How to sew more in less time

Do you have enough time for sewing?

As a patternmaker, sewing is on the general to-do list in any given work week. But sewing in my spare time is a different story.

All the little tasks that make sewing so joyful, like fabric shopping,  pattern browsing and planning how you want the finished creation to look,  takes time. Time that can be difficult to carve out from an otherwise busy life.

Have you ever wished you could sew more in less time?

How many times have you realized that time has evaporated? You’ve been sewing for hours, it’s the middle of the night, and you have to put down your almost finished creation and get some sleep. And all you ever wanted was to get the piece done right then and there! Recognize the situation?

Sew more in less time

Working with what I do, I sew a lot. Each finished pattern has at least three test rounds during development and the finished pattern is sewn and tested in a variety of different sizes before it’s ready to sell.

Being sometimes annoyingly meticulous (even to myself) I have set a limit to how much time I can give each stage in the sewing process, so I don’t get stuck. Therefore, having a system for fast and efficient sewing is crucial.

Even if it’s not possible to increase the number of hours in a day, you can make things a bit easier for yourself so you can get more done in the time allotted.

Use a system

With a system, you not only save time because it’s efficient but also save both fabric and sometimes even your sanity when you know exactly what to do next. And since it works the same every time you can stay up sewing even later in the nights with less risk of messing things up.

To save precious time, try taking these following actions every time you sew, no matter how small or trivial the project. Eventually, you’ll discover that you get much more sewing done than before.

Stage 1 – Prepare

Prepare your fabric

Whether it’s pre-wash or steaming, you don’t want to put a lot of work and time into a garment only to realize it doesn’t fit after the first wash.

You also don’t want more than necessary chemical residues from the fabric producer’s manufacturing process on your skin. And, sometimes the new fabric changes character after being in contact with water which affects the drape of the fabric and ultimately the look of the finished garment.

Make it a habit, saving yourself the disappointment.

 

Get all supplies before starting

Check if you have enough dressmakers chalk, patternmaking paper, and all zippers, buttons, stay tape and thread you need to get you through the project.

Check your sewing machine, remove old dust, change needles and make sure you have necessary presser feet you’ll need.

Read the instructions beforehand, make sure you understand all of the techniques that will be used. If you’re unsure of something, Google it, Youtube it, check your sewing books or ask in a Facebook group. There’s always someone that has the knowledge and are willing to share.

 

Decide on a sewing order

For example; is it really a good idea to sew gathering threads into the sleeve cap after you’ve sewn the sleeve seams as some instructions suggest?

Use your logic and make changes where you need to. View the sewing instructions as a recommendation, not the law.

 

Make samples of e v e r y t h i n g

If you’re not 100% confident and absolutely know for sure that you’re in total control over the techniques you’re using, make a test garment (this is the law)…

That includes stitching, unusual seamline angle or turn, topstitching or quality of fabric you’re sewing for the first time as well as techniques you’ve never tried out before. Test all of it before you start sewing the actual garment.

Each sample you make saves at least the double time in seam-ripping or the worst case money for ruined fabric, so view this time as an investment.

 

Adjust the pattern as much as possible before cutting your fabric

Knowing your measurements and proportions is crucial and having a sloper or fitting shell (a basic pattern with your personal measurements with or without seam allowance) saves time. Having a measurement list is helpful.

Flat pattern changes are way less time consuming and complicated than fitting a basted or sewn garment. It’s especially useful if you don’t have a sewing buddy that can pinch and pin fabric and make chalk marks when you’re wearing your make.

 

And also…

Fuse interfacing on all pieces that need it, in one go. Don’t forget all notches, including center front and center back, snip with scissors or mark with tailors’ chalk.

Trace all seamlines on the fabric. It’s a huge time saver and you don’t have to worry if you’ve cut the seam allowance exactly equal on each seam. Use chalk or a heat erasable markup pen with ink that disappears when you press it (make sure to test it on a fabric sample first!) and if you need extra precision, do it with basting thread.

Mark all corners where the seam change direction and you’ll be practically guaranteed success getting the more time-consuming parts such as set-in sleeve caps or collar points symmetrical and in line.

 

Stage 2 – Sew

As pressing each seam is the only way to get a professional looking result, you have to do it along the way which isn’t time-saving per se. Try to bundle seams and press several at a time. Remember never to sew one seam across another seam before you’ve pressed it, the risk of adding unwanted tucks or getting a wonky seam isn’t worth it.

“Seam ripping and resewing always take longer time than… quite frankly, anything.”

You can quote me on that.

 

Stage 3 – Finish

Pre-press the hems and edges that need it and sew all of them at the same time. Same with any finishing topstitching, buttonholes, and buttons.

 

Stage 4 – Repeat

If you think this is a lot of preparation, you’re right.

Kind of.

At first, it can seem intimidating to start this rigorous prep routine, but sewing will be smooth sailing.

Using a system like this, it’s simple to make progress even if you haven’t got a lot of time. And making it a habit by repeating the same steps every time you sew will make it easier and faster in time.

With everything prepared you can simply jump into an ongoing project and get a lot done even if you only have a few 10-minute windows for sewing in your day or week.

 

To conclude…

by spending at least 80% of your time preparing you will hardly even need 20% for sewing. You can be confident that you’ve done everything in your power to give yourself a bump-free sewing experience. Perfect conditions when creating a beautiful garment with a professional finish and lots of wearing time.

Do you have a time-saving system for sewing?

Sew great!

To save you some time, I’ve created a checklist for you. It guides you how to take your measurement  so you can have them nearby when you sew. You can download it here below.

Get your FREE checklist here

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