I’ve got 9 days to pull off Halloween for Team Farr, and my sewing room is a tornado zone which reminds me that it’s never too late to start sewing with a plan.
Definitely a little planning will go a long way to help you in your sewing. A lot of our projects are big complicated puzzles. Without a roadmap, it’s easy to waste time or make big costly mistakes.
So here is how to start sewing with a plan. We’ll talk about the importance of sketching, shopping smart, writing out your steps and breaking those steps down so it makes sense. Scroll down to get a free printable I made to help you out with your own sewing planning!
Sewing with a plan step 1: Sketch out your sewing plans
Before you start sewing with a plan, you need to get all your ideas down on paper. What’s the best way to do that? Sketch it out!
I can’t emphasize this enough. Draw out what it is that you want to sew. You don’t have to be an artist here. In fact, if you really stink at drawing, you can simply trace your pattern’s line drawing. There’s something about committing your plan to paper that’s going to help you make good decisions now that’ll keep your project moving forward.
Be sure to add a few colored pencils or watercolor or oil pastels into the mix in your sketches. Get as close as you can to the color the fabrics you’ll be using.
This little addition to your drawing can really help you troubleshoot, especially if you’re doing something like colorblocking where the placement of color will dramatically change the look of your final garment.
You can also label up your sketches with details you want to add or other ideas. Sketching=brainstorming time!
Sewing with a plan step 2: make a shopping list
Now is a good time to write out basic information like patterns you need, sizes and measurements as well as any notions and fabric requirements.
First write a list of all the things you need for your project.
What do you have it in your stash? If it’s in your stash, cross it off your main list. Post-it notes are my list-making tool of choice, but anything works here. You could even put your list on your phone’s notes app.
After you’ve gone through your stash, make up a final shopping list for everything you need and where you need to go to get it.
How to sew with a plan step 3: Gather your materials
Now it’s time to get all the things that you need.
Buy all the supplies that your sewing project requires. Also, organize all of the things that you need into one place in your sewing room.
There’s lots of ways you can do this. You can put everything you need for a project into a 2 gallon plastic bag, or baskets, or even a neat pile.
Do whatever works for you. The couch in my sewing room is often occupied with the next project. That couch is prime real estate for reading/hand sewing. I’m always extra motivated to finish up a project so I can get my couch back!
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How to sew with a plan step 4: write out your steps
You might be asking yourself now, “Why would I bother writing out the steps when my sewing pattern has a perfectly fine guide sheet to tell me just that?!”
Ah, but guide sheets don’t always put sewing tasks in the best order or one that even makes sense. Writing your sewing steps down on a task list can help you start to figure out if there’s places where you can put different steps together that make more logical sense.
The other thing that you can do in this step is to star the steps that you will need extra help to finish.
Do a little research here. Write down the video URL, book title and page #, or blog post next to every * you have on your list that’s going to help you on this step.
Sewing with a plan step 5: Identify where you can build in some efficient sewing
You already have brainstormed some places where you can move steps around a little
Doing things like sewing as many seams as you can before you press can save you a whole lot of time in the end without sacrificing the quality of your sewing. There’s tons of other time saving sewing hacks in this Ultimate Guide to Sewing Efficiently.
So say you have princess seams on the front and back of a jacket as well as a two-piece sleeve. Sew all of these seams in one step instead of sewing one seam, pressing it, sewing the next seam. You can press all of the seams at the same time too!
If you have similar steps like these, highlight them on your task list from step 4 and do these first.
Are there really easy steps? Can you reorder them so that they’re in between longer, harder steps? Those easier steps can be a good break when you’re in the middle of some tougher sewing.
Put your sewing plan into action!
The last thing you want to do when you’re sewing with a plan is to get working on it! After all, plans without action are just a waste of time.
Decide on how many of your steps you can do in a day or a sewing session. Those longer steps might just be 1 sewing session on their own. On the other hand, you may be able to bundle a whole mess load of smaller steps in a session.
Draw a line on your task list to make little divisions that break down your steps into manageable chunks.
If you want to take it a step further and build in a little accountability for yourself, write down a goal of how many task chunks you want to get through in a day.
I know I never would have made it through the behemoth task of my husband’s 10th Doctor Suit without my task list! The cutting list alone was enormous enough to make me want to break out into hives. Breaking it up and committing to a little bit every day made it a much more fun and less stressful sewing experience.
And that’s really what planning your sewing can do for you. Those extra couple of minutes that you spend getting your thoughts organized can take a lot of pressure off of you, so you’re freed up to enjoy your sewing.
What are your favorite ways to plan out your sewing?
Catch more sewing tips below…
- 8 Great Fall Fabrics to Sew
- 7 Tips for Sewing Laminated Fabrics
- How to sew sequin fabric (without going bananas)
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.