Sewing tips

Sewing Efficiently: Your ultimate guide

Sewing efficiently in Construction

We’re finally to what everybody thinks about when they talk about sewing efficiently. The actual sewing is the fun part. But all the little steps you’ve taken up until this point have laid the groundwork to make all the construction go smoothly. But we can take advantage of some time hacks here too!

32. Sew as much as you can before pressing

Sewing as many seams as possible before you press is a total game changer with sewing time management. You don’t even have to clip threads between pieces. Just keep the chain of seamed pieces going. You can clip threads apart when you go to press or at your machine before pressing.

In fact, NOT clipping threads between pieces can actually help keep those first few stitches from getting jammed at the start of the seam. It’s a faster and better sewing two-fer.

33. Wear embroidery scissors around your neck

Gingher embroidery scissors on ribbon

Speaking of clipping threads, you’ll love me for this one. Wear embroidery scissors around your neck to clip threads. I love my little pair of Gingher stork scissors (*affiliate link*). Typical scenario: I need to clip threads and I either a)misplace scissors next to my machine or b)my kids have spirited away my scissors for a craft project.

Solve it by taking a piece of ribbon or bias tape–whatever you have and tie or quick sew it into a necklace. I put a little loop in my ribbon where a lanyard clip attaches and the clip holds the scissors through the handle. I never lose my thread clipping scissors. Less frustration, more saved time, better sewing day.

bonus gif

Bonus: These little scissors do triple duty. You can use them to trim corners or seams and they work as good if not better than a seam ripper.

34. Don’t use pins

If you’re going to love me for #33, you’re totally hating me for this one right now. Hear me out.

Pins sloooow you down.

A lot.

Every pin you put in takes a couple seconds.

Every pin you take out takes a couple seconds.

First you have to stop sewing, and then you have to take the pin out.

Multiply that out for every pin in the whole garment you’re making, and that’s a honking of time.

Also there’s the stabbing potential. Absolutely my weakness!

Instead, use your right hand to hold fabric layers together as the go under the machine. For your left hand, you have 2 options:

curved hand on fabric to sew efficiently without pins
  • No pins #1:curve and spread your fingers out so your fingertips are riding on top. Gently press on the fabric with your fingertips to guide the fabric. Option 2:
  • No pins #2: Hold the fabric layers together from the backside of the machine with your left hand–much like what you’re doing with your right hand. Do not pull, but move your right hand and left hand at the same speed as the fabric goes through the feed dogs.
one hand in front, one hand in back of sewing machine while sewing

This does take a little practice. Once you train your hands to do this, you’ll find there’s almost no need for pins. Practice! The freedom you’ll gain from this one and the time you’ll win back is worth it!

Don’t miss more ideas to sew without pins here.

35. Do one type of task at a time

You wouldn’t sew one buttonhole and then sew a dart only to make the next buttonhole. Yet how often do you sew one seam, serge it, sew the next seam, serge that and so on. We’ve already talked about sewing as many seams as possible at a time, pressing as many seams as possible. Let’s keep that theme going to include other tasks too.

Let’s say you’re making jeans. Batch all of your topstitching that you need to do for your jeans into as few groups as you can. It takes time to switch out regular feet for topstitching feet and regular thread for topstitching thread. The same can apply to serging, coverstitching, hemming etc.

You might have to change your construction order a little bit to lump everything by tasks. In the end, batching each type of tasks will help you keep sewing efficiently.

36. Set out all the machine feet you need for a project

Some sewing projects use a lot of different feet. Jeans are a great example. In the past I’ve used as many as 6 different machine feet. I even use a little foot tray for machine feet. All-purpose, zipper, buttonhole, an applique foot, and 2 different feet to help with topstitching. Some are totally necessary, and some are there because they make things a little easier.

You may not need 6 feet for a project, but chances are you need 2-3. Save yourself a little time and get a small flat tray or dish to hold the feet. Put the tray right next to your machine, and you won’t have to go searching when it’s time to switch out a foot in the next step.

37. Sew things flat as much as possible

Sewing in a circle can be a little awkward at times. It can be hard to see where you’re going. Sure, there’s times when you have to sew in a circle like with jacket sleeves. For all the other times, sew seams in flat as much as you can.

Let’s take the example of a t-shirt. Sew the sleeve seam before you sew the side seam and underarm seam in one pass. This works like a charm with t-shirts. If you really hate the way a sleeve seam feels/looks doing this, then set it in round. But otherwise, sewing flat is fast fast fast!

A table that your machine drops into or has a cutout for your machine can really help with sewing flat. I love my Sew Steady table, and here’s how I use it when I sew knits without a serger.

38. Match seam intersections quickly

basted seam intersection for sewing efficiently

I took away your pins. So how do you match seam points? More importantly, how can you match seam points and keep sewing efficiently?

Let’s say you’re trying to match the sleeve seam to the point where it meets a side seam.

  • First, hold your seam together right at an intersection point. Visually match it perfectly right where the seam line will hit.
  • Sew 1/2″ on either side of it with the proper seam allowance.
  • Check the seam intersection. Did you get it? If yes, sew the seam as normally would. You won’t need pins because you took care of that critical point!
  • If you missed it, you can pull the stitches out. You only sewed 1″, so there’s no seam ripper required. Just pull on the bobbin thread, and you can try again to match that point.
basted seam intersection for quick sewing

Some fabrics will give you grief, but they’d make you want to cry with pins too. Keep practicing, and this technique will become a favorite.

39. Thread your serger with a neutral color

Can I be Queen of the Lazy Sergers?

My serger is very basic and as such isn’t very quick to thread. It turns out, my laziness is actually a time saver that helps me sew efficiently. Let me explain:

Thread your serger with a neutral color. For me, white works really well. I tend to sew lighter color fabrics most of the time, and I don’t mind having white on the inside of my garments.

If I’m sewing a batch of things for my boys, I’ll switch to navy or grey. Both of these look nice with the darker colors they love.

By not changing my serger thread for every single new project, you save a little time each project. You also save money by not having 4 cones of matching thread for every single serger thread color! And because you don’t have 18,000 cones of serger thread, you save on storage space too. Win,

win,

win.

40. Wind the # of bobbins you think you need

This is a quick way to save some time and groans on your quest to sew efficiently. Just wind an extra bobbin for a project if you think you need it. It won’t take much extra time to wind another.

Later on, if you need it, you won’t have to go searching for a second bobbin or stop your work flow to change things out.

41. Clean your machine WHILE you wind your bobbin

And now to multi-task your efficient sewing. Winding your bobbin takes a little bit of time, and your needle isn’t engaged. Also, you don’t need your hands to wind a bobbin. Take advantage of the time and your free hands by opening up your bobbin area and cleaning out the fuzz.

Grab a paintbrush or whatever tool you use to clean your machine. Go fishing for fuzzballs all while the bobbin is doing its thing on top of your machine. Add oil if your machine needs it. Mostly, just enjoy your clean machine for a second before you pop the bobbin back into place.

Bringing it all together

So that’s my ultimate guide to help get you sewing efficiently. I’ve given you a whopping 41 tips for fast sewing. Between organizing your sewing space, smart cutting, maximizing your pressing, and eliminating the fluff in construction, you’ll find that sewing efficiently is not just possible but easy.

I’m turning it over to you now. Tell me in the comments: What’s the one fast sewing strategy you’ve learned today that you’re going to use right now?

Need more sewing minutes? Here’s 15 (16!) ways to make time to sew.

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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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