Finding Time to Sew

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Finding time in the day to sew for yourself is a problem I hear over and over from my students, my fellow indie patternmakers, and I hear myself complaining about it too! But I love to sew and it’s important for both my mental well being and for my job to sew for myself. Plus, like many of you, I have a lot of unfinished projects that I’m longing to wear. 

So I started doing something different. I am setting aside the same time of the day, everyday, to sew purely for myself. I am giving myself 15–30 minutes in the morning, everyday, to sew on non-work related projects. 

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I am not a morning person at all. I work for myself and out of my home, so I never set an alarm. My mornings usually consist of me getting up, feeding the cats, making a cup of tea, and sitting down at my laptop. But I find that I’m not awake enough to really be productive, and the laptop is not the most pleasant site first thing in the morning. 

So I decided to change it up. I still wake up the same way, and feed the cats and make tea, but then instead of opening up my laptop, I go and sew. Admittedly I’m not the sharpest in the morning, so I need to be sure to only task myself with things I can do as I wake up, but what a nice way to wake up! 

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Working in small 15–30 minute blocks of time each morning, I’ve recently finished a new Emery Dress, a Colette Patterns Laurel Dress, a Colette Patterns Laurel Top, a Closet Case Files Carolyn Pajamas nightshirt, and am working on a Fancy Tiger Crafts Fen Dress and two Grainline Patterns Lark Tees. I’m more productive than ever. And all I’m doing is eating into the morning computer time that nearly always turned into mindless web surfing. 

Now I don’t have a day job to get to and I do not have children, so the mornings are very different for me than they might be for you. So perhaps the morning isn’t when you should block out time for yourself. But there is likely a little moment that you can do this for yourself too. Maybe it’s after dinner, or just after you get home from work? Think of it like sewing happy hour! Ohh… I like the sound of that. 

Below I have some tips that I find are helping my productivity. Hopefully you find them helpful too! And if you have some productivity tips to share, please do so in the comments! I would love to hear what you do!

  • Work in color batches. If your machines are threaded with a certain color, try to sew on your works in progress that use the same color. Pictured in this post are three dark colored projects that I sewed with black serger thread, and three lighter projects that I sewed with white serger thread. So I worked in two groups–a lighter group and a darker group, so I didn’t have to change my serger thread over and over again. I don’t mind changing my straight stitch machine frequently, but the serger...  

  • Don’t try to do it all. It might not feel like you’re getting anywhere when you are only working for small bits at a time, but trust me, you are! 

  • Make it a habit. I’ve been sewing in the mornings, and that’s starting to become routine. But it didn’t used to be. Get in a rhythm of setting aside certain times of the day and it will become the new norm. 

  • Group similar tasks. I try to save up as much ironing to do at once and I almost never sew in the order of the pattern’s instructions. Rather, I pin as much as I can at one sitting, then sew as much as I can, then press, and on and on. I might have darts to press on the Emery, and a sleeve hem to press on the Fen, and a hem to press on the Lark, but I group them all together and press them all at once so I can be efficient with that specific task.

  • Inform your family. If you tell your family that you’re going to spend the whole day sewing and not to interrupt you, that’s a pretty tall request. But if you simply request that you have 30 minutes of quiet sewing time, most people can wait that small amount of time before interrupting you.

  • Set a timer for yourself. Now I don’t actually set a real timer, but I do look at the clock, note the time, and tell myself when it’s time to stop and “go to work”. It’s tricky because when I “go to work” I’m still in the same chair and space, but the mindset and to do list shifts. 

  • Set a timer for your family. You are more likely to get interrupted when they aren’t sure when you’ll be done. But if you set them a timer, they can simply look at it and know that in only 12 minutes they will have your undivided attention once again. 

  • Cut more than one project at a time. Many people need to set up a “cutting station” in order to spread out all the fabric and lay all the pattern pieces out, so take advantage of the set up and cut a handful of projects at the same time. 

  • Group similar fabrics. Instead of changing out your needle over and over because you’re working on a knit, then a silk, and then on heavy wool, try to work on similar fabrics at the same time so you can use the same needle size and type.

  • Save difficult tasks for when you’re focused. For me, mornings are great for easier sewing. But if I have something that is really difficult, I save it for my next full day off when I can be really focused.

  • Save some tasks for social time. Not all sewing tasks need to be done alone in your sewing area and can be done in a group setting. This is when I envy knitters, as they can sit with friends and family and knit at the same time! But I find that doing things like setting sleeves and pinning pleats can be activities that I can do with others, and/or while watching TV. So save similar items, like hand sewing a hem or sewing on buttons, for when you’re with your family instead of doing that task during your “sewing time”. 

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