We all want to make the most of our sewing time, especially if that time is limited. Maybe you have an hour or two in the evening when you work, or an afternoon naptime, or maybe you even have a solid 5 hour block of time to enjoy. It's frustrating spending that time hunting down something you were sure you put in the second drawer from the left, instead of making progress on your project. Even I don't get to sew without looking at a clock, and there are some tricks I've developed that help me make the most of that precious time with a sewing machine. A little advanced planning goes a long way.
1. Set up an organized workspace. This could be in a separate sewing room or the dining room table. In the summertime, my second floor workspace is often too hot to use, so I bring my machine to the kitchen table where it's cooler. I hate when I forget something and have to run upstairs to fetch it, so I try to have everything ready to go at the table when my sewing time starts.
2. Have a portable sewing kit with everything you need. To avoid extra trips upstairs, I have a basket with the essentials that can easily go from room to room. What's in this magic basket? Thread snips, thread and bobbin to match the project, seam ripper, 6" ruler, pins, fabric shears, Fray Check (for installing magnetic snaps), and an invisible marking pen.
3. Plan what you need for your project in advance. If you're making a skirt, have the elastic, correct zipper size, matching thread color, interfacing, proper machine needle, etc. ready to go so you aren't using your sewing time running to the store.
4. Group like thread colors together. When I batch sew, which is something many of us do when making holiday gifts, you can waste a LOT of time by changing the thread color on your machine too frequently. If I am going to sew 10 snack bags, I will group them by color and sew all the navy blue at once, then change the thread and move on to all the yellow pieces. This can help, whatever your project(s) may be, if it calls for different thread colors. Try to lay out your projects so that you thread a color only once through your machine to save time.
5. Do non-machine work elsewhere. If your sewing time comes but once a week, use other pockets of time to sketch out the quilt pattern, or sew buttons and rip out a hem that you need to change. The best use of sewing machine time is to actually sew on your machine. Planning, finish work and other sewing-related tasks can be done while sipping a glass of iced tea in the backyard.
6. Let everyone in the house know that you would not like to be interrupted for X amount of time. If you can close a door, even better! This works really well with older children, not so much for toddlers. If you say, "I'm working on a project for the next hour," the world will not end. Your children/spouse may just surprise you and leave you alone for an hour and a half!
7. Most important--Turn off cell phone alerts. Your precious sewing time can get sucked away in the blink of an eye by Facebook or Instagram alerts. It can wait! You will be so much happier with an hour or two of peaceful sewing than seeing whose kid got a Cheerio stuck up his nose. The Cheerio will still be there on Facebook when you've finished your lovely new table runner.
As co-owner of Stitchery in Portsmouth, RI, I teach sewing classes to children and adults. Welcome to my blog Dancing Threads RI.