Sewing efficiently is a sport to me. Every Black Friday, my kids and I wake up at the crack of way too early and truck it over to JoAnn. They’re in it for the donuts afterwards. I’m in it for the bargain basement prices on flannel. It’s a little crazy, but afterwards, I spend some time cutting all that flannel into new pajamas. My sewing room overflows with pajama parts! But amazingly, every year, once everything is cut, 4 new pajama sets are just a few hours in the making.
It always shocks me a little how the systems I’m sharing here make the actual sewing process so quick. If you’re a Mom or just short on time, I crammed in all my best ideas to help you make the most of your sewing time!
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The Ultimate Guide to Sewing Efficiently
Why do you want to sew efficiently?
I know for a lot of us, sewing is unwinding time. So why in the world would you want to add a snore-inducing word like “efficient” in there and muck up that happy escapist time?
- Many of these things will uncomplicate your sewing life. Less complication = more sewing. More complication = less sewing.
- Organization is a huge part of sewing efficiently. When you know where your stuff is, you unsurprisingly save time. Also, as you put some of these systems in place, you’ll find it’s actually easier to unwind in the sewing room.
All these tips for sewing efficiently are broken into 4 categories:
There’s ideas here for every level of sewist. Use the table of contents to navigate around. Scan on through, find the ones that are hitting home and start saving time in your sewing right now.
Sewing efficiently doesn’t mean cutting corners
Big disclaimer here. You might think that saving time means that the quality of your work will suffer. It could, but it doesn’t have to.
You can sew faster AND sew neatly. Once you find your sewing style in how you work, you’ll be able to find the right balance between maximizing your sewing time with whatever time you have and making beautiful things you want to use and wear.
Enough with the blah blah–on to the sewing tips!
Set up your workspace for sewing efficiently
Your own little corner or room set aside for sewing is always going to be more efficient than a shared space. But even if you do sew in a shared space, shoot, especially if you do, organization in your space is going to free up so much time. So what can you do?
1. Have your sewing machines out and ready to go:
Plug your machine in and have it set up where you use it. Simple! If your living situation doesn’t allow this, store your machine where you’re going to use it. From there it’ll be a quick lift of a cover and a plug in before you’ll be sewing. Even this will beat rifling through a linen closet for your machine every time you want to sew.
2. Machines in a straight line (or not)
When your sewing machine family expands to include a serger or maybe a coverstitch too, it’s time to think about how you set them up. Set up all your machines in a straight line on a table. I like to roll on my chair between my serger and sewing machine. Since they’re next door to each other, it’s quick to shift between them.
L-shaped or U-shaped desks work really well for multiple machines. You can rotate yourself between machines really easily on your chair. Think about what’s comfortable to you and fits your sewing space.
3. Sort your thread
Keep your thread close to your machine and sorted by color. My thread is in a clear tackle box in paper boxes. The thread racks that you see in fabric stores are another great option. Mounted on the wall, you can easily grab the color you need or see which one you’re low on.
4. Keep machine needles behind your machine
Sewing efficiently starts with stocking up on things you use every single time you sew. Like machine needles. Buy them in bulk. I keep mine in a jar in their little plastic covers. You can have a more detailed system where you catalog all the numbers, but I find the jar is low fuss. I can quick grab the type I need and leave the rest in the jar for another time.
5. Have a list of your sewing machine feet
Have you ever forgot what a blind hem foot looks like? Make an index card to fit in the box where you store your sewing machine feet. I have a Janome machine, so all of the feet are coded with a letter. On the card, there’s the letter, the name of the foot, what it does, and any features it might have. You can draw or print out pictures of the really weird ones. I’m looking at you, pintucking foot.
This simple trick will help you find those feet faster later or keep you from using a zipper foot to zigzag. Don’t do that. You’ll totally bust a needle.
6. Use organizers for your tools
Have a place for all of the marking tools, loop turners, and other pens. I store mine in these fun zipper cans. Pens are migratory critters, so when they’re all in their approved location, you can always reach for one quickly.
7. The power of the pegboard
Pegboards are organizing wonders. Have hook, hang just about anything. On my pegboard, you’ll find all my rulers and measuring tapes. There’s also weird things like a lint roller, and my blockprinting brayers and a circle rotary cutter. Without the pegboard, I constantly misplace them. Now when I need to sew fast, I know exactly where my tools are.
8. Buttons in jars
You’ve probably seeing a theme now. If you want to sew efficiently, and maximize your sewing time, sort all of your stuff and keep it handy. The same goes for buttons. For a really long time, I struggled with all those fiddly button cards. They take up a lot of space, and it’s hard to see exactly what kinds of buttons you have on them. And a big button tin is a long slow hunt for the perfect button.
Instead, store your buttons in smaller jars. You can sort them by color (my solution!) or by type or by color and type. Whatever makes sense to you, do that and stick with it. Since I went to the jar system, finding buttons is so quick, and it helps me keep tabs on the buttons I’m running low on.
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.