Choosing Patterns for Sustainable Sewing

Hi Sewists! It’s Gem from Bobbins and Bolts again, and I’m here to talk to you about choosing patterns for more sustainable sewing to hopefully inspire you ready for the Sustainable Sewing Theme Month. There are lots of reasons why people choose to be more sustainable in their sewing; for me it’s a combination of wanting to get away from the way the fast fashion industry treats its employees, to do a little more for the environment, and to save money too! Choosing patterns carefully can help you to achieve this, so here’s a few ideas that might appeal to you.


I’m a self-confessed scrap hoarder. I started off my sewing life as a quilter and the mentality of saving even the smallest of scraps never really left me. In the past couple of years, I’ve limited myself to never keeping scraps smaller than 10cm square to prevent myself drowning in tiny pieces of fabric after I found myself with 2 full bin bags full of scraps that I was unlikely to ever use. Anything smaller than 10cm now gets donated to a friend who appliques bags for her Etsy shop so they’re no longer sitting unused.

But what about those bigger pieces? Quite often I choose patterns that have facings, pockets or linings, of which there are many! My first Tilly and the Buttons Cleo had a facing made of brightly-coloured cotton scraps. It brightens up the inside of the plain denim and uses up what would’ve been waste. The same idea would work for any pattern with a facing or waistband, from a Sew Over It Ultimate Shift Dress to a Colette Patterns Selene pencil skirt.  I even added a contrast fabric to the underside of my Rosa Shirt collar.

Cleo 2

Plenty of patterns have in-seam or patch pockets that work with a contrasting fabric too. Or how about a welt pocket or pocket facing that’s a contrast to the main fabric? There’s a great tutorial on adding a welt pocket to the Sasha Pants by Closet Case Patterns and the ever-popular True Bias Hudson pant has a pocket facing that’s great for using up scraps. How about using scraps for the pocket bags on Ginger Jeans or adding a contrast pocket to the outside of a York pinafore? The pocket possibilities are endless!

If you are making a hoodie or a coat, scraps make great hood linings. I’ve used leftover jersey to line my Tilly and the Buttons Stella and Hey June Halifax hoodies and leftover viscose and flannel to line the Colette Albion duffles I made. Just choose a pattern with a separate hood lining piece.

Stella 1

If you’ve got bigger scraps, or lots of smaller ones in similar fabrics, how about making some bias binding and use it for necklines or the edge of arm holes? Just look for patterns that have a bound edge such as the Made by Rae Gemma tank or the Seamwork York top. Or you could patchwork some together and create a bag lining or even maybe a Grainline Tamarack jacket?

And finally, those jersey scraps can make great underwear! How about using the Megan Nielsen Acacia or the Emerald Erin Tuesday Boyshort patterns?

Zero Waste Patterns

Of course, the best way to avoid all those scraps is to not create any in the first place. Zero waste patterns, such as the free Make Use patterns, aim to create as little leftover fabric as possible. I’m not going to talk too much about this as there’s a fantastic article by Jessica Yen over at Seamwork Mag and a post by Wendy Ward over on her blog which do a far better job of explaining it than I could. But suffice it to say that even if your patterns aren’t designed to be zero waste, with careful positioning when you’re cutting out, you can minimise the fabric left. Just be careful not to cut on the bias unless you mean to, and then use up the scraps if you have any.

Colour Blocking

My final tip for today is to try colour blocking. Colour blocking is a great way to get more use out of those patterns that you already have in your collection, or to get more mileage out of ones that you have been planning to buy. It even can give you another way to use up smaller scraps! I recently did a simple colour block to a Tilly and the Buttons Stevie dress as a way to break up a plaid a little, which I’ve written a separate post about on my own blog. If you’re not up for adding new lines though, you could just have a contrast yoke or contrast sleeves.

The best patterns to colour block have simple, clear lines of design such as t-shirts or shift dresses like the Sew Over it Ultimate Shift Dress or Vogue 1382. Just trace off your pattern, use a ruler to break up the pattern pieces into sections and remember to add seam allowances where the new breaks will go. You could also look for patterns that naturally have breaks in the design such as princess seams and use different fabrics or colours for each section.

Zadie 1Karri 3


Megan Nielsen’s Karri and Tilly and the Buttons Zadie both use this idea.





With colour blocking you can make your TNT patterns look like completely different items.

So I hope I’ve given you a few things to try, and I can’t wait to see what you all get up to during November’s theme month.  Let us know if you try any of these ideas!