Three books about Zero-Waste Sewing Patterns

Zero-Waste Sewing

Have you heard much about Zero-Waste sewing yet? And what does it mean to you?

The obvious thing is that it is all about minimising waste when it comes to sewing, and we are all here for that! 

It all starts with the design process, and how the pattern drafting process can eliminate all those annoying unused gaps and spaces in-between the pattern pieces. Unfortunately, there are some nay-sayers out there who claim that because of this approach, that the results are always baggy sack-like clothing. However, these claims can easily be disapproved if you take a look into the full design process. 

Here, I briefly discuss three books I have come across over the past few years that I believe we can all benefit from reading about regarding zero waste sewing. These are: 

  • Zero Waste Fashion Design, by Timo Rissanen, Holly McQuillan
  • Zero Waste Sewing, by Elizabeth M. Haywood
  • Zero Waste Patterns, by Birgitta Helmersson

The first is a wonderful book I came across a while ago: "Zero Waste Fashion Design" by Timo Rissanen & Holly McQuillan. (I think it may be expecting a re-print sometime soon). This book talks about the whole design process, looking back in history across the globe how zero waste design techniques were already in place, and how these are now iconic pieces of our clothing history. Along with interviews with well-established pattern cutters, the book is full of illustrations of patterns and fashion designs, explaining different techniques used to gain unique and interesting results. The straightforward figures of pattern cutting models in here are a wonderful resource if you wish to sample some of the designs discussed. I find this book wonderfully inspiring and pushes me to think more considerately when it comes to pattern cutting.

The second book "Zero Waste Sewing" is by Patternmaker and Sewing Teacher Elizabeth Haywood. I actually joined one of her online events last year called "Zero Waste Sewing" in which she gave a lecture about how she came across to now making zero waste sewing patterns. This book is a great place to start if you want to get into zero waste sewing. There are 16 wearable projects in this book, each with illustrated instructions on how to use your fabric to construct the garment. Everything is laid out so it is as straightforward as can be. There's also sewing techniques, and tips on how to draft your own zero waste sewing patterns.

The last book on my list is "Zero Waste Patterns" by Birgitta Helmersson. Now this is a new book just recently published, but Birgitta Helmersson's patterns are ones I see most often on social media platforms, and I also have her Cropped Shirt pattern myself. I love the Cropped Shirt pattern, it is easy to sew up, and easy to wear. My next blog will be about this pattern. But here, when I heard Birgitta was going to publish a book, I knew I had to have it. And now I do, I certainly do not regret the purchase! The book comes with 20 wearable projects all displayed in a beautiful simple aesthetic. Sewing techniques come with step-by-step photos, and the book lists ways to alter a pattern to make it a different version of the garment. Similar to conventional sewing patterns, the book comes with five 'blocks': Tee, Trouser, Singlet, Skirt and Shirt. Then it is from these blocks in which the projects are created/modified from.

In both the sewing books, the patterns are for a range of sizes though some patterns will have limitations, and the books outline this. These books are wonderful ways to get into zero waste sewing, and once you've sewn one up, you'll begin to understand the process to be able to adapt or even create a zero waste sewing pattern yourself! What I do know is that now I have at least ten of these projects ear-marked on my list to make soon!

Are there any other books or sources you'd recommend?



Haywood, E. M. (2002) Zero Waste Sewing, 16 projects to make, wear and enjoy, Australia: Cooatalaa Press

Helmersson, B. (2023) Zero Waste Patterns, London: Quadrille

Rissanen, T., McQuillan, H. (2016) Zero Waste Fashion Design, Great Britain: Bloomsbury Publishing

Please note that A KIND CLOTH is in no way affiliated with any of the products mentioned in this article. All opinions are the author's own.

Photo: Three books about Zero-Waste Sewing displayed
Photo by: A KIND CLOTH 


  • I forgot to add! Zero Waste Nähen by Stefanie Kroth. It’s in German, with a possible English translation coming. Nähen translates as sew or stitch, and the book is a collection of 25 zero waste sewing patterns. Very interesting styles, like Burda magazine meets zero waste.

    Liz Haywood
  • Hello Marine, thank you for highlighting these books and zero waste patterncutting, and thanks for coming to my talk.
    A new book, A Year of Zero Waste Sewing, will be published at the end of 2023/beginning of 2024. It’s currently being published experimentally in instalments as e-zines; the first one is free

    Liz Haywood

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