Zero Waste Gather Dress by Birgitta Helmersson

In this post I will walk you through how I made this beautify zero waste pattern #thehemlineeclectic #zerowastegatherdress #zwgatherdress #birgittahelmersson #pdxsewingstudio

The Fabric - Tencel Jacquard

Recently, I have been chatting with few different fabric companies about collaborations. I felt so grateful and honored when Karleen from PDX sewing studio agreed to collaborate and let me choose fabric from her collection. I chose this absolutely gorgeous Tencel Jacquard fabric, I spent quite a while with this fabric next to my sewing table thinking about designs that would best showcase its beauty. This fabric is 100% Tencel or lyocell in a beautiful jacquard weave (I am very partial to this weave). The color is absolutely gorgeous. It is a dark hunter's green with lighter streaks going across in random patterns. It has a checkered design in jacquard which is very fine and gives you an opportunity to pattern match!

The fabric itself is 5.8oz/yard which would make this a more mid-weight fabric but because it is made out of tencel, it still has a lovely hand and drape.

Choosing a pattern

This fabric would look amazing for so many different patterns. I made a list of different patterns initially, I had on my list,

1. Demeter dress by Anna Allen Clothing

2. Fibremood Susan by FIbremood

3. Kalle Shirt dress by Closer Core Patterns

4. Olya Shirt Dress by Paper Theory Patterns

5. Zero Waste Gather Dress by Birgitta Helmersson

After a couple weeks of looking at different sewists I love and how theirs turned out I had finally narrowed it down to either the Demeter Dress or the Zero Waste Gather Dress. While I was researching, I noticed that one my favorite sewists Mel from Melt Stitiches had recently made both patterns in beautiful linens. I reached out to her and she recommended that a more firm linen would look better as a Demeter dress and suggested I make the zero waste gather dress with this Tencel. I was a little bit worried about the weight of this fabric and how much volume I would end up with if I went with the zero waste pattern, but after looking at many different versions, I was not only intrigued by how rectangles can be sewn into a wearable garment, but the whole aspect of zero waste sewing and decided to forge on!

In my very brief experience with sewing, I know first hand the amount of fabric scraps and waste that gets generated by just me sewing for less than a year. Multiply this to accommodate the fashion industry and you can imagine the amount of textile waste generated and dumped into a landfill. There are many resources to better understand this process and better people to explain the impact. Please watch the documentary The True Cost to get some perspective.

For my small contribution, I am now saving every bit of scrap I generate to use as stuffing in my Closet Case Pattern Poof. It is going to be a well loved Poof! :)

Ok, back to the topic. In light of this and intrigued by trying out a zero waste pattern, I took Mel's advice and decided to make the zero waste gather dress!

The pattern has a basic cutting plan and a few different ways to hack the dress, giving you some options to think about. I decided to make the basic version.

The Zero Waste Gather Dress Pattern

This pattern, true to its name has zero waste and no waist! haha! I'm not very good with jokes! So i'm told! But I crack them anyway! :)

The instructions for this pattern is very detailed and can be a bit hard to read I would have preferred bullet points! The drawings were also a bit hard to determine which was right side or wrong side. Given these issues, I would not recommend this pattern for a beginner sewist who has not previously attached neckbands and facings before.

That said, the cutting instructions were absolutely spot on. The instructions recommend you start with 102inch of fabric. The width can your choice, the shorter the width, less fabric to gather. I noticed that most of the versions on instagram were at a midi to a maxi length dress on most women. I am pretty short (5'3") and with all this volume this dress was going to give me, I decided to make this a knee length dress.

So I adjusted the calculations of the cutting plan by reducing the length of the skirts by 10inches.

Usually, since I am short wasted, I have to always shorten my bodice length. But this bodice length seemed fine for me. I also thought I might need to take some length off the sleeves. I decided to cut it as instructed and just make a shorter hem if needed.

The fabric was very easy to work with and I decided to use my scissors to cut this out. I love using my rotary blade but with multiple calculations on this pattern, I did not want to be limited by the size of my self-healing mat. I brought out my shears and chopped away. The checkered pattern on this fabric was very helpful to cut straight lines too!! Perfect!

I was sent 3yards of this fabric by Karleen and with the shorter skirt planned, I did not use up everything. Read on to see what I did with the left over fabric!

Sewing the Dress

The instructions for this pattern, although lengthy, are very good for an intermediate sewist.

The bodice came together pretty easily. However, I had some issues fitting my sleeve into the bodice. For some reason the circumference of my sleeve turned out to be larger than the bodice armscye and I had to fiddle around a bit to make sure it fits and does not have any puckers!! I hate setting in sleeves!

The instructions recommend you hem your sleeves before you sew it to the bodice. Since I was not sure how long the sleeves would be on me, I planned on hemming it in the end. The sleeve length was fine and I hemmed the sleeves at the recommended length.

Once I passed this hurdle, the skirt and pockets were very straightforward. The instructions recommends you overlock your seams. I do not yet own and serger and have been using an overcast stitch on my machine to finish the seams. This is time-consuming right now, but I will have to invest in a serger soon.

Similar to the sleeve, the pattern recommends you hem the skirt as well before attaching the bodice. Since I was not sure of the length, I did not hem this at that time. After I tried on the dress, I realized that it was shorter than I expected. I thought I would be able to have a smaller hem.

I decided to add the neckband and see if this was possible. It was not. The neckband is drafted for the length of the hem. So I had to keep the shorter skirt, but I am still very happy with the length

Excess fabric hack

As I mentioned earlier, I was left with about a quarter yard of excess fabric. In trying to keep with the zero waste attempt, I decided to make a waist tie and loops for the dress.

I cut out the length of the tie as the whole width of the fabric and about 2inches wide. I sewed both edges and turned it out. I also made small loops and attached it to the side seams, above the gathered seam.

With it loosely tied at the back, the belt gives me a different silhouette but still show off this wonderful fabric. I love it!!

I absolutely love how this dress turned out. The color, drape and shape is gorgeous.

Techniques you will learn

Sewing this dress was truly unique. There are no pattern pieces and you are working with different sized rectangles. Apart from this unique experience you will

1. Learn to sew a "large bodice"

2. make gathers and sew it to a bodice

3. attaching a neckband

4. Attaching pockets that are a single patten piece

5. Sewing buttonholes and buttons.


In this post, I have styled my knee length dress with my brown ankle boots from Cole Haan.

Get Inspired

I highly recommend you make this dress, if only to discover what zero waste patterns are like. I would deftly make more zero waste patterns if the right fabric came along. I also highly recommend you check out Sewing Studio website. Karleen has an amazing collection of fabrics and many deadstock! I leave you here with more photos to inspire you. Please msg me or leave comments below.


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This is my sewing journey where i chat about my experience, my trials and tribulations while creating a handmade wardrobe! 

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