I’ve been speeding through some sewing recently, testing the spring patterns and making a few things for S and for myself at the same time, and this has started me thinking about strategies for efficient sewing.
My personal sewing time is scarce because of a few projects we’re finishing up, and I need to make the most of it if I’m going to have anything made in time for spring (and a trip to Palm Springs in a week or so!).
A few of you mentioned an interest in this same theme, so here are a few thoughts about the topic.
Ideas for more efficient sewing
- If you’re able, cut out several projects at once so they’re ready for you when you have time to sew. When we’re not too busy, I sometimes take an afternoon or a few hours on a weekend to cut out several projects in advance. That way I’m ready to go when I finally have time to sew. Make cutting an enjoyable process by putting on some dance music to keep you going, and you could even invite a friend to join you so you can help each other cut out your fabrics and have fun in the process.
- Gather all your materials before you start. It’s easiest to keep moving on a project if you don’t need to stop to find the right thread, buttons, or elastic. Once I cut out my fabric, I like to assemble all the notions for that project and put everything together in a large Ziploc bag so it’s ready for me when I’m ready to sew. If I’m missing anything I make a list and put it in my wallet so I can remember what I need when I’m at the fabric store. (And if you follow tips 1 and 2 together, you’ll have time to gather the missing items before you start sewing that project!)
- Set up your sewing area so everything is convenient for you to sew efficiently. This doesn’t mean that you need a large sewing space. At home I sew in a tiny converted closet, so I keep a sleeve board and an iron next to my sewing machine. Rather than getting up to move to the ironing board (which is way over by the kitchen, about as far from my sewing machine as I can get in our apartment), I simply use the sleeve board when I need to press a seam or an edge. It saves lots of time and allows me to stay at the sewing machine. (Sometimes I get a little crazy and sew with the sleeve board on my lap so my sewing space is pretty much directly in front of me and I’m using very little movement to switch from sewing to pressing, but that’s a little obsessive and usually only happens if I’m in a serious hurry, I admit it.)
- If you don’t have a dedicated sewing space, find a place to store your sewing materials together where you can easily get them out and quickly put them away again when you’re done. For a long time I sewed at the dining room table, and I kept my sewing machine and supplies in a large cabinet right next to the table so I could set up and take down my pop-up sewing studio in a matter of minutes.
- Sometimes when you’re familiar with the steps involved in making a project you can set yourself up to sew multiple steps at the same time. For example, I often get everything ready to assemble the collar, make the pockets and sew the belt for a pattern all in one go. Then I move away from the sewing machine to press the seam allowances and set up my next little sewing binge. Note, however, that this usually works best if you’re already familiar with the sewing steps in a pattern, so be sure you’ve read through the pattern in advance and are familiar with the steps involved. If you’re a less experienced sewist you might want to wait until you’ve sewn the pattern once or twice before you attempt this. You need to be able to think methodically about the construction method to make this step work, so be careful you don’t overwhelm yourself and get confused.
- I’ve said many times before, but one trick that works best for me is to set up the next seam before I quit sewing for the day. I don’t sew that seam, but it’s waiting for me the next time I sit down. This means that it’s easy for me to pick up again where I left off. I don’t need to think about what step comes next because it’s already waiting for me. Doing this helps to refresh my memory about what comes next, and it also helps me to jump back into sewing without reservations. I often sew just a seam or two a night, but I’m still making progress even with that very limited amount of sewing time.
Do you have any additional tips to share? I’d love to hear what strategies work well for you!