Sewing is my happy place, but I don’t get to spend nearly as much time there as I would like. I have a full-time job, two young kids, and, at the moment, I’m also doing double time as a part-time hybrid homeschool teacher for both my kids. So every minute is super precious to me, and when it comes to sewing, I am all about efficiency in the sewing room. I’m ALWAYS looking for ways to streamline my sewing – whether it is in pattern cutting, the sewing process, pressing, etc. There are a lot of gadgets out there that promise to save you time or up your game, but I have found there are actually a few simple steps you can take to speed up your sewing. If you could use a little extra time too, here are five quick tips you may find save you a TON of time!
If you sew knits, spring for a serger.
OK, so this is my only “gadget” tip! Frankly, if it wasn’t for my serger, I probably wouldn’t enjoy sewing and I wouldn’t be able to sew all the garments I sew in the precious time I get to spend on them. A serger, also known as an overlocker, is a game changer for knits – as in this case you can both sew and finish the seam in one pass. For sewing wovens, a serger will save you time finishing the seams after you sew them on your traditional sewing machine. You can definitely sew knits on a traditional machine, but I find that process time consuming and frankly a real nightmare since for whatever reason, my Singer (which is only five years old) just throws fits if I try to sew knits. I can’t even get it to sew a full seam on thin knits (and yes, I have tried every needle and every trick in the book). My first serger was a Brother 1034D, which is a very affordable model at around $225-$250 but you can often find it on sale on Amazon for less. It’s now my backup machine to my Babylock (which was definitely a splurge/present to myself). I know $200 is still a lot of money and not within reach for everyone, but if you sew knits, I would prioritize purchasing a serger over buying more fabric, and then challenge yourself to sew from your stash for a set period of time.
2. Strategically design your sitting space – small is good!
When I say sitting space, I am referring to the specific area where you sit at your machines. I only figured out this tip last year when I was watching a sewing video from Ellie & Mac. The sewist was sitting in pretty small space between her ironing board, sewing machine and serger, and then as she constructed the garment, she would just turn back and forth between the machines and tools she was using to sew. Previous to watching this video, I had my serger in a separate corner of the room, and importantly, my ironing board was off to the other side of the room too. I’ve since moved them to be all together (see above shot of my setup), and I use my ironing board as the surface where I pin, fold, etc as I am constructing the garment. I would estimate this change has saved me at least 20% of my time – I stitch, turn around, press, pin, turn back around and sew again. The quicker you can get from your machines to your ironing space and back to your machines, the more efficient you can be with your sewing.
3. Scissors scissors everywhere!
This sounds like a simple tip but boy have I found it saved me time. How often do you lose your scissors, or leave them on a table across the room? I figured this out earlier this year – that I was having to stop what I was doing to get out of my chair and go find my scissors to snip a thread, trim a seam, etc. That’s when I decided I needed LOTS of pairs of scissors. Now, I’m not talking about the GOOD sewing scissors you use to cut your fabric (you know, the ones that when your kids or spouse take them to cut paper you want to explode!) – I’m talking about the little scissors you use for everything else. I ordered four pairs and then literally tied a string to each pair and tethered them to specific areas of the sewing space, which prevents me from wandering away with them in my hands. I have one pair tethered to the table with the sewing machine and serger, one pair with the ironing board, one pair at my work table, etc, etc. Here is a link to the ones I bought on Amazon for less than $6 each; they are really sharp and work well for smaller sewing tasks like trimming seams and clipping notches in addition to snipping threads:
4. Have extra bobbins ready to go in common colors.
I know – it’s a pain and it’s soooo BORING to sit there and wind thread on bobbins – but having a few bobbins loaded up with your most common sewing thread colors will definitely save you time in the long run. I suggest forcing yourself to do this before you get cracking with that new project to avoid having to stop in the middle of it and wind some thread when you run out. By the way, I’m very guilty of not changing by bobbin thread color to match my garment but it does cost me some time when I realize I have to stitch something from the opposite side and the color’s going to now show.
5. Prewash your fabric immediately after you buy it.
How many times have you gotten excited to sew up a new pattern only to realize the fabric you really want to use hasn’t been washed yet (and please, you DO need to prewash your fabric or else you could end up with a wonky ill-fitting garment after hours of hard work…speaking from experience…). Save yourself some grief and as soon as you walk in the door with that new fabric (or open the box from the mail, which is my more common situation) run that fabric straight to your washroom or throw it in the laundry to be taken care of the next time you do wash. DON’T be tempted to place that perfectly folded piece of fabric directly in your stash or on your fabric shelf. You’ll be really sad when you can’t use it right away when you have that perfect project for it.
I hope these tips can help you save time! There are also lots of cool sewing tools and gadgets which can help too (although I do think a lot of them are overrated and not all that better than the basics you already have in your home….yeah, bodkin, I’m looking right at you when I say this….). I’ll cover those in a future post, but for now, try these out and let me know if any of these tips help!
Thanks for stopping by!