Sewing Blog

14 Sewing Tricks That’ll Save Tons of Time

We all have the same amount of time in a day, but some people always seem to get more sewing accomplished. If you want to make the most of your minutes, read on!

Save Time and Sew More with These Time-Saving Sewing Tircks

Time-saving strategies fall into a few main categories:

  • Organization and prep
  • Speedy sewing techniques
  • Avoiding errors
Let’s review some time-saving sewing tips — maybe you’ll learn some new tricks to add to your sewing repertoire.

Organization and prep

1. Collect all your supplies

sewing supplies for a project

Zippers, thread, buttons, interfacing, lining — a sewing project can call for a lot of components. Nothing can slow your progress faster than missing what you need!

Some sewers have a stockpile of basic supplies, while others purchase to match every fabric. Whatever your style, try to assemble all the supplies before you start a project. Then you can sit down and just sew — with no last-minute dash to the store.

2. Prep your fabric in advance

Preshrink your fabrics, including the linings, so you are ready to go. After washing, most fabrics need a good press to smooth out the wrinkles to prep for the cutting table. Do this step when you have a few spare minutes. You can carefully fold the fabric and hang over a large hanger so it’s ready when you have time to cut out.

3. Cut out more than one project at a time

If you don’t have access to a cutting space on a regular basis, try to cut out several projects in one session.

Lots of us use the dining or kitchen table for cutting — and claiming that space is easier said than done! Once you’ve cleared the space and put down your cutting mat, take advantage of it.

After cutting out a project, you can carefully fold the pattern pieces and hold them in shopping bags or plastic bins until you are ready to sew.>

4. Use pattern weights

Sewing Pattern Weights

Sewing Pattern Weights by Craftsy instructor Vanessa Wilson

Skip the pins when cutting: Use pattern weights and a rotary cutter and cutting mat. Pattern weights can be anything that hold down your pattern piece on fabric. When I take this approach, I tend to raid the kitchen shelves for cans or coffee mugs.

There are lots of patterns for cute pattern weights that you can sew up with fabric scraps.

5. Have extra bobbins

extra bobbins and thread

Who’s not familiar with the annoying problem of running out of bobbin thread mid-project? Before you start sewing, make a couple of extra bobbins with your project thread so you will be ready to pop a full one in the sewing machine.

6. Block fuse your interfacing

Instead of individually applying fusible interfacing to every small piece, such as facings or cuffs, apply a block of interfacing to your fabric and then cut out the small pieces. It uses up a little more interfacing but is a lot faster and now those pattern pieces are ready to sew.

Speedy sewing techniques 

1. Skip the pins

Pinning and unpinning takes time, and often you can sew pattern pieces together by holding sections together with your hands. It takes a bit of practice, but you will eventually be able to sew even long seams without pins.

2. Sew items in a chain

sewing items in a chain

Prep lots of pieces and then move to your machine. Sew the seams in a chain without cutting. This great technique is often used in quilting, but it’s also great for for sewing up all the seams on sleeves, facings, skirts, cuffs and collars. Think economy of movement here, like production line techniques.

3. Press in batches

After you have sewn a number of sections in a chain, press in batches. Press all the darts, seams and other items you have stitched in one session at the ironing board instead of moving back and forth between sewing and pressing. If you have an auto shut-off iron, you will find you spend less time waiting for it to reheat as well.

Avoiding errors

Everyone who sews know the feeling: You complete something and take a good, close look at it — and you realize it’s not right! Maybe you sewed the wrong pieces together, or caught the underneath fabric into a seam. Here are some tips for avoiding those errors that really slow down our sewing.

1. Use good lighting

We probably all do some of our sewing late at night, and perhaps our lighting is not the best. Good lighting is an investment that pays off to help you avoid those mistakes that have you running for the seam ripper.

2. Mark the stitching line

mark dart line with chalk

There is no rule that says you can’t mark where to stitch — so give it a try, particularly on tricky corners or curves, darts or any section where using the stitch guide on your machine will not be enough. Tailor’s chalk works well. I even use pencil at times, especially if I am marking on interfacing, since it will be hidden inside the garment.

3. Go slow

This may seem counterintuitive, but going slow can apply to a lot of steps in any sewing project. Go slow with your stitching on very exacting areas, like plackets or angles, so you can really watch where the needle is and turn or pivot with exactness. Going slow can also mean taking a breath, thinking where you are in the project and reviewing the steps to see if you have missed anything.

4. Read the instructions

Some sewers read the instructions in every detail and others never even take a look. Even if you don’t usually use the instructions, read them over before you start sewing and make sure there aren’t any unexpected steps.

5. Know when to stop

Learn to recognize when you are tired or burnt out. Sometimes stepping away from the sewing machine for a break is the biggest time-saving tip of all, allowing you to refresh and clear away the cobwebs. When you are tired or lose focus, errors tend to show up. Take a break and return with a fresh focus.

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20 Comments

Brigid

I had been sewing for years-I am self taught-when I decided to take a beginning sewing class in college. I learned two things I didn’t know that semester: grade curved seams, and press any seam before crossing it with another seam. So I do that with pressing: sew all the various pieces until it’s time to put things together and then press everything at once.

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Babe Paukstys

I, too, learned in college that you should press any seam “as sewn” BEFORE pressing the seam allowance open. Pressing the stitching line flat allows the thread to relax & integrate into the layers of fabric & that makes the task of pressing the seam open much easier. The end result? A perfectly flat & open seam allowance on the inside of your garment combined with a gorgeously smooth seamline on the garment’s face!

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Pamela Anne

I learnt that at college in 1965 I am o glad the basics of sewing are still being taught . It can make a garment. You can always tell a home made garment that is well made by the good fit and the attention to detail. Go to any sewing show and see what good dressmakers wear. They are often old or very young. Sewing has not been taught in schools for many years, textiles does not fill the space and neither does food technology teach youngsters to cook. We need to go back to basics.

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Tommie O'Sullivan

When I was in junior high, I read Cheaper by the Dozen. What imprinted on my mind was that the Gilbreths were efficiency experts. They went into factories and filmed workers, then studied the films and designed work stations and assembly lines that were more efficient. I’ve always tried to do this no matter what I was working on.

One of my favorite time savers is a cork bulletin board mounted on the wall right behind my sewing machine. It’s hung low so that I don’t have to stand to reach it. I pin small pattern pieces (facings, collars, cuffs, pockets, etc) on the board so that they don’t get lost. The pattern envelope is pinned there with the back facing out so that I can put folded pattern pieces right back in the envelope as soon as I’m done with each piece, and I unfold the pattern instruction sheet and pin it to the bulletin board. Nothing gets lost, I don’t have to search for small pieces, and the directions are right where I can see then without taking my hands off of what’s running through my sewing machine.

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Nancy B

This is a really great tip. I did the same thing when I was making clothing, now that I’ve gotten away from that and do more quilting I’d forgotten about it. Thanks for the reminder, think I’ll use it again!

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VettieB

The cork bulletin board is a fabulous idea!! I definitely am going to get myself one! Thanks for the excellent tip!! 🙂

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Michele

Doh! I’ve already got a cork board right there and never thought to use it like that! Thank you for making me smack my head. 😉

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Barbara

Excellent idea! Thank you.

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Ann

Great idea with the cord board! Nothing gets laid down on a shelf and then accidentally gets knocked down or falls down — very good time saver!
Been sewing nearly 45 years, so I’ve picked up a thing or two when doing projects. When the directions tell me to fold under say like 1/4″, or 3/8″, 1/2″, etc, I generally run a long, loose stitch, however wide they tell you to fold under. This saves from measuring and pinning, and it is a lot less tedious, too! Yes, you have to remove the stitch you had sewn, but it doesn’t take nearly as much time as measuring and pinning it! It’s great for hemming.
I also preshrink and “stay” the fabric color in one step. To “stay” the fabric color, I use 1 cup of white vinegar and 1 tablespoon of salt added to the hot water to preshrink. I put the hot tap water, vinegar and salt in a bucket and add the fabric (using enough water to make sure the fabric is covered), and let it soak for about 30 minutes. I then run it through the rinse cycle in my washer and I hang the fabric on a line to dry–matching the selvage edges carefully. This does two things. First, the fabric doesn’t wrinkle as badly, and the fabric will have a natural “fold line” from the line where you placed it to dry. When dry, I take it down and fold it on a fabric bolt that the fabric stores are more than happy to give you!

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Peggy

Great short cuts. I already do several of them. In fact I just cut out all the pattern pieces and applied the interfacing for several different Christmas gifts I’m sewing this year, and placed them in bags and boxes until I’m ready to start sewing. It’s truly a time saver!

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Ruthie

Wow. I never thought about “block fusing” interfacing. What a terrific idea! I’ll be doing this on my next jacket – tomorrow!!!

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Cath

I loved “Cheaper By The Dozen” when I was a kid. It struck a chord with me. I do all my sewing in chains and blocks. I read the instructions to see if there are any surprises in the order of stitching and then I plan my sewing so I can sew as many things as possible before I do a block of pressing. I don’t have to leave my iron on for a bunch of quick presses and It’s just more efficient for me. I like to set my seams with a quick press before I press them in their final direction. it’s like telling the fabric, “Now listen up, I’m about to tell you what I want you to do”. This is a good set of tips

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Randi

I love these tips, and also Tommie’s bulletin board idea to keep your small pattern pieces handy. I also use a pants hanger with clips and clip my pattern instructions to it. I can hang the hanger on a door, or cabinet, knob or on the over-door-hanging hook I have near my sewing machine. I just flip the instruction pages as I go along to go to the next steps.

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Kathy Davis

I have a tip for marking dark fabrics. I save my bar soap once they get thin and keep them in a small metal tin. As long as you don’t press too hard, they make a nice thin line and it comes of easily when you are done.

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Eva

I totally agree with the spare bobbin tipp 😀 Why is it that every time, you only need to sew like two more cm your bobbin thread will go out? Not that this isn’t annoying enough, but when you have then to thread out and rethread the machine as well… phuuu lot’s of time.
Also, always have a tape measure around your neck. Seriously reduces the time for searchin 🙂

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Polly

I am 51, a college grad, new to sewing and didn’t even know you could take it in college. Haha! But when I was trying to sew multiple sides of my machine quilted oven mitt project, for 2016 Christmas gifts, at once I found that if I left the pinned sections to sew the next day that they sort of relaxed. Or maybe just took on moisture and puffed up. That made it a challenge to sew. I ended up ironing them before seeing. Does anyone have suggestions for storage of the items you can’t sew today?

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Rebecca

I use the 3M hooks by my sewing machine, cutting board and pressing area. They don’t hurt the wall and I keep scissors, and other tools I use often (measuring tape, binding tape folders etc. on them.I always have what I need in each area. Also they make them with clothespin like attachments and that’s where I keep pattern pieces and instructions hanging at diff work areas.

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Linda G

This is all good advice.
I’d like to share a trick for being sure you have a bobbin ready when you need it. This is something I learned while working in a production sewing factory where we were paid by the piece. Anything that took away from production sewing time meant less pieces completed.
If your sewing machine set up has a second thread spindle available and a clear path to the bobbin winder (that isn’t through the needle or automatically disengages the needle), install a second spool of your thread on it. (I learned you should always have at least two spools of matching thread for any project.) Set up the second spool to fill a bobbin and set the winder to fill the bobbin without disengaging the clutch. Then, work your sewing project as usual; the bobbin will fill as you work. Check the bobbin periodically to make sure you don’t tangle or misfeed the bobbin, but it should stop winding automatically when filled.
You will always have that extra bobbin ready if you trade the empty for the filled bobbin and continue in the same way throughout your project. You can fill bobbins for the thread of your next project as you finish up your current one, as well.

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Darcy Canevari-Hill

I’ve been making king sized t shirt quilts and they are HUGE. Just trying to design them is difficult because I can’t invision it all.
I took one of the king sized mattresses out of our pop up camper and set it against the wall in my sewing room. I can now SEE where to place each item for the best results.
I can’t live without my project board.

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Ridley Fitzgerald

You’ve got some great sewing tips here. I like how you said that one thing I can do to save time is have extra bobbin thread ready. Buying some more of those would definitely help, I think.

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