Zero waste trousers

The aftermath of my participation in the zero waste pattern workshop with Holly McQuillan continues and I’ve spent a bit of time on this concept since I got home.

Holly made a pair of zero waste trousers whilst she was in class and they looked fantastic on her. I tried them on and they fitted me (!) so I immediately traced the pattern. The only suitable fabric that I had with me was the leftover mustard cotton from the zero waste  Arc top, so I cut them out of that. They weren’t a success, so I unpicked them completely.

I had a day of sewing with Sarah from Pattern Union and, although we had planned to work on something quite different, we finished up going down the zero waste rabbit hole. I produced my mustard trouser pieces and my trouser block and we set about reworking the pattern to be zero waste. Such an interesting process. I had the original tracing to show how all the pieces fitted together and we finished up with this after making the alterations.


Then we retraced it to create a new pattern and laid it on some wool from the Morrison (Perth designer) sale. You can see that the fabric is the exact width required, which was lucky.


When all the pieces were cut out this is how they looked. Some of the pieces are identifiable, such as the legs, back yoke, the pocket bags and the waistband on the left, but the extra bits are the fly pieces and the leftovers were turned into back pockets. The tiny little scraps over to the right are all that were thrown away.


I need this photo so that I can reproduce the layout.

I always struggle to get trousers to fit at the back but these are perfect


I wore them to the local craft show and felt really comfortable, but the photos don’t show the trousers really clearly or do them justice. The amazing jacket, by the way, was given to me by my lovely friend Thelma. It is made of patchworked suede with a beautiful silk lining and had the most enormous shoulders and shoulder pads that had migrated to interesting places so I took it apart and recut it. I had to sacrifice a bit of the design but at least I no longer look as though I’m a refugee from an episode of Dynasty!


Some details of the trousers:

There were a couple of rectangles left over so they became welts for the front pockets.


The waistband was really long, so instead of cutting it off we fed it through the front belt loop and allowed it to wrap round my waist to the side. I secured it on the inside with a couple of hidden buttons (also from the Morrison sale). This is a detail that I rather like.


All the other leftover pieces became patchworked back pockets which are so interesting. Just look at that fit at the back!


The wool crinkles a lot and they don’t press out. I’ve decided that I’m embracing those wrinkles.

Quite a few people asked about grainlines, and they are just as important with zero waste as with any other pattern. The legs have to be on grain, and as many other pieces as possible. I think we managed to get every piece of the pattern on grain.

Close up detail of the pockets. You might note that there is a weird topstitched rectangle on the bottom right. This is because I got confused as to where I was up to when sewing them on, and did the little finishing rectangle in the wrong place. I decided to leave it where it was and call it a design feature!


The fly pieces are rectangular with no curve on the end, so we embraced the squared off end by following it with the topstitching and adding a little detail. It’s a bit hard to see because the thread is such a good match. IMG_6202

Sarah took some photos of me in her garden before they were finished, teaming them with my Pattern Union Molly tee, and triangle feather and fan jumper, which is basically six triangular shapes sewn together.


And in my garden with them finished.


Having declared these a success I went back to my mustard trousers. Holly had used a very soft and drapey linen, and this cotton fabric is so densely woven that it’s hard to get a pin through it, so I think that contributed to the rather baggy backside that I finished up with. This photo was taken so that I could see how they looked, but I decided to share it so you could see the problem. IMG_0065

Holly’s design is for high waisted, wide legged trousers, which I really wanted, but alas, not this time!

As previously mentioned I took the component parts to Sarah and we reworked them. They no longer really qualify for zero waste as bits got cut off; I could have fashioned the pieces into quirky design features, but decided not to.

The original trousers were made from scraps and one of the back legs has an interesting seam across it!IMG_3438

One of the things we noticed is that I have a rise of 24cm and these trousers had a rise of 32cm – quite a difference and although they are supposed to be high waisted, the length in the rise made them baggy in the crotch.

These have now been recut and remade and what a difference! I took these photos in Tom and Bridgette’s garden, with Heidi stealing the show.



You can’t tell from this photo but the fly was given the same decorative treatment as the other pair. The fabric has zero give and zero drape, so they are rather firmer than I would perhaps want, but they certainly fit well!




These are such a big improvement over the ones I first made, but I absolutely can’t wait to make another pair and test the zero waste pattern layout with some drapey linen.


19 thoughts on “Zero waste trousers

  1. Talk about consolidating your learning! What a fantastically successful exercise: trousers that fit perfectly and look great, zero waste use of fabric, and plenty of exercising the little grey cells. Amazing, well done, top of the class!

    1. Thank you Linda, I think these trousers need drape, but I have managed to use up all the leftover scraps from the mustard trousers, so all was not lost!

  2. Fantastic fit! I am going to see if I can replicate your layout using my blocks. It would be good to try the zero waste method – and if mine can look even half as good as yours I’ll be very happy ☺

  3. The mustard ones are definitely a success after being reworked with your improved design. What a fantastic sewing experience! BTW, I love the feather and fan jumper. Is it a self drafted pattern?

    1. Thank you, I really like them. I did have a pattern for the jumper but I can’t find it, which is such a pain, as I’d like another one. I don’t think it would be too hard to replicate and I think it could be improved upon. I might have a play and then I’ll share it with you.

  4. These are ahmahzing!! Generally zero-waste seems to end up more arty than everyday, which is generally fine, but these are fantastic pairs of trousers you could wear anywhere, any time. So efficient. So cool!

  5. Wow, Sue, these are amazing! The wool ones came out fantastically, and I’m so impressed with the way you overhauled the mustard ones… they’ve become my favourite!! 👍👏🙏🤗

    1. Thank you Andrew, the mustard ones are a bit tight so I’m working on fitting into them better, which is good motivation to give up chocolate!

  6. After chatting in London, I was so curious to see what the class with Holly would be like and what you will end up making. I really love the versions you ended up with! Great fit and as someone said, very ‘normal’ looking (as opposed to artsy). Really well done to you (and Sarah!).

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