ZWPC workshop

Zero Waste Pattern Cutting


According to some studies, traditional garment production using “cut and sew” techniques yields approximately 15% fabric waste[1]. “Cut and sew” refers to the most common present-day method of fashion production: cutting the garment pieces from fabric according to patterns and sewing them together into a garment. The estimated percentage of waste varies between 10–20 % depending on the garment style. For example, it is estimated that the production of 1 million tonnes of clothing –the amount of garments consumed in the UK in 2006 – at least 100, 000 tonnes of fabric is wasted. [2] In general, wasting fabric at the manufacturing stage means wasting resources, such as water and energy, that are used for producing raw fabric.

The created fabric waste may end up in landfill or be incinerated. Apart from that, the waste could be handled at least two other ways. Recycling refers to the practice of processing the reclaimed fibres into new yarns.[3] With the “Cradle to Cradle” method, fabric is initially designed to stay within a “technical” or “biological” cycle that would allow its use as a nutrient for further production. For example, fabric made from natural fibres is not considered waste, but compost, which nourishes the natural cycle of growing fibre.[4] But any of these cases basically means throwing away intact fabric.

Granted, the left-over fabric can be utilised in other products or as scraps, but it can be argued that this is not a sufficient way to manage the fabric. Using the ZWPC method, it is possible to explore the usage of one complete piece of fabric for a pre-determined purpose, e.g. for cutting out one or multiple garments. Additionally, it is easy to agree with the idea that “it is better to avoid waste than to fill the planet with things made from it”.[5]

The possibility of eliminating fabric waste from garment production lies within the stages of pattern-making and fashion design. More precisely, to realize zero fabric waste garments, pattern-making must be considered as an integral part of the design process. That is, one aims at creating interlocking pattern pieces on a two-dimensional surface which then can be transformed into a three-dimensional garment.[6]


[1] Cooklin 1997/2012, p.16; see also Rissanen 2008, pp. 184-186

[2] Rissanen 2005

[3] Fletcher 2008, pp.98–105

[4] McDonough & Braungart 2008

[5] Rissanen 2005

[6] Rissanen 2008, p.185


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