If you’re anything like me, you have a dream list of sewing wants. Maybe you would like a state-of-the-art machine, a Pinterest-perfect sewing space, or a an all-expenses-paid fabric shopping spree. But not all sewing dreams require money. For many seamsters and seamstresses, more uninterrupted sewing time is tops on the list.
While we may not all have as much sewing time as we’d like, there are ways to maximize our productivity and keep the sewing going through life’s busy seasons. After all, it’s when our lives are the most chaotic that we are most in need of time to decompress and take care of ourselves. So with this in mind, we’ve created this guide to sewing even when you don’t have time to sew.
How to make time for sewing
These are just a few of the ways that we make time to sew even in life’s busiest seasons. Take a look at the list; you’re bound to find at least tip that resonates.
Make a plan
This is probably the most important tip for maximizing your sewing time. Plan your projects in advance, mentally choosing patterns and pulling fabric before you get to the sewing machine. That limits the amount of time spent waffling over decisions, allowing you to start sewing straight away.
Complete like tasks together
Sometimes this means altering the pattern instructions somewhat. For example, don’t press after every seam. Wait to head to the ironing board until you can’t go further without pressing, and the press a bunch of seams at once. The same goes for finishing seams. If you are overlocking or zigzagging seams to finish them, you can often wait to do that until after you’ve sewn several.
Doing it this way helps keep the sewing momentum going, moving you towards the finish line.
Sew in batches
When you plan your sewing ahead of time, consider fabrics and thread colors. If you can cut multiple projects from one fabric, or sew successive projects that require the same thread color, you’ll minimize the amount of time you spend rethreading. This is especially helpful if you’re using an overlocker or a coverstitch machine. I know that threading those machines really doesn’t take that long, but I still procrastinate doing it.
Use the time you do have.
When you have more time, use it to your advantage by cutting out several patterns at once. Then you’ll be ready to sew when you have a little more time at your disposal. But don’t get stuck in the trap of feeling like you need at least an hour to get going on anything. If your pieces are all cut out and your machine is threaded, you can sew for as little as a few minutes at a time. Even if you can only one seam, that’s one seam more than would otherwise have done.
A personal story: When we were going through a family crisis a few years ago, I had very little time to myself, let alone for sewing. The crisis season lasted many months, and eventually I realized that I could still sew. I just needed to adjust my expectations. By taking 10 or 15 minutes here and there to sew a few seams or do some pressing, I eventually completed the project. If I hadn’t tried, it never would have gotten done.
Choose simple projects
Sometimes you just want to sew, and it doesn’t really matter what you’re making. Quick, simple projects are great for scratching that itch. or maybe you just want to make something that doesn’t require any complicated alterations or fussy fitting. Either way, we have you covered. Check out the following links for projects that are easy to sew:
Liesl + Co. one-scissor patterns
Oliver + S one-scissor patterns
Straight Stitch Society accessory patterns
Let’s hear from you
These tips are effective, but they aren’t the only ways to wring the most from your sewing time. Do you have any suggestions to share? We’d love to hear them. Comment below!
Excellent article – great advice. One step that I follow – read the pattern envelope and the read the layout and pattern/sewing directions the evening before you start. The layout can be confusing and sometime the sewing directions help you understand the layout. If you know in advance how to sew the pieces together, then you may be able to change the layout or alter the pieces to save fabric or time. For example, I often want the neckline for view A but the bodice of view B. Or shorter sleeves with longer pants.
The time you spend prepping before cutting or sewing helps you make the best choices. And next time, use the same pattern for a new fabric or modified version.
I have made the pinwheel tunic / slip dress and the seashore sundress about thirty times and each one looks very different.
Sometimes I will pin several pieces together away from my sewing area – usually in front of the TV in the evenings. Then in the morning I can sew a seam or two even if I only have five minutes before work. It’s not much, but as least I’m making some progress.
I’ll also cut out fabric on the floor of our family room while watching TV. This allows me to combine ‘sewing time’ with ‘family hang out time’.
Oh this is so timely. We are in lockdown ( endless lockdowns ) and although we have more time due to no commute, there is less time in my day for a variety of other reasons … so tip number 1. Keep the sewing machine threaded up and plugged in. Mine currently lives on the lounge room floor with a nice white linen tea towel thrown over it during the day – and tucked behind a table. All I have to do is lift it up to sew. Tip 2. Set a timer for 15 minutes, turn on the iron nearby and stitch til the timer goes off. Tip3. Use TNT patterns. Tip4. Write ‘next steps’ on a piece of paper and include what you are doing next eg. Mark buttonholes/ sew buttonholes/ mark hem. No thinking required! Finally – enjoy what little time you do have.
I was just thinking that between work that will take up as many hours as I let it plus a small child plus volunteer commitments, I don’t have enough time to craft. This post was so timely for me! I will add:
1. Put down that phone (or computer or whatever)! In the 10 minutes I can spend scrolling through someone else’s Instagram feed looking at what they’ve been crafting, I can sew a seam or cast on for some toddler socks.
2. Break the project into small chunks. So maybe I will print out and tape together the pattern pieces tonight, or knit the blue stripe, but not try to sew the entire garment or knit half a sock.
3. Keep track of your projects. I have a OneNote page where I list the time to cut out and sew patterns so I know I can whip up a pair of kid leggings in under 1 hour, including cutting out the fabric. I also list modifications or issues I had, so next time I go to sew up the pattern I know that something needed to be lengthened to 4T while using the 2T width, or that I used 18.5″ of elastic for the waistband. For knitting, I use Ravelry. This helps with efficiency. I also have a page where I track my kiddo’s measurements so I can figure out what sizes I’m going to combine for her and reminds me when I last measured her and thus whether I need to measure her again because she might have grown again!
4. Especially if you have limited time, make what you enjoy! For me, that is more intricate little girl dresses and fewer leggings, though of course she actually needs the leggings.
I remember on an older Oliver & S video, Leisl suggested pinning the next seam ready to sew before you stop. That way the next time you find a spare 10 minutes to sew, you don’t waste time trying to remember where you were up to.