Zero waste and Fibres West 2019

If you follow me on Instagram you will know that I’ve recently been away for a week staying at an agricultural college called Muresk in the wheatbelt region of WA. It’s normally freezing cold at this time of the year but we were blessed with quite mild weather and beautiful misty mornings.

I was enrolled to do the zero waste pattern making course with Holly McQuillan and it did not disappoint! We began by making paper models


Watched demonstrations


and then set about making our own zero waste patterns. To everyone’s surprise we started with a coat. We all thought that would be the climax, but no, it was the beginning! I decided to use a double faced wool that I got very cheaply at Knitwit as the grey side was covered in little flaws. Of course I chose the grey side as my main side, presenting a slight problem, but onwards and upwards! I also decided to use the painted seam method. This means that the pattern pieces are actually painted on to the fabric, thereby sealing the edges, so no further treatment is needed. Well sort of!

I spent a lot of time on the floor painting this coat pattern on, even being plunged into darkness by a security guy who hadn’t seen me!

There are a couple of lines missing in this photo but you get the gist.


I fiddled around with this for a while before summoning the courage to cut into those lines. I decided to eyeball my cut lines as being halfway through the painted bit.


As a lot of the painting was done in the late evening, it probably isn’t the best, but I went with it. I may touch it up now that it’s finished.

I didn’t take as many photos as I promised myself I would, but here is the collar join at the top. My fabric had stretched to billyo so I was trying to find a way to make the yoke fit on the lower back. Gathering it was not the answer!


In the end I went for a centre double tuck which was Holly’s suggestion. A terrible photo but it’s the best one I’ve got.

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I sewed the entire thing together pretty quickly using the overlapped seam method. This meant that I could make it reversible too, and more on that shortly.

I had two problems with the grey side of the coat – the aforementioned flaws, and the fact that I managed to splash a bit of paint where it had no business being splashed!

I had cut out a couple of lapel facings which I decided not to use so cut them up and used them as patches for the flaws, which maintained the zero waste integrity of the coat.  You can see one of the patches in the photo above, and several in the photo below. Not my favourite treatment, but needs must!


The shape of the coat is quite interesting. This is the grid, taken from the Make Use website.

I’ve highlighted with yellow lines which, when cut off and sewn back on, give the sculptural look to the coat. The pattern pieces are rotated before being sewn back on which changes their form.

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By cutting off the hem band and moving it round the body, I now have a shorter front than back, even though the pattern was completely level. The same effect happens with the sleeves.


The square neckline is formed by sewing together the cut ends. It does leave this gap at the neck and I still don’t know if I like it. It is an easy fix though – just sew a piece in here – a couple of my classmates sewed contrasting pieces in the back section.


It was suggested that the grey with mustard painting was the nicer side of the coat, but I have been playing with the blue side as I think it will be quite useful. I put a patch pocket on the blue side as I had an extra rectangle of fabric. I handstitched it with blanket stitch.


The centre inverted pleat and cut out back neck. IMG_8396

The back centre seam is off centre because of the construction – it is in the centre on the other side. I might think about this if I do it again. I blanket stitched along the seam joining the yoke to the bottom to neaten it all up. I might have to play with the sleeves too.

One of the lovely things about the Fibres West event is catching up with people and I caught up with Fran, who I’ve been friends with on IG for ages. We had such a blast! I’m wearing my nuno felted tunic made a while back.


I also made a pattern called the Arc dress. The jury is well and truly out on this one. I think I should have used a soft fabric, but used what I had, which was this very crisp mustard cotton from the Morrison sale. I do understand how to make the dress now though as I made every mistake in the book – I cut the neck out on the front and the back instead of just the front, and then I had to cover up the second neckline with a big triangle, which isn’t really visible here. The smaller triangle below the split covers up another problem, which was some untidy sewing done in the middle of the night – yes, we worked really hard!.


I sewed the sleeves (cutting the slots for them too) on to the back instead of the front, which meant that I had to cut the tops off the front and back and switch them, so I now have a horizontal seam across the front and back, which I think screams “art smock” and makes me look like I’m very pregnant! In desperation I gathered up a bunch of fabric but I don’t think it’s fooling anyone.


I may try this one again, but I’ve now made the tee shirts from the website and much prefer their shape on me. This one is made from a silk tablecloth given to me by my friend Leonie. I was experimenting with this one and have made a couple more, which I shall be reporting on soonish. This is the same as the little paper model at the beginning of the post. I am wearing tracksuit bottoms and have swimming pool hair, so this is completely unstyled and not overly well pressed, but I am rather enamoured of the colour.


There are lots of other lovely things about the Fibres West event, including slide presentations from each of the twelve tutors, a themed movie (this year it was about the Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama), evening activities, traders selling all sorts of wonderful things, a bazaar, and so much more! The bazaar is fabulous and I got quite a lot of beautiful fabric, including to-die-for Japanese silk, and a whole box of zips! I also managed to snag an Elna Stella TSP Electronic sewing machine from the 1980s. This is almost the same as the Elna Lotus, but has more stitches. So I now have two similar machines, one of which lives at the holiday place (the Lotus) and the Stella hangs about at home with the big girls.  I think it’s time to start selling off some of my sewing machine stash!

There was an artist in residence, Tania Spencer, who created a Taj Mahal from tape. It was quite beautiful and lovely to walk through. IMG_8183

The art installation was totally appropriate as the theme for the Friday night finale dinner and dancing was “Bollywood”. Here I am in my sari before it all fell off! I’ve had the wig since I was 19, when I needed it to be a bridesmaid for a really fussy bride. It’s real hair so would be worth a few dollars now. It was suggested to me that I need to look after it better (ie not lend it to sons for fancy dress parties), so I took it home, conditioned it, got all the tangles out and now it’s in a fat plait. I need to mention at this point that I spent most of the evening completely incognito. It was rather fun – even some of my classmates had no idea who I was for a while. IMG_8185

The centre “jewel” on my head started off ok, but as the night wore on it finished up somewhere along my nose, annoying the heck out of me!

Case in point! Having a laugh with the lovely Fran.


This orange dress was made using a zero waste pattern in class – a tube dress. It’s the easiest thing in the world to make. I used fabric from Woven Stories, but I think the bling round the neck was a bit heavy as it seemed to be growing alarmingly as the evening wore on.

Holly made herself this gorgeous dress for the night. All her edges are painted, and I thought you might like to see what a professional can make.

Most of my photos were live, so I turned this one into a gif. We had such a good time! The music seems to have got lost in translation though!

Finally, I was out for my walk one morning when there was a massive burst of air over my head and it was a hot air balloon. I followed it along the road for a while. It was the most magnificent day for it as it ascended into those pink and pearly clouds.



18 thoughts on “Zero waste and Fibres West 2019

  1. That looks like a fabulous event. Thanks for sharing. If only Australia weren’t so far away! I have made one zero-waste item – a skirt – and I really love it. I’ll have to look into this some more.

    1. Have a look at the website and you’ll see that it’s quite straightforward really. Holly has also written a book that you may be able to get from the library. Well worth experimenting with!

  2. That looks both fascinating and great fun. The clothes may not be to everyone’s tastes but they are very inspiring.

    1. I think it’s just an interesting process and modifications can be made so they are not quite as sacklike. I shall be doing more!

  3. That looks so fun and even if the outcomes weren’t always perfect for you, it’s definitely offered a whole lot of new ideas and skills to apply.

    1. Thank you Tracy, I just realised today that I’ve become a bit fearless about cutting and pasting fabric together. I learned a lot from the course.

  4. You are very lucky to follow a class with Holly McQuillan. Zero waste patterns are so fascinating. I came across her when she turned the Studio Faro Kimono dress into a zero waste version. I’ve just finished a 1/4 model of this dress for trying before making one in my size.

    1. Yes, this dress is in her book and I’m planning to try it. I agree, zero waste is such a fascinating concept. I can’t wait to see your version of the dress!

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