Sewing advice

Sewing Efficiently: Your ultimate guide

17. Cut out multiple projects at once

This one requires some planning, but in the end it does save you time. Think about it. Let’s say it takes you 20 minutes to cut out a t-shirt pattern. It strangely won’t take you 20 more minutes to cut out another t-shirt. This is because you’ll already have all your pattern pieces ready to go. Plus, with multiple projects cut, you’ll be sewing more efficiently by skipping the cutting stage the next time you want to sew that t-shirt.

18. Trim, don’t cut your interfacing

If there’s a sewing task I hate, it’s cutting interfacing.

It’s so wiggly and it seems no matter how well you cut it to the size of the pattern piece, it’s never the same size as the fashion fabric. You end up cutting the interfacing once and then again to trim it after you fuse it to the fashion fabric.

Um, no thank you.

Instead, block interface.

Set up all your fashion fabric pieces that need interfacing on a big chunk of interfacing (following the grain if you’re using a woven interfacing or one with stretch) on your ironing board. After you’ve fused everything, trim the extra interfacing around the pieces.

This way you cut it once with no wiggly hot mess.

Don’t throw the extra interfacing away–save it for tip #31. The interfacing will be easier to handle with the fused pieces, and you only have to cut it once.

19. Hang scissors and rotary cutters on a magnetic strip

sewing scissors and rotary cutter on magnetic strip
Scissors on the wall looks tough and the points don’t get dinged

There’s lots of ways to store your cutting tools, but my favorite is on a magnetic strip. You can pick these up online or at a hardware store. They’re the same things you’d use to store knives in a kitchen, although scissors are way less scary!

Storing scissors on magnetic strips is a huge step up from storing them in mugs, boxes, cans, or drawers. In other storage solutions, the blades can bump up against each other and possibly nick the blades. Damaged blades will lead to not nice cuts on your fabric. And since all your scissors are nice and visible in your room, a magnetic strip will save your sewing time by never having to wonder where your cutting tools are.

20. Stack pattern pieces the way you will sew them

This is next level sewing efficiency. After you’ve cut a project, stack the pattern pieces together the way that you’re going to sew them. Think about that simple t-shirt from #17. Stack the front and back with right sides together. I’m usually not a fan of pins, but you can remind yourself of which seam to sew with 1 pin right in the shoulder seam.

Under this, put your neck binding and your sleeves. You’ll have everything not only right at your fingertips, but you won’t have to put your pieces right sides together later.

21. Bag all your cut projects

Let’s say you do have several projects that you cut. To help you sew efficiently later when you’re in the construction phase of your sewing, here’s a 2 minute organization tip.

sewing project in clear bag
Finally, a use for those clear zipper bags pillows come in

Store each cut project in its own container. You can use a basket, a box, or easiest yet, a plastic bag. In each bag, add all the notions, pattern pieces, and directions for the pattern. When you’re ready to sew, boom, you won’t miss a thing!

Pressing ideas for sewing efficiently

Your iron is one of your best tools in good clean sewing, but it can waste a lot of time when you sew, press, sew, press. Let’s batch it all together and time hack your pressing!

22. Press as many seams as you can at one time

Some people like their iron right next to their sewing machine. While this is a good time-saver, I know I’d personally burn myself all the time. I actually like the walk across the room to my ironing station too. It’s a break in the action, and it’s good for your body to build in those little breathers anyhow.

But since I do have to walk across the room to press anything, I keep sewing efficiently by batching my ironing. How many seams can you sew one right after the other before you actually have to iron anything? You’d be surprised at how many it is.

23. Use a press cloth

How can a press cloth help you sew efficiently? I’m glad you asked. A press cloth can keep you from doing stupid things like melting zippers or collars. I’ve done both–rescuing them involved many many tears and hours. Also, it keeps iron goo off of your nice pretty project. I’d love to say that I have a nice sparkly clean iron, but we all know the truth. Use that press cloth.

My favorite press cloth is silk organza. It tolerates wicked high heat and steam, it’s lightweight, and best of all you can see through it. So you know exactly what you’re pressing.

24. Press up hems first

Pressing up your hems before you construct a garment can shave off some time later on. This might not work if you’re dealing with a pattern you’ve never tested before. Also, any kind of a bias hem that needs to hang before hemming won’t work here. But for everything else, press the hems first. This is magic with sleeves. Those tiny little tubes are the worst to press up a hem in!

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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