Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Aspiring to Zero Waste

Final waist from front
The Zero Waste movement in fashion continues to be interesting to me. I made my first waste-free garment last summer (as an aside, it was also waist-free). It was just an experiment but I find that it is my go-to summer top. So waist-free or waste-free, I think I rate that one a success.

The monpei pants pattern found in the Folkwear Japanese Field Clothing pattern can be waste-free. I've wanted to try it out to see what is sacrificed when simple pull-on pants are constructed waste-free. Unlike the super-clever and well-schooled designers who manage attractive, fashion-forward approaches in their waste-free design, these pants are composed of  simple rectangles. This of course makes it fairly easy to be waste-free, especially if you have traditional Japanese fabric which is 14-17 inches wide.

I thought this pattern might work well as PJ pants, and I definitely wouldn't want to experiment with an unusual pants design using costly Japanese fabric, even if I had some. I did happen to have some semi-sheer, soft cotton with an interesting texture. I wondered if I could squeeze PJ pants out of the fabric left over from cutting a PJ top.

It barely fit - so I guess these really are zero-waste.

So how do you construct pants out of rectangles? Basically you cut 4 rectangles that are long enough for your pants, and wide enough for your hips or waist, whichever is larger. Then you cut a wedge out of the two back rectangles right at the hem. This wedge is flipped up and sewn back back onto the pants to form the crotch. A gusset. So cool.

Gusset in progress

Finished gusset
Then each back leg is sewn to each front leg. Of course, given the removed and reattached wedge, the grain of the back legs is off at the bottom. But this actually gives it an interesting shape there too. There is a small patch pocket on the front and pleats are formed in the waist of both the front and back.

Once the front and back legs are attached at the inner seam, then the crotch seam is sewn. So now only the side seams remain. They are sewn from the hem to within about 6 inches of the waist. This is left open. A combination waistband-plus-ties is sewn to the top of the fronts, and another is sewn to the top of the backs. The back ties are supposed to wrap around to the front and tie; the front ties are the opposite.

The ties did not work for me. Just too uncomfortable. I could barely stand to look at them on me.

And the crotch depth was too shallow for me.

pants from back
So I took the waistband off, sewed up the side seams, attached another waistband one-to-one to the top of the pants, then used the old waistband to make a tie to thread through the waistband.

Much better now. I can pull up the drawstrings to have it sit on my hips, not at the waist where the shallow crotch depth becomes a problem.

Maybe I'll make another pair and try to adjust the crotch seam so that it is longer. The only thing needed is a longer rectangle. Still not a perfectly fitted pair of pants, but certainly interesting and fun!


  1. A cute, funky pair of pj bottoms!

  2. Major kudos for trying this! & thanks for the detailed report. I'm willing to give this a shot....

    & love that fabric!