12 Essential Tips for Zero Waste Sewing

12 Essential Tips for Zero Waste Sewing

Recently we created a list of zero-waste sewing projects that was very well received by our readers.  A few people asked for more tips on how to go zero-waste, so we put this list together.

12 Essential Tips For Zero Waste Sewing

People sew for a variety of reasons.  Some do so out of need and some do so simply out of interest. But whether it’s fixing your worn-out clothes, creating new ones, or altering a piece that doesn’t quite fit, we can all agree that reducing your sewing waste is great for both your wallet and the environment.

To follow these tips there are only a few things needed for starters: some needles, a variety of threads, and a pair of scissors.  Here’s a short list of Essential Sewing Tools for Beginners that you might find helpful.

Sewing helps each of us in many different ways. Learning the most basic of it can save us in certain situations. Whatever reason you may have for starting to sew, you should keep in mind that you can finish your sewing tasks quickly when you have only a small or large amount of extra material that can no longer be used.

Tips for Zero Waste Sewing

Tip #1: Ensure that you have the right measurement before you make your final cut.

Be cautious in doing your measurements.  Remember, once you make a cut on your fabric, it can no longer be undone.  Make sure that you only cut the fabric after you have the right measurements so as not to put any material into waste.

As the aphorism goes: ” Measure twice, cut once.”

Tip #2: Let patterns serve as your guide.

In sewing, patterns are your best friend.  From beginners to professionals we all work with them.  Following a well-designed pattern to the letter will ensure you have the least wastage possible. Cutting on the fly and deviating from the pattern can be a big risk and for most sewists, it’s simply not worth it.

 We are all aware that when the pattern of any fabric has been cut, it can no longer be used for bigger sizes. It would be best then to avoid either trimming and cutting the pieces of pattern on the material or choosing the biggest size to cut them.

Should you decide not to cut any part of the fabric, it is suggested to have the pattern paper folded in its edge or the part you need to cut or trace. This could take a lot of time and effort, so to make it more manageable, it would be best to have the pattern cut at its biggest size. For every piece you need to use, it would help if you try to fold each of the pieces at its edge to create smaller sizes.

Tips for Zero Waste Sewing

Tip #3: Piecing

Piecing was a very common method back when the cost of fabrics was very high. It is the process of breaking into smaller pieces a large piece of fabric to ensure that the parts not needed are not wasted.  It likewise involves the process of utilizing the smaller pieces of fabrics in such a way that you maximize the whole material itself since nothing is left for scrap. Piecing ensures that two portions of smaller fabrics are put together to come up with the pattern or shape you need. While piecing is not highly recommended for many kinds of garments, it is handy for projects not used as clothing or display, like lining.

Tip #4: Seam Allowances

Having a lot of scrap material that cannot be used is very common, especially for beginners.  This is because of the allowances created when trimming the fabric in an incorrect way.  As you learn the proper skills in sewing, you will be able to do the correct way of trimming your fabric so as to not leave a lot of unusable scraps.  You don’t need to become a professional sewer to maximize the use of your resources for sewing.  You will soon realize that the extra remaining edges may actually be used still by hand-sewing them.

Tip #5: Secondhand Fabric

Another helpful tip to save on your sewing fabric is to make use of fabrics from projects you have previously done are no longer used. Purchasing materials for smaller sewing projects from thrift stores is definitely a wise choice to make.

Tips #6: Fabric Stash

We are all aware that purchasing more than what you really need is not a good habit at all. This encourages you to be unaware of the materials put to waste since you have more than enough. Not because the fabrics are on sale, then you are pushed to stock up on them. It is wiser to make a plan for the kind of project you want to be sewn and shop only for those kinds of materials.

For some more ideas on organizing your fabric stash, have a read of this:

Tip #7: New Material

You must be very cautious in selecting the quality of the fabric needed for a new project. Take into consideration certain factors such as the fabric’s weave, care guidelines, elasticity, durability, design, and cost. While there may not be a perfect quality for fabric, what is significant is the manner it is produced. Although it may be challenging to select the best kind of fabric, you can pick the right fabric if you consider the purpose for using such fabric and that you handle with proper care the finished project you have come up from it.

Tip #8: Thread

Admit it, most of us are very conscious when choosing the right fabric but thinking about the thread is the very last thing in mind. Yes, it is expected to use the thread you already have than buying a new one. But giving special attention when choosing the kind of thread to use is as essential as selecting the best fabric for your project. Did you know that threads could contain polyesters (mostly in large amounts)? When disposed of, polyesters remain polyesters and will last for a longer period of time than threads with natural fiber. So for future purchases, be conscientious and choose a different fiber, which can be a great help for zero-waste sewing.

Tips #9: Scissors

You can never underestimate how a good pair of scissors can help you benefit from your sewing tasks. Your sewing scissors should be used solely for their purpose and must be taken care of properly to maintain their sharpness. A lot of sewing fabrics are wasted because of dull or poor-quality of scissors. Always choose the best one you can use for the long term.

Tip #10: Save your scraps

Whatever amount or size remains from your fabric, make sure that you have storage to keep them. You will never know when you might need a small piece of fabric, and you can save time and resources when you have your scraps in a single place. You may find it very helpful that these actually recycled materials combined with new materials can last for a valuable length of time. There are several ways to utilize recycled textiles depending on their sizes. Just use your creativity, and you can definitely save a lot.

Tips for Zero Waste Sewing
Fabric breaking down in a compost bin.

Tips #11: Composting

Disposal of old materials should be the last option. There are numerous types of textiles that decompose for as long as six months. This process can actually help our environment with the disposal of waste. You just need to clearly identify if the unused textiles you have can indeed be decomposed. If you are unsure, it is best not to proceed. However, you have to keep in mind that composting should always be your last resort.

Tip #12: Pins and Needles

Obviously, specific sewing materials, including pins and needles, cannot be recycled. In cases when they get broken or are impossible to be used, be careful to dispose of them properly. Never leave them attached to your scrapped or recycled fabrics and materials to avoid anybody from being hurt or having an accident.

I hope you enjoyed these essential tips for zero-waste sewing.  If you have more ideas on how to practice zero waste while sewing please make sure to leave them in the comments below for the other readers.

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Bra Strap Tutorial, Easier Than You Think

Bra Strap Tutorial, Easier Than You Think

This bra strap tutorial will be useful for a few of our past and future patterns.  So, I do not want to repeat myself and will be referring back to this tutorial for a few more patterns since the season of parties is just about to start.

Bra straps can be in many widths.  The most important detail is to match the width of the slider and ring with the elastic.

This bra strap tutorial is one of the tutorials that you will need to finish the camisole top that I shared with you last week.

Anatomy of a Bra Strap

Bra Strap Tutorial

The slider: The slider has two holes and a bridge.

The ring:  The ring can be oval or round and it is used to attach the strap to the back of the bra.


  • Two Sliders
  • Two Rings
  • 42″ of bra elastic or a strap in the width of the slider and the ring


Sewing machine or a hand needle.

How to Assemble a Bra Strap

Cut the elastic in half making two strips of 21″ each.

Cut 2.5″ off from each strip, leaving the longer strip at 18.5″ and the shorter one 2.5″.

Insert the elastic under the first hole

Over the bridge through the other hole.

Sew using a small zigzag

Thread the ring and pass the end of the strap under the first hole making sure the other end of the strap with the slider is facing down.

Pass the strap over the bridge and through the other hole. Thread the small piece of the strap you cut earlier through the ring.   This end will be sewed to the back.  This part back trap can also be replaced by a strap made with the same material of the top you are making or a ribbon.   The other end will be sewn to the front of the top or a bra.

Where to use this bra strap tutorial?

My favorite place is for silk camisoles and bralettes. Following are some more patterns where you will need this tutorial.  As always if you need any clarification, have comments, or have any tip to add to this tutorial, please leave them in the comments section below.  Until next time, happy sewing!

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The Placket Pattern & Tutorial – For The Tailored Shirt Look

The Placket Pattern & Tutorial – For The Tailored Shirt Look

placket pattern

This is the placket pattern & tutorial.  A placket is a detail often used in tailored shirts and blouses. This is one of the skills that will raise your sewing to the next level.

But first, let’s make sure everyone knows what we’re talking about.  According to Wikipedia:

placket (also spelled placquet) is an opening in the upper part of trousers or skirts, or at the neck or sleeve of a garment.[1] Plackets are almost always used to allow clothing to be put on or removed easily, but are sometimes used purely as a design element. Modern plackets often contain fabric facings or attached bands to surround and reinforce fasteners such as buttons, snaps, or zippers.

Yes, I think you know where I am going with this placket pattern & tutorial.  I just love these super simple techniques that make your projects look much more professional.  I have found the absolute easiest way to make a tailored placket for the crisp looking shirt that I will soon share with you.

You can use this placket pattern in just about any sleeve you wish to have buttons and cuffs.  A placket is always found in a tailored shirt of man and woman, but it is a bit tricky to sew so I am sharing with you an easy and fail-proof way.  While most sleeves patterns come with their placket pattern, you can use the pattern I am sharing with you in case you want to add a placket to a shirt you already have.


  • Fabric from the shirt or a contrasting one.
  • An erasable pen, or tailor’s chalk
  • An iron
  • A ruler

Pattern Download

Get the Pattern HERE

Once printed, transfer the placket pattern to your fabric using a tailor’s chalk, pencil or an erasable ink pen.  You might want to try a Frixion pen.

There are two pieces to the pattern:  The Overlap and the Underlap.  Place the fabric print sides together and cut out two pieces, two for each sleeve.  We will start folding the pieces, this is an important step so we do not sew the pieces on the wrong side of the sleeve.

How To Use This Placket Pattern Tutorial

This is the contemporary drafting and sewing technique of a placket pattern & tutorial for a man’s or woman’s shirt.  There are other ways to sew a placket but I have given you the universally know tailoring technique.

Note: this is not a mass-produced technique used in large factories.

Step One:  Preparing The Overlap

Fold the Overlap print sides together and

placket pattern

sew the edge at 1/4″ (A), trim the corner at a 90-degree angle (B),  Trim (C) and turn sharp triangle.

placket pattern

Turn the triangle right side out (D). Iron.placket pattern

Fold the 3/8″ line on the side where the triangle is located.

placket pattern

placket pattern

Fold the 1/4″ line on the opposite side of the triangle.placket pattern

placket pattern

placket pattern

The following pictures are going to be key to making the placket on the right side of the sleeve and in the correct order.

placket pattern

placket pattern

Step Two:  Preparing The Underlap

placket pattern

Fold 1/4″ on the side.

placket pattern

Then fold in both sides on the sides. placket pattern

You will use the creases as a sewing guide to attaching the underlap to the sleeve.

placket pattern

Here are both pieces of the pattern.  Overlap on top and Underlap at the bottom.

placket pattern

Step Three:  Placing The Pieces Of The Placket On The Sleeve

It is important to pay attention to this step since it will make or break your project.   Placing the pieces in the correct placement will ensure your success.

The Overlap is placed print side down on the wide side of the placement line or towards the front of the sleeve.placket pattern

placket pattern

Align the edges of the Underlap and Overlap on the placement line

placket pattern

Using the fold lines already made by the iron sew on each line next to the placement line stopping right at the end of the placket.

placket pattern

placket pattern

Cut in between the stitching lines or on the placement line.  Stop at 1/4″ and cut to the corner but not through.

placket pattern

placket patternStep Four:  Sewing The Underlap

Bring the Underlap from the wrong side of the sleeve to the right side and iron the stitching line.

placket pattern

Pin the Underlap over the stitching line and sew. Iron.

placket pattern

Step Five:  Sewing The Overlap

Turn the Overlap to the right side of the sleeve and iron the stitching line.

placket pattern

Fold the Overlap over the stitching line. You will find that the Overlap will do this naturally since it was folded previously using the iron.

placket pattern

Stitch close to the folded edge from 3/8″ of the Jog level to the end of the Overlap.

placket pattern

placket pattern

Now it is time to sew the Overlap Over the Underlap.

  1. Keeping the Underlap away from the Overlap sew the edge at 1/16″ from the end of the overlap to the first corner.placket pattern
  2. Slide the Underlap under the Overlap and sew from the corner to the tipplacket pattern
  3. From the tip to the left corner
  4. From the left corner join the stitching line with the previously stitched line.placket pattern
  5. Sew across the packet and create a rectangle catching this way the Underlap and the Overlap, you are now ready to sew the underarm stitch.placket pattern

Most of the commercial and Indy Patterns will include a placket pattern but not always a detailed step-by-step tutorial on how to make one.  The Placket is a contemporary tailoring technique that is both feared and respected by fashion design students and newbie seamstresses alike.

This is one of the techniques that will move you from a beginner to intermediate-level sewists.  Take up the challenge and learn this technique so you can join me in making a special, tailored blouse coming soon.

placket pattern

placket pattern

Let me know what you think of this Placket tutorial in the comments below, also if you want to see more interesting techniques to take your sewing projects to the next level.


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Shirring Without Elastic Thread | So Sew Easy

Shirring Without Elastic Thread | So Sew Easy

shirring without elastic threadSo what is shirring anyway?

In preparation for a new project this week, I want to introduce you to a technique called shirring (which is sometimes known as smocking) with a simple practice tutorial.  According to Wikipedia, “shirring is two or more rows of gathers that are used to decorate parts of garments, usually sleeves, bodice or yoke.”  With shirring, the gathers can be both decorative as well as functional since elastic can be used to draw in the gathers giving the garment more give to accommodate different sizes.

Most techniques you’ll see around will show you how to do shirring with elastic thread.  Personally, I think that technique has some significant limitations, so I’m going to show you how you can do shirring without elastic thread and using normal elastic.  When you use elastic thread, this thread can irritate wearers with sensitive skin.  Also, to use elastic thread you need to wind the thread onto the bobbin of your sewing machine and it can sometimes cause problems with the machine because the thread stretches.  Finding correct thread tension can be a challenge.

Lighter fabrics work best for shirring.  You’ll need to use really strong elastic if you’re planning to try to gather thick and heavy fabric like denim.  For more Tips for Sewing Denim, please review this tutorial.

Shirring without elastic thread

Shirring without elastic thread is a technique that calls for a bit of patience, but the payoff is fantastic!  This technique is best used on garments that will be close to the skin like pajama pants, children’s clothing or corset-inspired tops where the person that wears the garment has sensitive skin and is bothered by elastic rubbing against the skin.  Shirring without elastic thread allows for a bit of movement and room to breath, while also making the garment last much longer than when using elastic thread.  For best results, it is better to use 1/4″ or 3/8″ elastic.  You can use thinner, of course, but that will depend on your fabric and the design you have in mind.

Where to use shirring without elastic thread?

This type of shirring does not give you a lot of elasticity if you use a thick fabric like damask or brocade, but it will give you the support needed for evening gowns, crop tops, and soft corset tops that do not require a lot of boning.  With cotton lawn fabric and 1/4″ elastic, you can make a very soft and glorious pair of pants perfect for a Sunday morning.  But I guess my favorite place to use this technique is on self-lined crop tops.


  • elastic
  • quilting cotton, cotton pique, rayon, challis linen, or silk dupioni.  (You’ll need a couple of rectangles of the same size for this practice.  Roughly a square foot should be enough.)
  • thread to match your fabric
  • a loop turner or safety pins
  • pins

Shirring without elastic thread tutorial

I am using a scrap of fabric with a dark thread so you can see the stitches better.  To begin our shirring practice project, take the two pieces you will be working on right sides facing in,

Untitled design(85)
shirring with out elastic thread

sew the top at 5/8″.  Open the 2 pieces and iron the seams to one side.  Topstitch on the seam allowance. 

shirring without elstic thread

Trim the seam allowance to half.

shirring without elastic thread

Turn your work right-sides facing out and iron again.  Pin the sides so that the fabric doesn’t move and the edge becomes distorted.  Start by making a row of stitches a little wider than the elastic you are using.  I am using a 1/4″ elastic, so my rows are 3/8″ wide starting from the edge.  Sew the first row.  Since half of my foot is 1/4″ wide, I will be using my foot as a rough guide.  If you are planning to make this row larger, I suggest you use a ruler to mark the rows otherwise is very hard to eyeball it and keep the rows straight and consistent.

Untitled design(87)

Sew the entire piece, but stop when you have a bit more than 5/8″ at the bottom.  This seam allowance is indispensable to finish the hem of the garment or the waistband if you are making pants or a skirt.

Untitled design(100)

Finishing the shirring without elastic thread

Cut the elastic pieces to 1/2 to 3/4 of the length of your pattern and measurement requirements.  For example, the piece without being stretched should match your body measurements.   How many pieces of elastic will depend upon how many rows you have sewn.

Attach a safety pin at one end of the elastic.  The safety pin will help the elastic stay outside of the fabric as you draw the elastic through the rows.

Shirring without elastic thread
Untitled design(88)

Use your loop turner to pull the elastic to the other side.  If you do not have a loop turner simply attach another safety pin and thread the elastic through the rows.

Untitled design(93)

Secure the elastics that have been drawn through the rows with a safety pin or pins.

Untitled design(94)

Leave the last row empty because this is what you are going to need to integrate the shirring into and finish the garment. 

Untitled design(101)
Untitled design(102)

Sew along each edge of the piece where the pins are to permanently hold everything in place.  And there you have it.  You can use this piece as a beautiful and functional part of your new project.
In my case, I am making this crop top for a party dress.  We’ll share a tutorial for this fun project with you all shortly.  You can see some of it below.

I hope you enjoyed this alternative, and I think a better, way of shirring without using elastic thread.

I know is not the easiest, but when it is applied to the right garment, the effect is very elegant and comfortable to wear.  It will also last a long, long time.

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10 Tips for Sewing Your Own Wedding Dress

10 Tips for Sewing Your Own Wedding Dress

Choosing the Pattern and Design that Suits Your Body Type

Sewing Your Own Wedding Dress

Let’s be real. All bride-to-be’s see this beautiful dress with such a sophisticated design and we imagine we can wear it for the big day. But no! Wedding dresses are really pretty, but not everybody can wear all designs that we see. So if you are going to make your own wedding dress, consider your body type. A tight-hugging wedding dress might not look good on you, so you can opt for another design that flatters your shape and in which you can easily move around and not have trouble dancing during your wedding party.

For more tips to make your style match your figure, please check out the linked post.

Be Realistic: The Simpler, the Better

Sewing Your Own Wedding Dress

If you are going to make your own wedding dress, choose a simple yet elegant design. You must anticipate the activities that will come your way before the wedding day. So choose a design that you are you can finish at least 2 weeks before your big day.

Consider Your Wedding Location and Probable Weather On Your Wedding Day

Sewing Your Own Wedding Dress

Are you getting married on a beach? Or in a garden? Consider your wedding location and probable weather during the wedding day. Plan ahead, check the location to suit your dress’ length, design, and fabric. This keeps you from being stressed and uncomfortable in what you wear. Your wedding is a special day, so you better be all smiles the whole day.

Choose the Best Bridal Fabric

Sewing Your Own Wedding Dress

You will be the one wearing the dress you are going to sew, and your wedding day would be a long one. After the ceremonies, dining, and party after that, you got to be super comfortable in what you wear. And the fabric that you choose for your dress would be a big factor to its comfort. Bear in mind that you are going to sew the wedding dress so you have to make sure that the fabric is easy to handle, durable, and light enough to give your dress that elegant look.

Have Several Sketches of Your Wedding Dress

Sewing Your Own Wedding Dress

Don’t stick to just one dress sketch. Experiment in every angle of the dress and consider everything that would make your sewing easy and stress-free. Also, having several dress sketches allows you to draw different changes on different sketches so as not to confuse you when you decide to make it final.

Create a Muslin Mock-up

You don’t want to cut your precious wedding dress fabric the wrong way. To prevent this, you must create a muslin mock-up dress so you can “fit and test” the dress and do adjustments. It is always wise to not cut your fabric right away because remember, you have invested in buying that for your wedding dress. So a “trial dress” or popularly known as muslin mockup dress is always a good idea.

Consider Using Embellishments

A simple wedding dress doesn’t mean it has to be “plainly boring” Consider using some embellishments on some parts of the dress. See to it that the embellishments suit your dress design and it doesn’t ruin the fabric for your dress. Beware of embellishments that irritate your skin when you rub yourself into it. You wouldn’t like a red scratch on your arm or leg on your very special day.

Compare Material Costs

Sewing Your Own Wedding Dress

You decided to sew your own wedding dress because of many reasons.

Some of the reasons might be:

  1. You really want to do it yourself
  2. You are an expert in doing it
  3. You are on a tight budget

If you are sewing your own wedding dress because of the 3rd reason, might as well compare costs wisely. Do not just go inside a textile store or in a mall and immediately buy the first item you see. Try to look around and compare costs according to your chosen designs. It is very helpful to write down the different costs of the materials per store that you visit so that when it is time to decide, you have a reference for doing so.

Decide on Any Changes

sewing your own wedding dress

If you have finished the muslin mock-up dress, fit it and look at yourself carefully in the mirror from all angles. If you want to change something, whether it’s something in the design or the size, or the length of the dress, write all your ideas down and decide what you really want to see in your final wedding dress.


Sewing Your Own Wedding Dress

Even if you have given yourself a lot of time allowance to finish the dress, you must be ahead of it to avoid stress. Always stick to your timeline in sewing the dress and placing the embellishments, if any. It is always helpful to have a checklist along with the date that you plan to do it. Never, never trust the feeling that your wedding day is too far or the feeling that you only have to do finishing touches to your wedding dress. You will never know what might happen so better yet, be always on time, if not ahead of your sewing schedule.

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