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13 to 0 …exploring sustainable design with the Disappearing Nine-Patch to create a zero waste garment

Sadly, the fashion industry is the second most wasteful industry in the world. Approximately 15% of the total fabric used in garment pattern cutting is waste. In Thirteen to Zero, I have been working with historical cloth-cutting techniques to further reduce the fabric waste in my garments. Dorothy K. Burnham’s book, Cut my Cote, has been a great resource.

Throughout history, garment design was influenced by the width of the loom. Because cloth was so labor intensive to create, every square inch that could be used was used.  The width of the cloth that could be produced put limits on the design. Most of these looms wove 10” to 24” wide fabric. The garments showed off the fabric with clean lines and simple cuts.

For Thirteen to Zero, unless I wove each of the textiles myself, the challenge to recreate these historic designs with zero waste using today’s fabrics was the width of the available yardage – primarily 45” to 60” wide!  To make a top based on an early 20th century Ukrainian woman’s shirt, I created my own textile using purchased wool jersey yardage and the Disappearing Nine Patch quilt block.

Disappearing Nine-PatchIMG_3969

This block pattern has been used by quilters since the 19th century. It is a variation of the popular nine-patch block, is simple to make and offers interesting variations by turning and arranging the cut blocks.

For the women’s top in Thirteen to Zero, I cut the wool jersey into squares and eco printed each square with plant material before assembling the new textile. You can use any size square to make your textile (or quilt) and any number of same-sized squares as long as the number of squares you use is divisible by nine. To create each block, sew nine squares in three rows, each row with three squares. The next step is to cut each block in half twice – once vertically and once horizontally. Each group of nine squares will yield four disappearing nine-patch blocks. Now rearrange the blocks for pattern variation and sew them together to create your desired width and length. The finished width of two of these disappearing nine-patch blocks was the perfect width for my textile. The combined length for the front and back of this top was two blocks wide by four blocks long and two by two for each sleeve.

The garments and accessories displayed in this exhibition have been created using eco conscious methods. Each textile is earth inspired and sourced using plant materials, mineral pigments, rusting techniques and other methods that evolve from earth elements.  However, the focus of this exhibition is on mindful garment design.

Thirteen to Zero – In undertaking this exploration, moving from minimal waste, a thirteen fabric scrap garment design to no waste, an enhanced commitment to mindful, zero waste design evolved.
Dawn Michelle Russell