With so much activity crammed into our days, it can be challenging to find enough time to sit down & make pretty things. If this is a challenge for you, read on for some tips to make more time for sewing.
I asked followers on my LoveBug Studios Facebook page what their biggest quilting challenge was, and so many mentioned that finding enough time to sew was a huge challenge. As someone who faces this challenge daily, I thought I’d share some of the tips that help me get more sewing done on a regular basis.
Sometimes finding more time to sew just means making better use of the time you have.
1. Set Up a Dedicated Space
If I only have 15 minutes to sew, I can’t spend 12 of those minutes hauling out a sewing machine, clearing off a table, finding an extension cord, etc.
I also understand that not everyone has the luxury of space or the ability to dedicate an entire room to the endeavor.
That said, you don’t need a lot of space to make a dedicated sewing area. Of course you want it to be safe where little ones and pets can’t access sharp objects or choking hazards, but if you can find even a corner in a room where you can keep your sewing machine out, you’ll find it so much easier to grab those spare moments to sew. Three feet by two feet is all you need.
Also, if you can locate your table in a common room, like a corner of the living room, dining room, family room, or wherever your family hangs out, you might find that you can cut something while the football game is on, or stitch up a binding while supervising a Lego construction site. You can spend time with loved ones and be working independently if that works for your family.
Need an inexpensive table? I love this setup from IKEA. I use these tables for my own sewing! You can get the tops in a lot of different finishes, and even the smallest size is large enough for a machine and a small iron & board. This setup (table + 4 legs) costs about $25.
If you put a cutting mat under the machine, you can move the machine off the table for when you need to cut and your mat has a nice flat place to lay when not in use.
2. Take a Project Inventory
Do you know how many projects you have and what state they are in? Take the time to figure out what projects you have, what you have already done, and what is the next step that needs doing.
If your list is overwhelming, don’t tackle it all at once. Pick 5 projects that you want to start making progress on and write down what needs to be done next.
I probably have 60 or so projects in my queue, but right now I’m only tracking the top 10 that need to be done soon. I took a scratch sheet of paper and wrote a quick list of things that needed doing:
You might have projects that still need fabric selecting/purchasing, washing & pressing, cutting, etc. so track the things that are important to you.
If I have a few minutes to sew, I can look at this list and choose something to work on that can be done in the time I have available. For example, if I only have 15 minutes, I could get the fabric cut and pressed for one of my quilt backs, or I could start working on a sleeve, or cut out a block or two from one of the tops.
3. Make Yourself a Pre-Cut Quilt Kit
This has been so huge in enabling me to get more done! I treat every quilt like it’s a kit, and cut everything in advance. I organize these cuts by block and bag them up separately with their instructions. For projects I plan to work on right away, I use cafeteria trays (also from IKEA!) to separate the blocks. Here’s a photo from my Outlander Road to Scotland Mystery Class:
I make these kits when I have longer periods to cut, but you could also do this type of pre-cutting in short periods. For example, as you take your project inventory, one of your tasks could be “cutting blocks”.
Of course, the thing that makes this so much easier is having a die cutter!
Can you break that task down further? Maybe you have 5 different fabrics that need to be cut. Pick one of those fabrics and cut all the pieces you need, or set a goal to cut enough for half your blocks, or whatever seems reasonable for the time you have.
4. Batch Like Tasks Together
What can sometimes slow you down and keep you from getting as much accomplished with limited time is the constant switching between tasks. It can be tempting to sew one thing, go and press it, then go trim it, then sew more.
This can be fine for longer sessions, but when you have limited time, it’s great to just do ONE thing. For example, if you have 15 minutes, maybe you sit down and chain piece until time is up, or press units, or trim. Pick one task to work on and just do that.
5. Trade Sewing for Housekeeping
I know, different people have different tolerances for clutter and mess, but seriously – what’s more satisfying: a crisply-pressed block or a basketful of laundry?
Even so, laundry and dishes must be washed, so when I find myself having to choose between the two, I’ll make a trade and get a little of each done.
So for example, if I spend 15 minutes folding laundry, I get 15 minutes to sew. Or perhaps while the dryer is running, I’ll allow myself to sew until the buzzer goes off (yay for bath towels!)
6. Set a Timer
Speaking of buzzers, you may need to set an alarm for yourself to make sure you keep to the time you’ve allocated. That way you can focus on what you’re doing and stop worrying about the clock!
7. Schedule a Play Date with Yourself
Often the challenge of finding time is simply making the time! When I was working full-time, I would get up 45 minutes to an hour early and use that time to sew or do something in my business.
I’m not a morning person by any stretch, but just having that idea of waking up to sew, instead of associating waking up for work, helped me to make this a lasting habit. To this day, I still wake up around 5am.
Maybe you couldn’t possibly get up any earlier than you already do… so can you go to bed 15 minutes later? Put it on your calendar and make that a promise to yourself.
Do you have an open weekend afternoon or evening? Ink in that play date for yourself. Claim that time before someone else does!
8. Pack an Out and About Project
Do you have a project you could work on when you’re out running errands or waiting in a doctor’s office?
English Paper Piecing is a popular on-the-go project and can fit in a small zipper pouch or bag.
Any project you can do by hand – even mending a button or sewing on a binding or label – is great to pack up for on the go. Include a set of needles, a couple of neutral threads, a pair of scissors, a few pins or clips, a small magnet (those pesky needles!) and of course the thing you’re working on.
9. Set Up for the Next Session
Before you call it quits on your current sewing session, take a couple of minutes to think about what you need to do next and get things ready for your next session.
For example, I had a few quilts that needed binding, so I laid out each quilt with the binding and the thread color I wanted to use. If I’d had more time, I would have wound a bobbin for each one.
When it came time to sew the next day, I knew exactly what needed to be done next and I just had to pick a quilt and start binding it. After winding a bobbin, of course!
Those are all my tips for finding more time to sew by making the time I do have work better for me. What tips do you have for finding more time?
Oh, and if you want to participate in future discussions like these on my Facebook page, be sure to like and follow me!