How to Cut and Sew a Minimum Waste Sweater

If the diagram above makes your eyes cross and gives you a pounding headache, then this article isn’t for you. Though a zero waste specialist would consider my design quite simple, I admit to being quite happy with the way it turned out.

I'm pretty sure that similar tops have been made thousands of times before. The cutting and sewing took about a minute. (I exaggerate.) The planning took a couple of days, but not full days, just every now and then over a period of two days in January.

I broke a few rules with the wool sweater knit I was using. We're usually told to work with the stretchiest direction around the body. (I've certainly said that enough times.) But Saint Cloud sweater knit is lightweight and relatively stable. I found it stable enough for me to use with the stretchiest direction hanging as the yoke; the rest of the bodice is lightweight enough not to pull on the yoke and stretch it out. Even without shoulder seams or stabilization, it works.

Most of the sweater's details were described in my previous post about this sweater.

As I look at my layout today, I see a few possible variations:
  • Rotate the layout 90 degrees so that the orientation for each main piece switches. This way I could probably use a heavier fabric, since the yoke would better support the weight of the bodice. That is, lay it out and sew the sweater so that the finished sweater hangs...

  • Add bands to the sleeves (as cuffs) and at the hem. It would use more fabric, but it fits into my sewing with rectangles theme. :)
  • Use one sweater knit fabric for the yoke and a totally different one for the bodice. 
  • And of course making a pocket with the cut out fabric from neckline.
Scraps from the trimming the hems and the neckline
Perhaps my wool sweater is seasonally inappropriate as the temperature reaches above 80° F today in New York City. As Fashion Revolution Week 2017 comes to an end, however, I'm glad that I could post my pattern for a minimum waste cut and sew sweater today. The Fashion Revolution must take place each day, of course.

How to Cut and Sew a Minimum Waste Sweater -- The Pattern

This sweater is comfortably loose. I used a yard and a quarter of relatively stable sweater fabric. With half-inch seam allowances it fits size 34" bust with 5 inches of ease. These are basic instructions only. Sew and finish seams and hems in your preferred method. (I sewed the main seams with a narrow zigzag 0.75 mm wide by 2.5 mm long. I steamed seam allowances to one side, then top stitched. I used a twin needle to hem the sleeves and the bottom of the sweater.)
  1. With a felt tip erasable fabric marker or tailor's chalk, draw lines on sweater knit fabric, as indicated by solid black lines in diagram at the top of this page. 
  2. Cut on marked lines. 
  3. With a felt tip erasable fabric marker or tailor's chalk, mark the dotted blue lines on yoke/sleeves piece.
  4. Using the template, trace, then cut out shape for the neckline.
  5. Sew binding to neckline.
  6. Pin together, then sew Front aa to Front Yoke aa.
  7. Pin together, then sew Back bb to Back Yoke bb.
  8. Pin together, then sew Sleeve c1 and c2 and Side Seam c3 and c4
  9. Pin together, then sew Sleeve d1 and d2 and Side Seam d3 and d4
  10. Sew hems.
If you have any questions or see any mistakes, please let me know. Everything's a rectangle so it's pretty easy to scale up or down. Download the neckline template here. No sign up is necessary, but if you'd like to receive my newsletter (sweater knit fabrics, sweater fashion, tips and techniques for sewing sweater knits), subscribe here.

Last update 16Sept2021


  1. It's a great sweater! It reminds me of one I made for my daughter when she was 4 years old. I knit it in pieces on my knitting machine but I didn't want to bother with shaping so I made squares and rectangles. Hers is a cardigan with a V neck and I made the sleeves separate from the body but the overall shape is very similar. It's so pretty and you remind me I should make one for myself!

    1. Thank you. I can imagine the cardigan! Yes, make one for yourself. :)

  2. O. Jolly, this is so cool!!! I love it.

    1. Just noticed my reply never posted?! Thank you, Margarita. Please let me know if you make one for yourself!

  3. Thank you. And thanks for stopping by.

  4. I just discovered your site and have had a lot of fun--and many aha moments--browsing. Thank you for sharing your skills and insights. This is a very clever design, well done. I'd love to try it, except where I live, short-sleeve sweaters are impractical: they are too warm for the many hot, humid months and not warm enough for our short winters. Do you have an update for a long-sleeve version (1-yard restrictions not a requirement)? Thank you. Claudia

    1. Hi Claudia, I'm glad you're finding the site interesting. I have no long sleeve version of this sweater pattern... as yet. But it's a good idea and something I'll seriously consider. :)


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