Subtraction Cutting Workshop with Julian Roberts

Today I was very privileged to go to a Julian Roberts Subtraction Cutting workshop at Doncaster College. I’d previously read Julian’s ‘Free cutting’ book and worked on some half-scale experiments using his tunnel, plug and displacement techniques, but they weren’t all successful!

It was amazing to see Julian in action today, to have him talk through his techniques and share his ideas so openly. It also made his techniques easier to understand, with his clear explanations, and through the workshop that followed on after his presentation.

Subtraction cut dress (tunnel technique)

This dress was made using 6 metres of stretch fabric (3 metres in each colour). The main cutaway shape to create the top of the dress was quite big, as the sewn tunnel was very heavy, so this was necessary to remove some of the weight out of the dress. The first two circles I subtracted from the fabric were different sizes (one was an easy hip measurement of 112cm and the other a larger circle of 156cm) again to reduce the weight of the garment. The larger circle was part pleated in to the smaller circle. The additional circles that were subtracted also had the easy hip measurement.


Julian’s tunnel technique is very visually striking, fun, creative and fast as a creative cutting technique. The whole dress took 2.5 hours in total. This included the time to prepare the tunnel, mark out the bodice pattern pieces and additional circles and to sew the garment. A very fast and effective way of creating an interesting silhouette, emphasised by a bold choice of contrasting colour.

I would like to experiment with Julian’s plug technique with some of my recycled clothes. It would be interesting to see what a whole garment (for example, a shirt) would look like plugged into a shape of the same circumference on another garment(s). This could be a very useful way of creating the hidden internal structures that I’m keen to incorporate in to my final collection.

Recycled collection theme and title: Metamorphosis


I chose the word ‘METAMORPHOSIS’ for my experimental recycled collection because it perfectly sums up and captures what I want to create – transforming a garment(s) from one form in to a new form.

Meta = “change”         morph = “form”

“A change of the form or nature of a thing or person into a completely different one.”
– Oxford English Dictionary definition

Metamorphosis makes me think of:

  • Casting off an outer shell.
  • Something developing inside (tied in with hidden features, hidden treasures).
  • Transforming into something new, to take on a new form.
  • Evolving or mutating into something else.

Ideas and themes for my collection

  • Utilise zero/minimal waste cut using recycled garments – the only new materials will be linings, fastenings, etc.
  • Giving something a second life to a garment – regenerating and transforming old garments in to something new and unique.
  • Hidden treasures – incorporate hidden details in the garments, such as internal pleating or panels to give a supporting structure to the frame, whereby it’s only for the owner that knows it exists. There could also be hidden panels or features.
  • Experimentation – Explore what is possible through creative cut and see what ideas I come up with to reflect my theme and title.