Four Strategies for Sustainable Sewing

Home sewers typically waste 30% of their fabric. Shocking, right? That’s according to Patrick Grant, judge of the Great British Sewing Bee. As the Saville Row sort, I imagine he knows what he’s talking about.

Patrick Grant
Patrick Grant, voice of authority

Still, 30%? Surely we home sewers can do better than that! Here are my top tips for sustainable sewing with minimal waste:

  1. Piece it together. Many projects have you cut on the fold to avoid a seam. That’s important for the line of the garment in the front, but less so in the back. Projects such as my recent Vogue 9246 top could be easily pieced in the back to save fabric.
Pieced in the back – who cares?2.

2. Avoid cutting in two layers. A lot of cutting layouts expect you to fold the fabrics selvage to selvage and cut, so you get two of everything in one go. Except that the cutting layout can get wasteful that way. In my experience you can often cut a few things on the fold and other things single-layer, to get the most out of your fabric. For my recent Vogue 9246 top, the pattern called for 2 yards but I squeezed it out of 1 1/3 yards.

Here are the leftover scraps from some creative cutting.  As long as you follow the grainline, you should be fine. And remember to flip over the pattern pieces if they’re meant to be cut in a double layer!


3. Try kinda-sorta bias. Bias-cut facings and other details can sure hog fabric. If you cut on the true 45-degree angle, you can go through a lot of fabric quickly. But sometimes you don’t need true bias. You can get away with kinda-sorta bias on a lot of fabrics, as long as they provide decent stretch.


Play around stretching the fabric at various angles until you see something that you think might work. Try it! Baste it in place to see if it works before you commit. It beats buying and wasting a lot of fabric. Out of the scrap pile above I was able to fashion the neckline facing and two sleeve facings for my top.

4. Stash with care. The biggest waster of fabric, in my opinion, is fabric that never gets sewn but rather sits in stashes forever. It may get ruined in storage. Tastes may change, and you may regret buying it. You may forget you even have it, and buy more fabric when you didn’t need it. Or you may choose the fabric for a project, only to realize that you have too much – you may make a top when you have enough yardage for a dress, for example, and the leftover never gets used.

What’s worse, you sew up stash fabric because you feel bad about it lying around, but the project is crappy because you were using oddball stash fabric, and you never use the item…

A few unfortunate “stash” projects that wasted fabric and time:

Treat your fabric like the precious commodity it is! It used up water, plus animal or plant matter, or petroleum products if it’s polyester. It also used up your precious time to buy, treat and store.


Author: shoes15

I live in Connecticut, USA with my husband and my dog, in an old house outfitted with a sewing room, a garden, an orchard, and a big liquor cabinet.

9 thoughts on “Four Strategies for Sustainable Sewing”

  1. One reason I like Style Arc is that they do full sized pattern pieces rather than ones to cut in the fold. Makes it much easier to do an economical layout.


  2. No swatches. I’m trying to get everything on computer with notes as to content. I just don’t have room for physical pieces. And then I don’t carry them around with me. But I do carry my iPad with the data with me. So there’s one good in computer copies! 😂😂😂


  3. I love the ideas you have shared. I’m trying to be more conscious when I am cutting my pattern pieces and thinking how to get the maximum use of my fabric. If I have usable scraps I know I won’t use or fabric I know I no longer will ever sew with I put them aside for fabrics swaps I go to


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