scraps. In the end the same amount of resources was used to make either garment. I for sure feel a lot better in garments that have a bit more shape and as a result will always have leftovers. If I don’t feel good in something I won’t wear it so that’s a lot more wasteful. I hope you’ll be able to salvage the fabric! With the huge pattern pieces there should be room to cut something else out of them without too much extra piecing.

    • katechiconi says:

      I like something to be comfortable, but not at the expense of a) Dignity and b) Common-sense. I won’t be trying zero waste again unless it’s something I’ve come up with myself so I know it complies with a) and b) above! And anyway, what’s wrong with the odd scrap? What on earth would I do without them?

  15. You look like a member of a singing choir, floral style. It would be a comfy house dress or pajamas.

    • katechiconi says:

      No, it really wouldn’t, I promise. It’s incredibly bulky and cumbersome, and I’d knock things over every time I moved. It’s getting a remodel as soon as I can bear to look at it again.

  16. I hope you don’t take offense, but this is hilarious!
    One year, I decided to make matching sundresses for myself and my two daughters using a cool blue & white flowered knit fabric. The girls’ turned out great, mine turned out much like yours above, way too large and also very heavy given the amount of knit fabric it required as per the directions on the sewing pattern.
    Oh well! It looked cute on the hanger!!!!

    • katechiconi says:

      No, I won’t take offence, I find it hilarious myself! I thought it was better to share the joke than bury it, though, since there’s valuable information there for anyone else thinking about trying a pattern of this type.

  17. Tami Von Zalez says:

    It certainly qualifies as Fugly.

  18. Sharon says:

    Oh my! My first thought was perhaps you could donate to a thrift shop. There are many larger sized woman who could rock a dress this size. The material is so lovely, I know the craftsmanship of this dress is spot on. It would be so welcomed for the right sized person – just an idea 🙂

    • katechiconi says:

      Thing is, I really *need* a dress which is both comfortable and moderately formal, and this fabric would be perfect. So I’m going to try and remake something for myself out of the fabric, which I really love.

  19. magpiesue says:

    Hopefully you won’t lose too much of that lovely fabric when you take it apart and cut it down, which is what I would do if I found myself in your position. I wouldn’t have been able to carry on with it to the end when I had the first sign it wasn’t going to turn out as expected!

  20. Bear says:

    Ah… I know that dress. Well, not that particular one, but the pattern is a very very old one. I’ve made similiar many times. Um… if ye cut your shoulders the width of your neck to top of shoulder plus an inch for seam allowance. Ach, take sleeves out, reduce the width from side to side a bit. then, cut from the waist up to the measure of neck to shoulder +1in. then, set the sleeves back into. It’ll look better, then. don’t feel bad, I’ve done the same thing many a time. I’d rather err on the side of too big then too small…too big can be sized down.

    • katechiconi says:

      The bodice is far too short. The gathered skirt seam hits me at mid-bust level. So I’ll probably be disassembling the whole thing, adding a piece to the bodice to make it longer (using some of the excess shoulder length once I’ve unpicked the tucks, and incorporating some bust shaping), remaking the arm-scyes with a curve and the sleeve heads also. I think a totally unshaped garment is fine for a slender figure, but mine is shaped like a brick and I need all the help I can get! I agree though, too big is much more versatile!

      • Bear says:

        Okay. When I make a ribbon dress like this that’s always where the bust lies. I don’t like it either and usually make it a little lower or higher depending on fabric I have. I get the body comment. I have a pretty straight body no waist and very small bust… A nightmare to find store bought anything. The scope or v-necks are always too revealing for me too. Redesigning can be fun though.

      • katechiconi says:

        I’m not wedded to the design and will be quite happy to do some disassembly! It really does make me wonder what body types this design works for, though…

  21. I am still laughing over “a stumpy floral outhouse. With wings….” I so often feel that way when trying on clothes. Maybe consider donating it to a charity shop where, surely, a generously sized person might find it to be exactly what they need. OR insert it over a floor lamp for a lit scarecrow!

    • katechiconi says:

      No, I won’t donate it – I need a dress and want one in this pretty fabric. I’ll remake the thing! If there are enough scraps, I’ll definitely consider a lampshade, though 😉

  22. Chris S in Canada says:

    Oh. Hmmm. Well.
    Lovely fabric.
    Will be a lovely dress when you’re finished with it.
    Sometimes theory is better left without the practice. No waste is ok for those who can fix things. Imagine the poor soul who thought this would be a good beginner project? An ocean of tears I would guess.

    • katechiconi says:

      No waste clothing is a lovely idea, but it needs to result in something wearable, or it isn’t really clothing, is it? Luckily, there’s *plenty* of fabric to work with!

  23. […] in common so you’ve probably seen her post but, if you haven’t, you can read about it here for another take on these sorts of […]

  24. nanacathy2 says:

    It’s like clothes from China which in large size are fit for an orangatang! I bet it would be great on a beach for getting changed under.

  25. Love your expression!

  26. Susan Nixon says:

    I have to agree it’s a disaster. Hopefully, the fabric can be salvaged for something else!

  27. rutigt says:

    Sorry, but I was laughing 🙂 I´m sure you are gonna find a way to make this dress suit you, but this was just too much 🙂

  28. Kirsten says:

    This is hilarious!! I applaud the whole no waste pattern movement, and always try to cut my pattern pieces out as economically as possible, but I have long suspected that no waste equals no shape – and it seems you have proved that theory!! I hope you can repurpose the fabric into something lovely 😀

    • katechiconi says:

      Well, the same here, which is why I thought it would be good to try something lie this. I think if there had been a slight re-think of how the pattern was laid out for larger sizes it might have been more successful. How are you, anyway? Ages since you’ve been by 🙂

      • Kirsten says:

        I know! Although weirdly it doesn’t seem that long, but I know if I think about it, I will be shocked by just how long it has been. Life, eh??! On the whole, all good here – pandemic permitting. I’ve moved house / to a different part of the UK, changed jobs, all that malarky. How about you? 😃

      • katechiconi says:

        Sounds like there’s been some fair old changes. Same here, really: we moved, I turned 60, we have a rescue greyhound now, but I’m still making quilts like it’s going out of fashion…

  29. I knew by the end of this and the comments you would take it apart and salvage it somehow. I like the idea of no waste as well but I don’t think it’s practical for those of us with more ample bodies. The tent description does apply to most clothing designed for the voluptuous woman. I remember my size 2 days when I could buy off the rack. I will never see them again and they were really no fun. Looking forward to the remake. I’m sure it will not be met with those same words.

    • katechiconi says:

      I’m giving myself a small holiday from it first. There was such a sense of … not anticlimax or disappointment, but perhaps farce, that I can’t quite face it just yet. You can get away with voluminous and spacious in a nightdress, where those attributes are positive benefits, but not in a dress, where there has to be a sense that there’s a human being inside that pile of fabric!

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