Do you know about batch sewing?
It’s one of my favorite ways to cut out the fluff and be able to make more in the same amount of time.
But Elizabeth, I sew for fun. I don’t like to run around my room like a headless chicken.
I know! Me too! There’s nothing like lingering over a project. From here on out, I want you to think of batch sewing like a game all by itself. A game where you win at just getting stuff done.
So let’s talk about what batch sewing is, when it’s a good time to use it (hint, it’s not every day!), and the batch sewing tips you need to do your best with this method of sewing.
What is batch sewing?
Batch sewing is literally making a batch things all at the same time.
The idea is that while it takes a certain amount of time to sew one thing, it takes less time to make 2 of that same thing.
Weird, but true!
When is it a good time to practice batch sewing?
Batch sewing is not for everyday. It takes a certain amount of organization that makes it not sustainable or fun for the home sewist to do all the time.
Here’s when batch sewing makes sense:
- Gift sewing: when you want to make the same thing for several people, batch sewing is a killer strategy for getting it done.
- Sewing for kids: In truth I think I always batch sew things for my kids. When you have more than 2 kids, it’s a huge time-saver!
- Stashbusting: if you have a lot of weird bits of fabric you want to use up, pick an easy pattern, cut and sew them all at once.
- Sewing for charity: usually when I’m making things for charity it’s 1 small project repeated in multiples. Sewing for charity is a perfect opportunity to up your batch sewing skills.
- Bagmaking: sewing bags really lends itself to assembly line sewing!
- Color collection: if you have several fabrics in the same color family, a good batch sew might be in order. You won’t have to switch out thread, so why not give it a go?
What sewing in batches can do for you
Beyond getting more done in just a little bit more time, batch sewing has other benefits.
- Train your muscle memory: so much of sewing well involves getting the feel of manipulating fabric into your hands. By sewing the same seam multiple times, you’ll be amazed at how much more accurate you can become!
- Cutting out wasted motion: okay this one is going to get nerdy on ideas about productivity, but bear with me. A lot of the reason we get slow at doing things is because we waste time in between steps. Many of the things we’ll touch on with batch sewing will remove some of that wasted motion that’ll slow you down. The best part is that if you follow these batch sewing tips, the speed will come without you thinking about it!
Here’s how to prep for a batch session:
Cutting for batch sewing
Before you sit down for a batch session, you’ll need to cut everything first.
If you’re cutting the same size, you can experiment with cutting multiple layers of fabric. This can work well on bags or cotton quilting fabrics.
For me, this is easier to do in separate blocks of time.
I often cut during spare moments in my day so that I don’t have to waste my precious block of sewing time cutting. Cutting takes a lot of physical energy, so breaking up cutting from sewing can make actually sewing much more fun.
When you have things cut, serge around edges if necessary like if you’re sewing a bunch of pants.
Now you’re ready to batch sew!
8.5 tips for faster batch sewing
1. Be familiar with the directions:
You’re fixing on performing a 100 yard dash in your sewing room. The more familiar you are with the directions, the less time you’ll use referring back to them.
Before you batch sew, look over the directions.
Does it make sense to reorder the construction to save time?
2. Organize your supplies
Keep your supplies at hand so you can prepare your work station similarly for maximum efficiency.
Set out any notions that you need in the area that you will need them in. You will not want to be digging through your thread box for the right color when you’re zipping away.
Can you sew your project with the same color thread? Thread up all your machines with that color. This will save you that thread switching time later.
3. Press as much as you can first
Pressing hems in the flat is always easier, especially when dealing with teeny sleeve pieces in kids’ clothing. Also, if your hems are already pressed, you won’t have to stop working when you’ve seamed everything.
Also press any bindings that you might need and fuse interfacing.
4. Do more time consuming steps first:
Does your project need pockets, an applique, or an iron-on transfer?
Do these things first before you start sewing seams. That way these things won’t slow your flow.
If your project needs buttonholes you might be able to do them first. I know when buttonholes are the last thing, I just want them done. In that frame of mind, I end up ripping out more buttonholes.
So if you can switch things around and sew the buttonholes first, try it and see if it clears up your buttonhole anxiety!
5. Stack in construction order
Every project gets its own stack, and make each stack how you’re going to sew it.
Stack wrong sides together, pin sleeves and neck binding to the front with one pin for each piece.
If you’re batch sewing pants, put backs to backs and fronts to fronts to start out and put waistband pieces right sides together.
6. Consider not using pins
I talk about it often, but pins slow you down and stab you at inconvenient intervals.
When you’re batch sewing, you don’t have time to stop and take out each pin. You need to keep the sewing train moving.
Hold onto your fabric with left hand in back and your right hand pinching your layers together in front, keeping the raw edges even. Let your hands guide the fabric through the machine at the same rate so that you don’t distort anything. As your left hand gets to the back of the machine and your right hand approaches the presser foot, reset your hands at the starting position and keep going.
I talk more in depth about this process in Sew Without Pins.
7. How to match seams quickly without pins
I’m a bit obsessive about seam matching. 98% of the time, I will run a few basting stitches along the seamline where seams come together so that I can be assured that the seam will indeed match and so that I don’t have to pin later. I talk about how to sew matched seams with basting in Sewing Efficiently: Your Ultimate Guide.
But when you’re batch sewing, this little extra work is something you might want to skip.
Here’s a quick way to match the seam without basting pinning:
When you sew a seam, make sure the top layer is facing away from the presser foot. The bottom layer should face towards the machine.
If the seam faces the presser foot, the presser foot can stretch the seam crossing on top away from the seam crossing that’s next to the feed dogs.
Instead, sew along, and as you get to the seam crossing, match it up with your hands and slow your speed to go over the bulk.
You’ll be amazed at how accurately you can match the point of intersection!
8. Sew flat, and keep sewing:
Setting a sleeve in the round is 10X more difficult and takes 10X longer than when you sew the sleeve in flat and then sew the underarm seam and side seam in one go. Everything that you can sew in flat, do so.
Also, sew as much as possible before you press anything. Don’t stop to cut threads between pieces. Quilters do this when they’re chain piecing blocks together, and we can take advantage of this practice here too!
Cut everything apart at the ironing board in one go, and press everything in as large a batch as possible before you move on.
It might be weird to sew things all out of “proper” order at first, but you’ll quickly adapt and love the extra time savings.
And my last little batch sewing mini-tip:
8.5. Don’t Screw Up:
This is the kidding, not kidding tip.
Your seam ripper doesn’t judge, but every time you need to use it, obviously you’ll slow everything down. So try not to need it (ha!). But if you do, know that we’ve all had that kind of day too. We’ve all been Roger at some point.
Are you ready to batch sew by now? We’ve talked about what batch sewing is, the benefits it offers to you. We also hit on when to batch sew and 8.5 tips that will help you practice batch sewing in your sewing life. How do you think a good batch sew could help you?
More ways to help plan your sewing:
- Plan a sewing snow day
- How to start sewing with a plan
- Conquer your sewing UFOs in 5 steps
- How to start a handmade Christmas tradition with DIY family pajamas
- Why you should batch cut your gift sewing
Elizabeth Farr is the writer behind the Elizabeth Made This blog where she shares helpful sewing tips, step by step sewing tutorials and videos to help you explore your creativity through sewing. She has written sewing Eguides and patterns, been a featured teacher at Rebecca Page’s Sewing Summit and Jennifer Maker’s Holiday Maker Fest and her work has appeared in Seamwork and Altered Couture magazines. She also created a line of refashioned garments for SEWN Denver. When her sewing machine isn’t humming, she’s playing and teaching violin, and hanging around a good strategic board game with her husband and 4 kids.