Inspired by #zerowasteweek on Twitter last week, and the fold-your-own Balenciaga jacket pattern at the V&A Balenciaga exhibition, I decided to try to use up some of my fabric stash in the most efficient way possible, by making my very own zero-waste jacket!
I had bought this blue brushed cotton drill years ago, for a project I'd long since forgotten about or abandoned, and it wasn't until my Mum asked me if I had some blue fabric she could use to mount an embroidery project that I even remembered that it existed! After she had cut out what she wanted, I had a large piece (46 by 60 inches) and a long thin piece (approx 40 inches by 20). I measured the paper pattern from the V&A and scaled it up, so it would actually fit me, then drew directly onto the fabric rather than making a paper or calico pattern as I usually would.
The paper pattern has two vertical fold lines, which form the centre of side-seam darts, giving the coat its 'cocoon' shape. It also has two horizontal darts, creating shoulder shaping, horizontal 'cut' lines which form the sleeve shaping, and a T-shaped 'cut' line which creates the neck opening. I machined the darts first, then cut along the lines and folded the fabric back on itself to create the sleeves.
I tried on the basic coat shape (and photographed it on my dressmaking mannequin) and was pleased with the result; this style really needs to be made from a fabric that will hold its shape for the full effect, and I'd probably cut it slightly larger if I was going to make it again so it would drape around me, but I definitely had the base for a decent jacket.
I had wanted to use this fabric to make a jacket that would be useful for autumn or spring, so I decided to add an extra piece on the sleeves to make them full length, and an extra piece around the centre front and neck edges that would form a shawl collar and an overlap to allow for fastenings on the front of the coat. Oh, and pockets, of course!
Ok, so the coat wasn't completely zero-waste; after straightening up roughly cut edges and working around the awkward shape of the fabric I had to begin with, I've produced this pile of off-cuts, and I'm left with a 25 by 10 inch piece of fabric. The offcuts are less than I would end up with if I had been making something with a lot of curved seams, and I'm going to hang on to the larger piece to use for the cushion covers I want to make for my flat!
The coat was incredibly quick to make; I spent about 5 hours on it from start to finish. Drawing straight onto the fabric is very different from the way I normally work, but it felt freeing to be creative on the fly rather than carefully following a plan or pattern, and trying to use up as much fabric as possible didn't feel restrictive (it encouraged me to make extra large pockets!). This sort of zero-waste dressmaking would be great for anyone who struggles with shop-bought patterns, and it doesn't require any knowledge of special techniques or use of anything other than a basic sewing machine and a needle and thread.