I recently received a nod on Madalynne's Best Sewing Blogs 2014 for my sewing speed. Apparently my sewing output is up there with Lauren and Jolies Bobines!! I'm not sure I'm quite as fast as either, but still what great company!
Not surprisingly, I often receive comments or questions about how I manage to sew so many items. I work four days a week, have three kids and a husband that studies at night, so I do not spend time sewing every day. However, when I do get time, I have a few strategies that help me complete garments in minimal time. I thought I'd share some of these with you.
Have a dedicated sewing space which you do not need to pack down. I realize that not everyone can achieve this, but it is probably the single most effective way to increase your sewing output.
My boys share a bedroom so that I can have my own space. They like it that way and so do I. My space is adjacent to the living room and close to the kitchen. When I do enjoy a day at home, I can duck into my room for 15 mins, then get the boys a snack, then grab 10 more minutes sewing, then put on another Peppa Pig episode for Adele... You get the drift.
Cut garments to sew at night while watching TV. Same with tracing if you have to or taping pdf patterns. I think it's unrealistic to sew every night. We all need a little TV to stay sane. However, I like to stick or cut patterns and cut garments during this time. I also use this time to notch where needed and pin the apex of darts. I rarely transfer other pattern markings unless I feel that I need them. Doing this work in front of the TV means that when I do have real time to sew, I just sew.
No tracing! Well I lie. I don't trace any big 4 patterns, I just cut - sometimes on the largest size and notch and fold to my size - but sometimes just on my size. I do trace independent patterns, but only because they cost so much and I hope that someone else can borrow or I could make them for someone else (could I be that unselfish?? Not sure...) to get better value from the cost.
Super darts. I rarely mark or pin darts to sew them. Crazy!! I simple notch the dart legs and place a pin at the dart point. Then I simply align the legs and sew. I probably wouldn't do this with an exceptionally important garment, but it's pretty much the only way that I sew darts for everything else and it works just fine. Oh and I also don't tie off darts. Again, crazy cat!! When I reach the end of a dart, I lift my needle, move it back from the point, then sew a few stitches on a really short stitch length (1-2mm) to lock the dart. It's important when you do this not to 'lock' it too close to the point, especially with bust darts as you risk making the dart pointy, rather than curve.
No pins. Well most of the time there isn't and when I do pin, I use very few. I only pin when I really need to, like to align a notch or waistband or something. I also rarely baste unless there is something really serious that needs to be matched. Most of what I sew can be aligned without basting.
Eyeballing. I guess this one comes with experience and a little gung ho attitude, but I often just eyeball adding seam allowances, cutting binding, minor alterations, hemming, etc. It's risky, but I mostly get away with it. Mind you I probably wouldn't do this with very expensive fabric or on a really complicated project. I also just eyeball most instructions, unless I'm working on something very tricky.
Mix challenging, time consuming sews with a few simple items. After a mammoth project, like a winter jacket, I often need to sew a few simpler items to feel good about sewing again. Sometimes I sew a string of fast and simple garments that can last a month or two. These items are not bad. They are wardrobe staples that we all need (read: Grainline tiny pocket tanks - I think I'm up to at least my fifteenth).
Have an understanding husband. I think this is second to having a dedicated sewing space when it comes to the impact it can have on your sewing output. Sewing is my yoga, my 'me' time, my sanity and my husband recognizes this. Whenever I go a bit batty with stress or children, my husband will (though very rarely these days) take the kids out so that I can stay at home in peace and sew. He also never cracks the shits if I'm sewing while he is doing chores, nor does he get cranky if the breakfast dishes aren't done when he gets home from work if I've been sewing all day. What can I say, he's a keeper!
This is all I can think of right now, but I'm sure there are more.
Tell me, what nifty tricks do you employ to speed up your sewing or make better garments?