I am often asked how I find time to sew with all my other responsibilities. Here are a few things that work for me.
Get up early. Really early. Before anyone else is up, early. Pre-dawn early. That allows me to collect my thoughts and get some uninterrupted sewing time (or grade papers--I have an online teaching job that is part time, only at certain times of the year, which has been amazing for keeping my feet wet as an educator).
During focused sewing time, I silence my phone. I'm working from home so if school needs to reach me, they can call the house number. Everything else can wait because we're only talking about a 3 hour block, at best. All the email and Facebook alerts can suck your day away faster than you can say "smart phone."
Prioritize. You find time to do things that are important to you. My business is important to me, but it's not the *most important* part of my life. When I have orders or a craft show fast approaching, the laundry piles up and meals are mostly uninspired. When tomatoes are pouring in from the garden, then the sewing slows down and you'll find me making sauce. When the house is quiet and everyone is at school, you will almost certainly find me stitching away.
Speed. I've gotten faster with my sewing over the years. Production sewing is much faster than one-off custom work. There are a few tricks I've developed to make things even more efficient. If I'm making a stack of 20 snack bags, I will group things by thread color. Changing out the thread in your sewing machine is time consuming! The less I have to change, the better. Also, I skip pins for most of my construction, or at least for many steps for which I used to need pins. I tend to use the inherent friction in the fabric to my advantage, and stopping to remove pins every inch or two takes time. Of course I still use them when I need them, but if I can do without, I do. I also try to lump like projects together.
For example, today I'm making snack bags, and that's it. It's far easier to make 20 snack bags in a row than to make 2 snack, one tote, and then one memory game. Muscle memory takes over and sewing becomes meditative when I'm in production mode.
Capitalize on pockets of time throughout the day. If everyone is playing contentedly, I slip away to my studio. While waiting at the bus stop, I'll sketch ideas for a new product or jot down ideas for a sewing workshop. During dinner prep, I might check Etsy stats on my phone or respond to an email or two.
Get a good night's sleep. I don't work in the evening. I might cut fabric while watching a really good show like Call the Midwife, but I don't turn on the TV just to watch randomly. We don't get much more than PBS anyway. Sleeping 7-8 hours is so much more important than burning the candle at both ends. I could probably have more items in my shop and generate more revenue if I forewent sleep, but what kind of life is that? I'm a mean zombie if I don't sleep well.
Working in the evening only frustrates me. I make a lot of mistakes, then get more agitated when I have to rip out seams and repeat work. I'd rather be fresh and do something right the first time, than increase my output slightly by being tired and making mistakes.
When all else fails, drink coffee. I love starting my day with a hot cup of coffee. It certainly helps the 5am wakeup go more smoothly. When life gets hectic and I have deadlines plus other things that can't wait, I have an extra cup in the afternoon to get me through. Fortunately I have two beautiful new mugs from which to drink my pick-me-up, gifted by a dear friend. Check out her pottery at Ledge Rock Pottery. (She is working on building her inventory, so keep her in mind for holiday shopping.)
Knowing yourself is the most important part of finding an approach to balancing work and home life. It's certainly not perfect, there is always more that I could be doing, but this is what works for me and my family that allows me to run a handmade business and still end the day with a smile on my face!
As co-owner of Stitchery in Portsmouth, RI, I teach sewing classes to children and adults. Welcome to my blog Dancing Threads RI.