Sewing tips

Sewing Efficiently: Your ultimate guide

9. Zipper hangout

zippers hanging on a shower curtain rod

The rule of zippers: no matter how many zippers you have, you never have the right zipper! I used to dig for my zippers in a big box, until I got the idea to hang them up. Using a shower rod, I sort the zippers by color and pin several together with a safety pin. The safety pins then attach to a curtain ring. They’re their own wall decor and you don’t have to go treasure hunting for zippers in the heat of the moment.

10. Leave your favorite sewing books next to where you need them

It happens to everyone. You sew something in backwards or make another mistake and then you have to go searching for help. Your sewing time is interrupted. Nothing like prolonging that frustration by having to go on a quest for the answer. Forget that: stash a good reference book right next to your machine. Or if you run into fitting questions, keep your favorite fitting book right by your cutting space.

Back when me and my serger were becoming friends, I left the Singer Serger book (*affiliate link*) book under my serging station. When my lower looper inevitably unthreaded itself or my tension was driving me batty, I could open straight to the page with all the tension troubleshooting advice. I’ve used that page so many times that my book permanently opens right to it!

If you’re looking for more thoughts on organizing your sewing space for efficient sewing, be sure to watch my sewing room tour.

Cutting ideas to help you sew efficiently

Cutting out your projects is a jumbo step in your sewing. Do it right, and it’ll make construction easy. Let’s explore some best practices that’ll save your body from extra stress and get to the actual sewing faster.

11. Use a cutting table

I’m assuming that you have a table where you can cut out all your sewing projects. Having a dedicated cutting table will save your back and untold amounts of time when you’re working on your sewing projects. Plus, it’ll help you cut more accurately. Mine is an old dining table up on blocks so that it’s hip height. My husband built a custom top over the table out of melamine.

If you are short on space, pick up something collapsible like a card table. They don’t take up much space on the floor. When you store them upright, they take up no space at all.

12. Use a rotary cutter with a jumbo mat

If you’re into sewing efficiently, a rotary cutter is going to be your best friend. They can slice through multiple layers of fabric (and your finger if you’re not careful) at the speed of scary. To get the most out of your rotary cutter, buy the biggest cutting mat that fits your table. With a big mat, you won’t have to shift your fabric around to fit the mat. That’ll save you time and keep your cuts accurate without having to move the fabric. I use a 40″x72″ Megamat. Here is a similar one (*affiliate link*).

Also change your blades when they start getting dull. I buy my rotary blades in bulk(*affiliate link*). I find the generic blades to be sharp enough for me. They’re also a lot less expensive than the Olfa blades. It’ll be safer for you and you’ll get cleaner cuts with less effort for your hands.

13. Mark your scissors for use

This is a good tip for training teaching your family which scissors not to use for nefarious crafting purposes. Take a piece of ribbon, and tie it around the handle of each of your scissors. You can color code them: Red =fabric, Green = paper.

scissors with sharpener and pattern weights

If you’ve ever torn your best fabric scissors out of the hands of an unknowing significant other on his way to fix the garden hose, you need to do this pronto! It will definitely keep you sewing efficiently when you can always identify your best pair when it’s time to cut.

14. Always, always keep your scissors sharp

Finding time to take your scissors to get sharpened might seem like a waste of time. But, like rotary cutters, sharp scissors save your precious sewing time. Dull blades make your hands work double hard and leave icky jagged edges on your fabric.

If it’s tough to get to a fabric store where they have someone who sharpens scissors, see if you have alternatives close to you. I know there’s a farmer’s market near my house in the summer where the knife guy will happily sharpen my scissors. He does a great job too for very little money. He even knows the difference between fabric and paper cutting scissors!

In between visits to the scissors guy, a little hand sharpener can help keep blades in good shape. I permanently borrowed this one from my kitchen.

15. Use pattern weights

pattern weights

When you’re cutting out fabric, don’t pin your paper pattern pieces to the fabric. Pinning is slow work both in the doing and the taking out afterwards. Sewing efficiently does NOT start with pinning your pattern pieces. True, there’s some fiddly fabrics that need that extra attention, but you can cut out 98% of sewing projects with pattern weights instead.

You can use practically anything for pattern weights. Rocks, canned goods, jars–literally anything you have works. I love plain large washers from Home Depot. Mine are in stacks of 2, covered with scrap fabric and ribbon. When you’re ready to cut, lay out your pattern pieces down on your fabric. On top of each pattern piece, add a few pattern weights near the edges. Cutting this way is so so fast!!

16. Glue a measuring tape to your cutting table

Raise your hand if you’ve ever gone to cut fabric for a project and been short 1/2 yard. Ugh. The worst. Glue a measuring tape to the side of your cutting table. They do it at fabric stores, so you can do it too.

tape measure glued on table

Use a standard measuring tape and the appropriate glue for your table surface. E-6000 worked well for my table. Hold up the fabric to the tape, and you can quickly gauge how much fabric you have available for a project before you start cutting.

next page graphic with spool of thread
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8 Comments

  1. Wow! So much great info packed into this post! I’m happy to say that I use most of these ideas. But I definitely need to get my scissors off of my pegboard onto a magnetic strip.
    I store my presser feet in a compartmentalized clear container – I used my label maker to identify each compartment.

  2. Caroline Booth Reply

    You have some great tips in this post! I don’t have enough wall space to hang a magnetic strip so my sewing scissors are in the top drawer of my sewing desk where they are very handy and, just as important, hidden from unwanted users!

  3. I used an old coffee mug tree for my scissors. I had to make the knobs smaller by cutting and sanding them so that the handles of the scissors would fit.
    I have tape measures on my cutting table and my sewing tables, which I covered with packing tape
    You’ve offered some very valuable tips to help increase efficiency and reduce stress

    • Mary, I LOVE the coffee mug tree idea! Totally genius! I’m with you too–when everything is right there and has a spot, it actually does make the process less stressful!

  4. Great tips! I just don’t have the wall space for the storage tips, given that I sew in the closet and my clothes take up a whole wall. But I think I’m going to do the thread scissors on the lanyard tonight, since I’m always misplacing those.

    Just for clarification on the block fusing: are you fusing the entire piece of fabric and then just cutting the pattern pieces and interfacing as one layer? I’ve heard of that technique before, otherwise I’m wondering how you’d avoid gunking up the iron or fusing it to the press cloth.

    • Thanks Becky. The lanyard definitely helps with the wandering scissors! I usually fuse my cut pieces to the interfacing–I keep the interfacing goo off my iron with a press cloth. I usually use silk organza as my press cloth, and interfacing really just peels right off it. Your idea to fuse a block of fabric and cut from that is also a way to do it–and that’s probably more efficient since you’re cutting the pieces AND interfacing at once.

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