For many of us, sewing is a passionate hobby pursued in the periphery of busy lives. We daydream about it at work and strive to fit it around packed home lives and social commitments. Why we can’t sew faster and be more productive are questions that leave us feeling both troubled and frustrated.
Over the years, I’ve experimented with various methods for how to sew faster and more efficiently. And today, I’m sharing my top seven to help you get more out of your time and sewing projects!
Here are my must trusted techniques for streamlining your sewing process!
Tip #1: Declutter your space and mind.
I know it sounds really obvious, but a tidy sewing space can really do wonders for your productivity. Nothing kills my sew-jo faster than spending ages trying to make room or searching for an important component I've misplaced.
I also know that not everyone is fortunate enough to have a dedicated sewing space. If you don't, make your life easier by keeping your project and supplies in an accessible bundle — zip-lock bags and storage boxes work a treat. This way when creativity strikes, you won't be faced with annoying obstacles.
Tip #2: Snip and fold your pattern pieces.
Preparing pattern pieces is one of those utterly thankless tasks. Some of you are bold and just cut out one size, but most people stay on the side of caution and trace their pattern pieces.
I have a time-saving compromise that I call the "snip and fold." I snip the edges of my pattern pieces down to the size I want and fold along the cutting line. This method saves time and keeps all sizes intact for future use. You can't always avoid tracing pattern pieces, but this works for most of them and for straight edged pattern pieces, you can even skip snipping.
Tip #3: Transfer your markings faster.
Transferring pattern markings accurately is essential, but it doesn't always have to be as cumbersome as using carbon paper and a tracing wheel. I favor a way that works particularly well for darts and other straight-edged markings. Make a tiny snip at each dart leg, cutting through both fabric layers.
Then stick a pin through the tip of your dart and make a mark on both sides of your fabric. Using a ruler you can then join your notches and marks.
Tip #4: Skip the pins.
When I first learned to sew, I was advised to pin liberally. A few years on and I'm still pinning liberally. If you're brave enough though, you can save some precious time by skipping the pins, which apparently can also cause fabric to lay differently and result in puckers.
Use your left hand to hold the fabric down on the bed of your machine, while pinching both pieces of fabric in your right hand, providing a little bit of tension. Without stretching the fabric, hold it taut so the raw edges line up as the machine naturally pulls it through.
Tip #5: Sew continuously.
Commonly referred to as "chaining." this method is used by the professionals and will make you feel really cool! You butt your pattern pieces end to end and stitch one seam after the next, continuing like that until you’re done. You then snip all the threads in one go. Watch Jen of Grainline Studio in action for a better idea of how this works.
Tip #6: Reduce your seam allowance.
Although most commercial sewing patterns use a ⅝" seam allowance, switching to a ⅜" seam allowance reduces unnecessary bulk (especially on curved seams, as well as for collars and waistbands) and can make setting in sleeves much easier. Using a smaller seam allowance can also eliminate the need for clipping and notching, so it’s a win-win in my book!
Tip #7: Sew whenever you have a chance.
Lauren of Lladybird credits a lot of her productivity to sewing at every available moment, even if she only has 20 minutes or less to spare. Since embracing her philosophy I’ve relished not wasting time waiting for pasta to boil!
I use any spare pockets of time I have to complete little tasks like stay-stitching, marking pattern pieces, sewing my darts, replenishing my bobbin, pinning in a zip, assembling a collar...the list is endless! No pocket of time is too short and no task is too small - you’ll be surprised by exactly what you can achieve and how much faster your project can progress!