“How Do You Find The Time To Sew So Much?”

14 Aug

One question I get asked a LOT – in comments, emails, tweets, real-life conversations, you name it – is how I manage to churn out all these garments at a seemingly rapid rate. Apparently, “Uhhh, idk I guess I sew fast lol” isn’t a satisfactory answer, and after one too many gentle nudges from various people, I think it’s time to unleash a discussion post!

happy dayz

Contrary to popular belief, I do not have any of the following:
– A Vampire’s need for sleep, or lack thereof
– A collection of enslaved sewing elves tucked away in my sewing room
– A machine that stops time
– A job that lets me sew all day (but, I mean, if you want to offer me one…)

Guys, I work a full-time, non-sewing related job. I go to bed at like 10pm. I don’t have kids or a particularly needy boyfriend, but I do hang out with my friends, I ride my bike, and sometimes my after-work schedule means I don’t sew at all for an entire week. So where does the time come from?

Well, for one, I do sew fast. I’m sorry, but I just do! I’m very comfortable with my machines and most techniques I use, which means a lot more sewing and a lot less unpicking. I also just tend to do everything fast (people are very amazed when I join them for lunch and inhale my sandwich in less than thirty seconds), so don’t be discouraged if you’re not ol’ Speedy at the machine.

queue

Another big one is that I always have something in the works – once I finish a project, I immediately start the next one in my queue. The queue changes around based on current needs/wants or if I get a shiny new pattern that week… but the point is, I have a queue. Speaking of which, I found the easiest way to keep the queue in check is to pull out the patterns I plan on sewing and store them separately from the rest of my stash. On the front of each envelope, I pin a little swatch of the fabric I plan on using (see above photo). Much easier than yanking off the whole yardage and piling it on the table with the patterns… which was what I was previously doing. Anywaaaay, back to what I was saying – I literally work projects back to back to back. This means that during weekends where I have a couple marathon seshs in a row, I could easily end up finishing 2 or 3 projects – or even more, depending on how simple they are (knit tshirts, I’m looking at you). Obviously, I don’t want to post them all in a row – I think you guys would get real bored of my face real fast – so I try to spread them out a little. This is not always the case when I’m posting like I’ve got a fire under my butt, but a lot of times it is. Sometimes those Finished Objects are kind of old!

I know this is a sewing blog, but I want to point out that I also do this with knitting. What can I say – I really love knitting, I don’t want to *not* have a project in the works (same with sewing)! Not having any creative downtime may make me sound like I’m working some kind of bizarre sweatshop with horrible self-imposed deadlines, but honestly… I just really love making things, and I feel lost if I don’t have a WIP that I can tinker around with at any given time.

So anyway, here are some tips that will [hopefully]help you accelerate your sewing progress.

sewing room

#1: Have a Dedicated Sewing Space

I realize this leaves out a lot of people as not everyone can afford to set aside an entire room – or even an unused corner – dedicated only for sewing. That sucks! I’m lucky that I have the space (and I make enough money/live in an inexpensive enough area where the second bedroom is totally a dealbreaker when looking for places to rent), but I know not all of y’all have that kind of luxury. However, this is single-handedly the #1 reason why I can get so much done – I don’t have to spend half my time setting everything up and then later taking it down. My machines have their own tables and they are always plugged in, my ironing board never gets folded and stored, and my cutting table does not work part-time as a dining room table.

stash

Having a dedicated sewing space means that I can indulge in my favorite part of sewing (other than the sewing itself): STASHING. Wooohooo I love my stash!! Actually, my stash has shrunk considerably this year (this happens when you stop adding to it and start sewing from it!), but, it’s still a stash. My pride and joy when it comes to stashing isn’t actually my fabrics, though – it’s my stash of notions, trims, interfacings, linings, and all those other little sewing goodies that make you stop in the middle of a project because you don’t have one on hand. I won’t say I have enough stuff on hand to open a store, but I do have a lot. You don’t have to break the bank to build up a supply – just buy a little extra something or two when you go to the fabric store. For a few months, I concentrated on serger thread – I bought 4 spools of whatever color every time I stocked up on fabric. Eventually, I had every color of the rainbow – without having to drop mad $$ on it all at once. Most of my trims and zippers come from ~vintage~ stashes – the flea market, thrift stores, yard sales (I have friends and parents of friends who keep an eye out for me, too!) – which, if you’re not shopping on Etsy, old sewing supplies are practically given away. I have so much shit in my stash, I can make entire outfits without leaving the sewing room to stock up on something.

Obviously, pointing this out is not going to magically grant everyone access to their own sewing room (I wish!), but I do want to point out that this does give me quite a sexy leg up on the competition.

happy dayz
#2: UFOs Don’t Exist in My World

Ah, UFO – or, Unfinished Objects (altho if you want to talk about aliens, I’m down for that too), the bane of most sewer’s experiences. How many times have we started something, only to shove it in a box when something with a little more sparkle catches our eye? Guys, I know it is tempting to embrace your magpie tendencies – but it is murder on your productivity! Starting up a project takes precious time – from determining your chosen pattern and fabric, to cutting and marking the pieces, to all the boring pre-work like staystitching and fusing interfacing… and we haven’t even gotten to the actual construction! What is the point of wallowing through all that, just to set it aside and start the process over again? Not to mention, I’ve noticed a lot of people who tend to pile up UFOs rarely stop at just one.

To me, UFOs just contribute to wasting time. It’s one thing to set something aside if it’s frustrating you, but you shouldn’t make a habit of picking up a new project and starting over, because it can quickly get out of control. I made peace with myself a long time ago and decided to eliminate the UFOs in my sewing room and finish every.single.project, even if it killed me. Sometimes it does make me want to destroy things – but I soldier on and finish that fucking garment. Occasionally, it actually speeds me up because I’m so desperate to finish and move on to the next shiny object. So maybe in a way, it’s kind of bad for my productivity since I occasionally will find myself cutting corners in a desperate attempt to just be done. But on the flip side – I don’t have those half-sewn pieces creeping around my sewing room (is it just me, or do they nag at you and make you feel all stressed and sad? Say it’s not just me!), and I have a finished object to show for it! Yay!

muslin
#3: Make a Muslin

I know, it’s like toootally contradictory. When you’re short on time, ain’t nobody got time for a fuckin muslin. This is NOT even true and all of us need to collectively reprogram our brains, like, now.

Besides obviously avoiding the trauma of spending your time on something, only to discover it doesn’t fit – muslin-makin’ is also good for increasing your speed, as it will give you a chance to practice a little on the garment before you start hacking into the good stuff. This means you will spend less time pulling your hair out over the instructions – because, dude, you already did this! – and less time ripping out your seams when you inevitably made a mistake due to sucky instructions. I also feel pretty confident, post-muslin, in that I know the garment will fit (since I basically already tried it on), which means less futzing with the fit during construction-time. Of course, I do fit-check throughout my sewing process (and you should too!), but it’s one thing to put half a bodice up against your chest to ensure things are coming along smoothly, and quite another to suddenly discover you cut the wrong size… halfway through.

One point I do want to make is that muslins do NOT take a lot of time to put together, especially if you speed up the process. Unless the skirt is something that needs to be fitted, I generally only sew the bodice. I do include a sleeve, but only one. I sew all my seams with a long stitch so I can quickly rip them out if I need to (and it pushes through the machine faster). I don’t bother with facings, collars, or buttons, although I do baste in a zipper. Also, this should go without saying, but once you make a muslin and get your fit down, that’s it! You can churn out multiples of the same pattern and skip the muslin.

happy dayz
#4: Sew Whenever You Have A Chance

I’ll admit, this is probably gonna be real rough for those of you who don’t have a dedicated sewing space :( But I do think it’s important to maximize your time – so what if you only have 20 minutes to spend cuddling your sewing machine? You could use that 20 minutes to stay stitch some curved seams! Mark your pattern pieces! Thread your machine and decide what buttons you want to use this time! Skip ahead of your pattern and assemble the collar! The point is, there is SO MUCH that you can do in small chunks of time, so don’t waste it by subscribing to the thought that you *only* have x amount of time to do anything – think of it instead like you have enough time to sew your bodice darts, or prepare your sleeves to get set in, or whatever.

This is pretty dorky – and y’all are totally going to make fun of me for this – but I actually get a lot of my little sewing bursts done in the morning, before I go to work. I don’t necessarily get up any earlier than I need to (although sometimes I do, ok, sorry I’m a dork!), but sometimes getting ready doesn’t take as long as I need, so I try to utilize that time in my sewing room instead of just chasing Amelia around the house for 20 minutes. I set a timer on my phone so I KNOW when I have to drop everything (the timer is important, you don’t want to get carried away and make yourself super late!), and I actually listen to it when it goes off. I don’t try to rush myself – if I only have 10 minutes and I only get some stay stitching done, who cares? That’s one less seam I have to stay stitch when I get home, awesomeee!! Which brings me to my last point…

cat
#5: Enjoy It!

I treat sewing the same way I treat a bicycle ride – I’m doing this because I enjoy it, not because I’m in a hurry (if I was in a hurry, I’d take my car. Or shop at H&M. Whatever!). When I catch myself trying to rush through the process, I force myself to stop and slow down. Sometimes this can be hard because I’ve basically ingrained it in my head that I HAVE to post new stuff every week, and oh god people are going to stop reading my blog and the world will end and ughhh… but, you know. That’s not true. I’m sewing because I love the entire process, not just the finished piece (although that’s a nice bonus, let’s be real). In my experience, rushing only leads to stress, tears, and a lot of fuck-ups. Stop, take a breather, and just slow it down. It’s fine. I promise.

Anyone else have protips to share for increasing your sewing output? I’m still stuck on the couch and I’m bored as hell… let’s have a discussion!!

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218 Responses to ““How Do You Find The Time To Sew So Much?””

  1. Tracy August 14, 2013 at 4:00 pm #

    Great post Lauren. I spend a lot of time chasing my cat around the sewing room, despite getting him a nice cat tree for in there. Anybody got tips for that?

    • LLADYBIRD August 14, 2013 at 4:15 pm #

      I personally gave up on trying to keep my cat off of surfaces and instead trained her to get out of the way when I tell her to move :) Ha!

      • Kristin Saunders August 14, 2013 at 5:16 pm #

        I always start with a pile of tissue paper balls…that way I can toss them for the cat to chase instead of her taking a grooming session in the middle of whatever I am doing. But now I’ve inadvertently trained her to come running for playtime with tissue paper when I pull out my projects! So don’t follow this suggestion….

        • marcyhmakes September 16, 2013 at 4:37 pm #

          I don’t have a cat, but I read a suggestion to keep a box lid on your work surface because they’ll pick the box over your keyboard, papers, etc.

          Worth a shot. :)

  2. Rosie Wednesday (Lauren) August 14, 2013 at 4:02 pm #

    I loved this post! I have often wondered this about you too, so it’s nice to know the method behind the posting madness! I was nodding my head along the entire time. I employ a lot of the same tactics, although I hadn’t thought of stocking up on notions. Good tip!

    Have you ever hand stitched or knitted during lunch? I’ve thought about doing this recently. I think it would give my brain a break, which would end up helping my sewing AND work productivity. The problem is everyone would look at me like I was a loon.

    • LLADYBIRD August 14, 2013 at 4:17 pm #

      Yes, I always knit on my lunch break – assuming I don’t have errands to run or anything. It’s such a nice de-stresser, and each hour really adds up :) Occasionally, I’ll bring in an embroidery project, but I usually stick to knitting. I save my hand-sewing for when I’m watching TV with Landon before we go to bed :)

    • Lisette August 15, 2013 at 6:47 am #

      I knit on my breaks! It’s the only reason I get any knitting done, and I’ve found people are always more curious than weirded out. You’ll just get asked a lot of questions!

  3. Molly Lindell August 14, 2013 at 4:06 pm #

    Wow! That was a thoughtful and helpful piece. I’m thinking about getting back into sewing (still a novice, really) and now I know that I need to get my spare room fixed up if I’m going to be able to do things efficiently. And, I know a lot of other good stuff, too. Thanks.

  4. kaloskraft August 14, 2013 at 4:08 pm #

    I love this! Great tips. You are way better than I am about the UFO’s-but I have gotten so much better at finishing things when I mess up, my unfinished pile is steadily dwindling.

  5. Portia August 14, 2013 at 4:09 pm #

    Ayeeee! You’re right! So what if I can only pop into my summer house (aka my sewing haven) for 15 mins! It’s amazing what ya can get done in 15 mins. I so need to retrain my brain. Thinking about it….I’m all “if I haven’t got at least 2 hours in a row there’s no point in starting”. But it soooo is. You’re totally right! Thanks for the smack around the chops lady! (I’ve always wondered how you get so much done! Those extr 20 mins here and there add up over a week, huh?!)
    Px

    • LLADYBIRD August 14, 2013 at 4:22 pm #

      20 minutes, Portia! You’d be surprised at how quickly those add up ;)

  6. Lynn August 14, 2013 at 4:10 pm #

    I also do a lot of pre-planning before doing any cutting or sewing. Deciding that you like the pattern with the fabric and that the fabric is SUITABLE is key to getting good results and speeds up your sewing as well since you are not struggling to get a heavy fabric to behave the way a voile would or vice-versa. I also will spend a whole day cutting or marking so that when I have smudges of time to sew, everything is all ready to go. I think cutting and marking are much harder to do with snippets of time than actual sewing.

    I am like you, Lauren, I love the creative process and working with my hands so much that I am always working on something. In addition to sewing, I knit, crochet, cook and garden. Sitting around doing nothing is just not conducive to my relaxation or happiness!

    • LLADYBIRD August 14, 2013 at 4:20 pm #

      Definitely – I try to get all my cutting down in one session, and preferably the marking done as well. On a good day, I’ll prep everything at once (cutting, marking, interfacing, staystitching) so I can get straight to sewing when I have the chance.

  7. Jenni L. August 14, 2013 at 4:16 pm #

    I love that you squeak in bits of sewing in the morning before work. I’ve been known to do that too! :)

    One thing I do (that is probably more of a help with motivation vs. speed, however) is that I try to never leave a project with the next step being something icky. I try to instead end my sewing session with the next thing being something I am super excited to do, and that way, I am completely motivated to get cracking on it the next possible moment I get! This tactic has been helpful for me with kicking the UFO habit. I used to make UFOs like crazy, but I’m happy to say that this year I only have three projects that I’ve started but not finished, and that’s because they are my current projects. (One knitting, one modern sewing, and one historic sewing project). Hooray for not piling up UFOs! ;)

    • LLADYBIRD August 14, 2013 at 4:21 pm #

      Hehe, I try to do that – but then I end up taking the next (fun) step too! Sometimes it’s just hard for me to stop :) But that is definitely good advice!

  8. Kellie August 14, 2013 at 4:16 pm #

    Hi Lauren, great post! I just wanted to chime in to say you are not the only one stressed out by unfinished projects. I find they just mentally drag me down, have to finish it so I can move on! This goes not just for the sewing room, but for life in general.
    I, like yourself, am currently sidelined recovering from surgery, and I am slowly but surely getting back to the sewing action. I wish you a speedy recovery!

    • LLADYBIRD August 14, 2013 at 4:22 pm #

      Thank you! I hope your recovery is coming along smoothly (and quickly!) as well!

  9. Nakisha August 14, 2013 at 4:17 pm #

    I feel vindicated!!!!!! Yesssss!!!! I’ve only been sewing since late January but I keep getting asked if I sleep, etc. I have a non-sewing related job. A spouse. A bunch of kids….

    BUT I now have a dedicated sewing space…yes, it’s cold and slightly dank…but it’s MINE. That means I can leave stuff everywhere and do bursts of sewing. I was just bragging that this morning, in 20 minutes I sewed together the bodice of a little baby jacket I’m making, pretreated fabric (leaving it in the dryer to dry) AND ironed 3 of my husbands shirts.

    I cannot – CANNOT – have one thing in progress. Yesterday in 90 minutes I traced off two patterns, got the fabric and notions together for them, cut out another project and reorganized some of my knitting goodies.

    I don’t think I “sew fast” but I am in love with this hobby that I make time.

  10. Carolyn August 14, 2013 at 4:17 pm #

    Lauren – this is a great post and I’ve shared many of the same tips on my blog. I would like to add though that if you can just have a dedicated corner to sew in, you can accomplish just as much. Before this last move, I sewed entirely in my bedroom. I had a corner for my sewing machine and serger and another corner for my cutting table. My children were sleeping in my extra rooms so I had to make do because like you, I just like to sew!

    Hope your feeling better!

    • LLADYBIRD August 14, 2013 at 4:24 pm #

      This is true. I think as long as you have a space where the machine can stay out (or as long as you’re pretty quick at setting up/tearing down), it really helps with the output. It’s been a long time since I’ve had to share my bedroom with my sewing machine, haha :)

      Thank you! I am feeling better today :)

  11. Kara August 14, 2013 at 4:22 pm #

    Not so much tips, but as a beginning again beginner, I’ve made a deal with myself that I really will just do one project at a time instead of being distracted by all the pretty patterns. Whilst reminding myself that I enjoy the processes of sewing/creating my peaceful “mind space” even when its frustrating and rushing is likely to ruin the calm that descends.

    Also whilst touching on sewing spaces, may I ask what make your mat is, I’ve tried searching the interwebs for something but am kind of coming up with nothing but the green cutting mats – thanks!

    • LLADYBIRD August 14, 2013 at 4:29 pm #

      Sure! It’s this cutting mat from Joann’s. It’s really nice for measuring inches and yardages, but be warned that 1. It does not store very well (too stiff; it needs to stay on a tabletop); and 2. It’s not a self-healing mat, so it kind of sucks with a rotary cutter. I’ve had mine for a few years and I love it :)

  12. ciara August 14, 2013 at 4:27 pm #

    Thank you so much for writing this Lauren – it’s really helpful and really inspiring! Only started reading your blog recently and I asked exactly that – “where does she get the time make all this?”

    In the back of my head, I’ve been thinking about some of these things (like having a dedicated sewing space) but this has confirmed it for me! I realized I do this already for knitting – i have a queue (on ravelry); I only stick to one (maybe two ) project on the go at a time. Sometimes to take a break from a complicated lace project , i have a simple stocking stitch project as well. I always carry my knitting with me, so i can get it done at any time (on the bus, lunchtime, doctors waiting room).

    I need to do all these same good habits for sewing too. I’m currently teaching myself to sew – and it’s hard to know where to begin. Getting started is the hardest part or me, once I make that first cut into the fabric I know I can’t undo it like I can my knitting! But it’s ok to make mistakes too – not every piece will work out, but you learn from just doing it. The practice itself is improving you for your next garment.

    So I’m off to make a queue, make a muslin, and do all your tips and hopefully that will get me some what on the road to being a self-taught sewer!

  13. strugglesome August 14, 2013 at 4:28 pm #

    Lauren, this is a great and interesting post (as they always are). Something I do which helps is that I cut a lot of projects at once, because I find that to be the most time intensive/annoying part of the process, so I would rather do a ton of it it when I’m on a roll then have to do it every other time I sit down to sew. And this way I have a stack of cut projects ready to go and I can just reach for the next one when I’m ready. This helps me lots and lots!

    • Alicia August 15, 2013 at 5:07 pm #

      I do something very similar. I don’t cut multiple patterns at a time but I do take a free weekend and muslin 2-4 patterns in my queue at once. I find that I only like to have one project going at a time but it is so much easier to be motivated to finish and start the next when the fitting issues are already out of the way. It is a good system for me. Thanks Lauren for the post.

  14. Michelle August 14, 2013 at 4:29 pm #

    Great tips! I’ve tried sewing before work when I can get myself up early enough, and I LOVE IT. There’s something satisfying about starting my day doing something I enjoy. I also cram a lot of knitting time into my commute, because I take the train.Knitting SO totally beats awkward eye-contact on the train.

  15. sassicandiandi August 14, 2013 at 4:29 pm #

    Beautifully put. I hardly ever read further than the first couple of words in any blog I “read”. Ain’t NOBODY(mainly me) got time for that. Ex. “So I saw this pattern……” Done. Lemme see pics!

    But this caught my attention and I read a good 90%. Then a ladybug crawled across my desk… But in all seriousness, this was a great post. It was also great to read your encouragements to finish the project in progress.

    And I promise to go back the read the last 10% :-D

  16. Sanne August 14, 2013 at 4:30 pm #

    Thanks for the good advice! As I don’t have sewing-dedicated space (yet), I organise my projects in boxes or sometimes shopping bags. So everything I plan to use for a project (fabrics, notions, zippers, whatever) goes in the box when I found/bought it. I also love to write lists with all steps and things I have to think about, so I can tick off what I already did (I’m mostly a make-your-own-pattern-sewer, so I don’t have proper instructions for most of my projects). This also helps to break down a process into lots of small parts (which can be done in 20 minutes ;) ). I don’t think I’m very fast sewer (also simply due to lack of experience – I started to sew in November last year), but at least I got no UFOs lying around here. Ha!

  17. sewexhausted August 14, 2013 at 4:30 pm #

    Great post… I like your method for queuing up projects- think I will start doing it that way too. I am one of those that has no space at this time BUT I confess I set up a card table in my livingroom in front of the TV a few weeks ago and my kids have not complained yet! And I am pretty sure I have not taken down my ironing board in over a month! :) ~Laurie

  18. Ellen August 14, 2013 at 4:33 pm #

    You know, I’ve been reading your blog for a while and the thought crossed my mind, “How does she churn this stuff out”??. Thank you for clearing this up for me! Recently I read a quote,”It’s your hobby, what’s your hurry”? Cutting corners and racing to finish a project makes me cringe a little. Like you, I have a dedicated sewing room and a sewing queue. I never have had a UFO, and the only things in my stash are notions and machine embroidery designs…I like to savor the process- it is my hobby and and I am lucky that it also led to my career.

  19. K-Line August 14, 2013 at 4:35 pm #

    Ugh. Just wrote the best comment ever and the computer seems to have eaten it. No time to recreate but want to suggest that you level of organization probably strongly contributes to your productivity. Really, it sounded much better in the other comment.

  20. shawnta715 August 14, 2013 at 4:35 pm #

    Great post!!! I live by #4. I also set aside a ziplock bag per project in the wings that has the pattern or just the instructions,the traced off pieces, the fashion fabric, possibly a muslin, and all the notions for the project. If you don’t have a dedicated sewing space organizing projects like that keeps everything together.

  21. zilredlohi August 14, 2013 at 4:35 pm #

    Wonderful read, lady! I’m soo the culprit of the UFO, but I’m doing much MUCH better at this of late. Well, even this whole year really. I only have 3 UFOs (2 of which are from last year and I well… they don’t count in my mind). But it is hard keeping myself in check to not drop a project just to start a fancy new one.

  22. Sarah W. August 14, 2013 at 4:38 pm #

    Thanks for the tips, Lauren! I am amazed by how much you get done, and I’m so happy at the joy you get from it.

    I think I’m more productive like this with reading: I read fast and I pick up a new book as soon as I put one down!

    I like to finish projects before I start a new one. In other words, I’m still knitting that cardigan from months ago! Miss you, Sarah

    • Trisha August 21, 2013 at 4:11 pm #

      Ha. I just posted about how these tips remind me of the way I read, too! Hi Sarah!

  23. Mari August 14, 2013 at 4:38 pm #

    Great post. I am encouraged and ready to start sewing in whatever time I have. I have always been an “all or nothing” person so it is hard to make use of those little time opportunities – your advise makes such sense so I am going to try to put your methods in practice. Thanks, such a great pep talk.

  24. Pat August 14, 2013 at 4:39 pm #

    I consolidate my trips to the iron. Rather than following the instructions in numerical order, I’ll sew each component (bodice, facing, collar, sleeve, cuff, skirt, etc.) until it needs to have the seam pressed, and then set it aside and skip ahead in the instructions to pick up the next garment part. When every piece is sewn to the ironing point, then I’ll press the whole lot at once, and repeat. This seems faster to me because every part of the garment is progressing equally. When the next step of the bodice is to set in the sleeve, the sleeve is waiting and ready to go. When it’s time to join the bodice and skirt together, you don’t have to stop and sew the skirt first, you can just put them together.

    • Anonymous August 17, 2013 at 10:33 am #

      I do this, too! It makes everything go SO much quicker. I sew very quickly and part of it is trying to employ the sorts of techniques in manufacturing – so, like piece work I guess. I have to say though – I really hate being asked how I can “churn” stuff out so quickly. I think it’s such a disrespectful word in this context as it implies I’m just banging stuff out with no regard to quality. Every bit as much love goes into every one of my stitches – they just come out a bit faster!

  25. bridget August 14, 2013 at 4:43 pm #

    love this post! I am lucky enough to have a sewing space in my bedroom – which kind of means my bed is an afterthought but I have the cutting space and permanent places for my machines…if only it wasn’t so messy – your post has inspired me to clean up!

  26. Jenny August 14, 2013 at 4:47 pm #

    Great post – I knew you had to be a fast sewer and I wish I could churn things out as quickly as you. I suppose that happens over time and with more and more practice and experience.

    I hope you’re feeling better! by the way, I wish there really were elves to help out but I’d have them clean the house, do laundry and dishes while I sew!

  27. Taygan August 14, 2013 at 4:48 pm #

    Awesome post, some really helpful tips in there.

    I tend to try and set aside one day of my weekend for sewing. I usually end up only doing half a day, but that’s generally enough time for me to complete a simple project or get a good start on a complex one. I do everything fast too hehe.

    Things I need to work on currently are my UFO pile (eep, PILE) which I am planning to blaze through once I return from overseas to no job, and remembering to actually make a muslin, PROPERLY!!! I get lazy.. It’s bad.

  28. Chickeys August 14, 2013 at 4:50 pm #

    Yeah, this post is awesome…finally, the methods behind your madness! ;)

    Alright, discussion…I live by myself in a studio apartment, and for a while I was sewing on my eating table, until I realized, why? I never sit at the table to eat! So I repurposed it into a sewing machine table. I also took a hint from your space and got a Norden gateleg table for cutting — man, it’s awesome to have two tables! When people ask where I live, I say, in a sewing room with a bed and a closet. ;) My ironing board is set up in my “kitchen hallway”, and it kinda sux having to walk back and forth and back and forth. Woe is me. ;)

    I am also firmly in the camp of NO UFO’S ALLOWED. If I’m workin on something, I want it finished so I can wear it! Hehehehe.

    I do not sew fast. It’s sad how slow I do go. I’m hell-bent on having nice seams, and taking a lesson from other things in life, you gotta get good before you go fast. Oh, to have nice stitching AND go fast…sigh. Also, I don’t own a serger, so my seams are all stitched-and-pinked or covered with binding, which takes forever, but is worth it because unfinished seams, lolz no.

    Anyways. Long comment, ahoy! Hope your recovery is going smoothly, LT. :)

    • LLADYBIRD August 15, 2013 at 9:57 am #

      Hehe, when I lived alone, I took the tiny room for my bed and gave the GIANT living room to my sewing machine. People made soo much fun of me, but you know what? I only sleep in that bed. I spend all my time at the sewing machine; it deserves the bigger room!

  29. angela August 14, 2013 at 4:50 pm #

    Great post indeed! Like I said in the last post I have several UFO’s to finish and I am determined to finish every last one! I have and extra challenge because I have lost 28 pounds since I began sewing them so I’m not sure how easy it is going to be to finish them :) I have also provided myself an incentive by buying several very nice new colette patterns and two very cute cake patterns that I am dying to sew up!! Thanks for the extra motivation of this post ;)

  30. Amanda August 14, 2013 at 4:52 pm #

    Right there with you on the short bursts idea. I set my phone alarm and go for broke for 15 minutes. Sure, you may only get some stuff basted or a hem partially done but that time adds up really quickly over a busy week. Thanks for all the tips :D

  31. Jenny August 14, 2013 at 4:54 pm #

    Great post! I’ve made the same goal with UFO’s and project ques. Recently it’s been paying off, and I’ve been gaining momentum with each project.

    Quick question… As my pattern collection slowly grows, I’m wondering the best way to keep track of them all. Do you have any tips/suggestions for organizing your pattern library?

    • LLADYBIRD August 14, 2013 at 4:57 pm #

      I wish, but I’m afraid my pattern collection isn’t exactly organized haha! I have them sorted by type (dresses, tops, pants/shorts, jackets/coats, sleepwear, men’s, etc), but that’s the extent of it. For a while, I was uploading them to Flickr so I could keep digital track, but honestly it’s not hard for me to remember what I have (even though the count is over 200 at this point). I’m sure there are better organizational systems out there!

  32. Bec Stitches August 14, 2013 at 4:56 pm #

    Great post Lauren,good tips! you are a speedy Gonzales;) I find the prepping the pattern takes me the longest..layout, cutting etc..any advice/tools you think helps out? Or do you jist get better with practice:)

    • LLADYBIRD August 14, 2013 at 5:00 pm #

      Hm, well, for one – I don’t trace my patterns :P That saves a lot of time haha! I also don’t really follow the cutting layout… I find that they tend to waste fabric, so I just make sure everything is on grain and create my own layout. As far as cutting, I know lots of people prefer rotary cutters, but personally – I like my scissors! Make sure you have a nice pair and you keep them sharp, it’ll make cutting so much easier. When I’m marking, I use tracing paper and one of those little rotary marking tools, and I snip into my notches (instead of cutting out the triangles). Also, I try to do all my cutting and prep at once so I don’t have to bother with it for the remainder of the project :) Hope that helps!

  33. Leila August 14, 2013 at 4:57 pm #

    Heyo! Let’s drum up more muslin interest! Nice! yeah, it’s actually a time saver. When I don’t muslin, I find myself double guessing my sizing decisions instead of just sewing!

  34. Amy's-Blog August 14, 2013 at 5:03 pm #

    I’m an all or nothing girl too. I need to retrain my brain to get smaller bits of sewing in. I have a sewing room that doubles as the dining room. All my stuff stays in there even when I have dinner guests.

    I break down the prep work over several days. I cut the tissue pattern pieces out on one night. Cut out and mark the fabric pieces the next night. Then start sewing the next day. This helps me to not be overwhelmed with the whole project. I’m planning on moving to a 2 bedroom apartment next year and cannot wait to have a dedicated sewing room and dining room.

  35. Philippa August 14, 2013 at 5:09 pm #

    So glad you posted this. It has confirmed my suspicions that what I really need is a babysitter and a divorce. Just kidding! But the best tip is the do the little bursts thing (for me anyway). I am not especially productive but I will even do 10 mins while waiting for the tea to cook or whatever. It’s surprising how that adds up.

  36. Eleyna August 14, 2013 at 5:09 pm #

    Ah Thank you Lauren! This was the greatest post. I’ve been wondering the same thing about your speed and productivity. I have a queue, too. But for some reason, by the time I get to the next item in my queue, I’ve put 4-5 shiny and new projects before it!

    Question: Do you alter clothes at all? I have a stash of clothes that need fixing that has it’s own queue. Since I HATE altering with a passion, it really just sits there. But some of its contents are really nice and/or expensive pieces. I just would rather start a new sewing project than bother with the alteration pile. Just wondering if you have the same problem, or if you just donate clothes that don’t fit anymore.

    • LLADYBIRD August 14, 2013 at 5:12 pm #

      I do occasionally alter clothes from time to time, but not as much as I used to – rarely will I buy something (thrifted) that doesn’t fit without a bunch of alterations, unless it’s just FABULOUS. I will hem and nip in the waists of vintage dresses, but that’s about all I do. Most of my handmades that don’t fit anymore I’m pretty much over (and would have required a lot of ripping out and restitching to adjust the fit), so I was happy to sell them off to new homes :) I used to love altering, but these days I’m more of a start-from-scratch kinda girl!

  37. Aline August 14, 2013 at 5:11 pm #

    I can relate to most of your tips, though I must admit I am just not that organized in my work as you are. Lists I make are doomed to fail, as soon as #2 is on the table I prefer #17 or #21 that wasn’t even on my list before. Lots of time because something is just more urgent (like a kids coat instead of the extra dress). I sew for myself and my 3 kids (9, 6, 2). Not because I need to, but because I love to. I work nearly full time (4 days), so I don’t have my hands free when kids are in school/sleeping, but maybe I can add something to your list, an extension of your #4-tip, for those with small kids, that is to include the kid(s) in the sewing. My 2-year-old loves to stick the pins on the cushion (magnet) again, that I remove from the piece I am working on, I mean. And to touch buttons of the machine, like needle down. Takes a bit of the speed out of the job, but I get more done, than when I am just running after him (ok, lots of time I spend sitting in front of my house with something to knit or crochet, while I am watching him) and I love this “working together”. The girls love to sew too, so I can always ask them to give me a hand – pattern drafting, searching for ribbon, etc. – or start their own project. Also rather time consuming, but it is truly satisfying and adds to the time spent on the hobby.

  38. Kristin Saunders August 14, 2013 at 5:21 pm #

    I do everything that you do! Dedicated sewing space (3 bedrooms was a requirement when I was house shopping), no UFO’s, have a queue of projects, make my muslins and then basically ignore the directions for the real thing ’cause I know what I am doing, but I am still slower than molasses! Of course, it doesn’t help that my machine is a P.O.S. that messes up so many times that I end up picking out crappy seams. Oh, and I spend a lot of time reading blogs about sewing instead of sewing :)

  39. Kelly August 14, 2013 at 5:24 pm #

    Great post, thanks Lauren! I had also wondered how you always managed to get so much done! I have a queue of items, but I don’t sew fast enough/have enough time to sew to get through them before more get added to the list, so it keeps on growing! I cannot wait until the point at which I can have my own dedicated sewing space! Unfortunately my other half works from home, so we’d need a place with 3 bedrooms, and where I live is hideously expensive :( but one day! My dining table/cutting table/sewing machine table/overlocker table are all one and the same which is a pain if I need to switch between cutting/sewing/overlocking in a project (who am I kidding, we haven’t eaten at the table in months!) and if the ironing board is left up, you have to breathe in to squeeze past it without knocking it over! I also have a sizeable notions stash, I think the necessity of this depends on how close you live to the nearest haberdashery – in my case, I’d have to wait about 3 weeks until I’d be able to get to one, but if you can just pop down the road, it’s probably not so vital! I definitely need to get better at sewing in short periods or free time.

    I don’t think you have to worry about people stopping reading your blog btw :) and I love your cat – she looks just like the cat I had as a kid :)

  40. symondezyn August 14, 2013 at 5:27 pm #

    Love this, and love your honesty, and dedication to your crafts! :) I have many of these habits too, (minus pre-work sewing – you’re a rock star for that!!) but depending on how much freelance work I’m doing in addition to my FT job, sometimes I work from morning til night and then drop dead on my pillow without getting a single stitch in LOL.Hence the reason I’ve decided to take up knitting – so I can utilize that commute time in between! :)

    Perhaps for some folks, it’s a question of trying to squeeze too much stuff into one day. I know I’m SO guilty of that. The more activities you got goin’ on, the less time for each thing, and I suffer from Way Too Many Interests Syndrome!!! ^___^

    • LLADYBIRD August 15, 2013 at 9:59 am #

      I WISH I could knit on my commute! That is the one meh thing about Nashville – our public transportation ain’t the greatest. Being able to utilize my commute time would be amazing.

  41. Trice August 14, 2013 at 5:28 pm #

    Some really good advice. I would love to have a two bedroom (Damn you student loans). If I did not like to entertain, I would just transfer my living room into my sewing room. Which I should anyways. Most of my sewing stuff is in the living room, except my sewing machines and fabric stash which is in the bedroom. I need to get my sewing machines in the living, I really like to sew and watch tv (one is on the coffee table).

    Yes, my UFOs haunts me. The ones hanging in my closet not so much, but the jacket I am making for my friend haunts me ever day, since I hang my hoodie over it. Doesn’t help that my coworkers inquire about it. I am the worst with UFOs, but at least my most recent UFO has a good reason to be placed there.

    I think my thing with sewing when I get a chance has to do with, know when 10 pm rolls around during the week day, its going to be hard to pull away. The next mornings are usually no fun.

    One of these months, I have to dedicate to UFOs, so I can get rid of them. Perhaps. I’ll finally get to wear my jacket that I started before I moved San Diego.

  42. Trice August 14, 2013 at 5:29 pm #

    Btw, I hope all is well with the surgery and all

    • LLADYBIRD August 15, 2013 at 9:59 am #

      Much better today! I took the bandage off today and my wound is so creepy looking, ahaha.

  43. Anonymous August 14, 2013 at 5:37 pm #

    Nancy Zeiman has a great book called “10,20,30 Minutes to Sew.” She lays out exactly what you can do in each time frame. It’s a great book if sewing in small blocks is new to you!

  44. surfjewels August 14, 2013 at 5:37 pm #

    I think sewing a little bit here and there is a great idea, I tend to try and get a whole project done in one go, but that means I don’t start something for ages because I don’t have time. If I did a bit at a time I would get a lot more done.

    You’re very organised, unlike me, but at least I have sorted my fabric stash out now and it doesn’t all fall on me from my shelves like it used to. I don’t make muslins either,maybe I should?! Although I have made a block that I often work from as I like to make my own patterns.

    Loving the blog though.

    http://surfjewels.tumblr.com/
    http://surfjewelsphoto.wix.com/jewelleryandfelted

    • LLADYBIRD August 15, 2013 at 10:00 am #

      I think if you’re working off a block that you made yourself, you can probably skip the muslin (unless you’ve made some drastic changes to the pattern that you need to fit-test first).

  45. sewdooley August 14, 2013 at 5:41 pm #

    Great post, I was thinking you just didn’t sleep. I just recently started overlapping projects. right now I have a dress to hem, a skirt and top cut out and just found a lining so I can get the next dress started. I love dresses with underlining and details, so that slows me down. Finding linings can be a challenge, I’ve been trying to stock up when I find online sales. I’ll be in Nashville for Labor Day weekend. Does Textile Fabrics have much of a selection for linings?

    • LLADYBIRD August 14, 2013 at 6:01 pm #

      They have a great selection! I can’t vouch for the silks (I know they have china silk, but I couldn’t tell you what the color selection is like, as I don’t buy it, personally), but they have Bemberg Rayon Ambiance lining in dozens of different colors. It’s fantastic! They also have some poly linings. Only a handful of printed linings, though, most everything there is solid.

  46. CharleyGynn August 14, 2013 at 5:49 pm #

    Having a dedicated space most definitely helps because you can leave everything out and are good to go as long as the cat hasn’t been interfering. (It seems owning a sewing machine means you own a creative cat also) I find giving my self targets and also having a couple of things on the go encourages me to finish things, although I must say I have plenty of UFO’s as you called them. With knitting I keep it in my handbag with a photo of the pattern on my phone and knit on the bus or tube, when I’m at work this gives me about two hours a day of knitting time where I don’t have to talk to anyone or think about anything. Love this post and I love your craft room, I’m slowly expanding my craft corner without the rest of the family noticing x

  47. Alice August 14, 2013 at 5:53 pm #

    Ooh, this is helpful! Some of the stuff I already do–I have my own sewing room (it’s totally a disaster and has only one tiny window, also it is currently being used for other people’s storage, but there’s enough room to sew and that’s all that matters!), and that has improved my productivity enormously! When I was sewing at the dining room table I also felt guilty for leaving bits of thread on the floor, so I sewed less because I didn’t want to inconvenience my roommates. I try not to have too many projects going on at one time, but my project queue can get awfully tempting. I use all my little scraps of time when I feel like sewing to sew, but if I don’t feel like sewing, then it’s best not to try.

    I am definitely a slow sewist, just in general. My machine has some tension issues, and I don’t have a serger, so I have to finish all my seams in a fancy way, or zig-zag them on my other, less reliable, machine. Mostly what makes me slow is that only about half of my alterations actually make it onto my flat patterns (most of which are rub-offs that I make myself), so I always end up having to fit-as-I-go, which is useless for making consistent garments.

    I like the idea of cutting swatches and sticking them on the patterns! My stash is not really so big that I need to do that to keep track, but it sounds like a fun little activity nevertheless.

  48. velosewer August 14, 2013 at 6:07 pm #

    Hey Lauren.
    I’m so glad you also sew fast and have a method to how you achieve so much. I also sew fast and I’m comfortable with my techniques and equipment. I see other sewers overcook their work all the time and then discuss it and keep discussing it.
    My muslims are either wearable (90% of the time) or go to charity once I’m finished.
    Thank you for clearing this up for many of your readers.

  49. Katie August 14, 2013 at 6:09 pm #

    This is such a great post! I used to sew constantly, but I’ve let life get in the way and have barely sewn a stitch in AGES! I can get overwhelmed thinking about starting a new project and all, but I really like your idea of using little bits of time. Thanks for writing this – it’s making me change my methods and stop putting off sewing because I don’t have time! :)

  50. Faye Lewis August 14, 2013 at 6:09 pm #

    This was a wonderful post!!! Helpful, practical and very down to earth.

  51. thecuriouskiwi August 14, 2013 at 6:30 pm #

    While I am not currently anywhere near as productive as you (it’s winter for me right now, the dark is a sewjo killer, but spring is on the way, yay!) I 100% agree on having a dedicated space. It’s so easy when your machines/projects are always set up to just sit down for even just 10 minutes…or pop in to trace the next pattern on your list while dinner is cooking. Putting everything away (so you can use the dining table for what it is intended for) would be so depressing. Also I love just going into my room and stroking my stash, yay for stashes, no guilt, just pretties for cuddling and sewing into even prettier things ;)

  52. theknittingarchaeologist August 14, 2013 at 6:33 pm #

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! This is exactly what I needed to read :) Ah yes, morning sewing. When I was doing that I was feeling much more productive even if I wasn’t finishing things as quickly. I’m also going to try to set my sewing up in my bedroom like it used to be. I have a dedicated space there, but no TV… It’s definitely better than using my dining room table! I unfortunately don’t sew fast, but all your other tips are things I used to do and can certainly do again. Woot! Thanks again.

  53. DMgirl August 14, 2013 at 6:54 pm #

    I am horrible with the UFO’s, and I think they are the reason I haven’t sewn as much lately as I want to. I feel too badly about starting another project when there is one just waiting to be finished. And I have never been one to do a muslin, or even know what a muslin was, until this summer thanks to reading sewing blogs. I made one with my last dress and I am so glad I did, it was a total confidence booster. These are wonderful tips, thanks!

  54. carolinascallin August 14, 2013 at 7:01 pm #

    Great tips – especially the dedicated sewing room! That’s a huge help! I now have one (although not quite enough room for a big cutting table…sorry, DR table! I’m looking forward to having projects in their own space without having to frantically move everything when company comes!

    Great ideas on picking up notions, too. Did that a couple months ago with invisible zippers! Went on a buying spree online at WAWAK and now I have quite a stash of great zippers at terrific prices! Very satisfying. I need to do this with interfacing…once I learn what interfacings I need :)

    Thanks for sharing your sewing space and your tips!

    • LLADYBIRD August 15, 2013 at 10:03 am #

      Seriously, just go to Fashion Sewing Supply and stock up on a bunch of this Light Fusible. Maybe get a little horsehair if you’re doing tailoring, some of the crisp shirt interfacing if you are making men’s shirts, and a little piece of silk organza is always nice to have on hand. But personally, I pretty much only use that light fusible. That shit is AWESOME.

      Which reminds me, I need to reorder haha.

  55. Jennifer Lauren August 14, 2013 at 7:18 pm #

    YES! Finish those UFO’s and don’t start a new project until they are done – I totally agree with this. I used to be a serial starter but never seemed to finish 90% of those projects. That meant I had almost nothing to show for my time and made me feel so unproductive and I started to dislike sewing.

    Since I made a conscious decision to finish my projects, I’ve come back to my machine in full force and have even managed to make a bunch of unfinished garments for future blog posts made (while my machine gets packed up to move back home to NZ – boo).

    This is such a great post!

  56. Barbara August 14, 2013 at 7:33 pm #

    Lauren, I don’t know what you do for your day job but whatever it is, you’re wasted in it. You should be running the government of a small nation or some equivalent I think!

  57. kelly August 14, 2013 at 8:05 pm #

    Im glad you mentioned UFO’s- i dont usually leave projects unfinished either, but i do have a pair of shorts i gave up on because i royally screwed them up and also didnt care for my fabric choice. Still i was feeling guilty, about it and now after reading you post, im gonna suck it up and fix/finish them.

  58. Melizza August 14, 2013 at 8:14 pm #

    What an excellent peek into how you work. You really helped put how I work into perspective and what I need to change to get some sewing done. Thanks for that.

  59. gingermakes August 14, 2013 at 8:34 pm #

    These are great tips! I’m the kind of person that gets distracted easily, so I do everything possible to remove distractions before I start sewing– get a beverage, put my phone away, fill the iron, walk the dogs– so I can work without interruption for as long as possible. It’s so awesome to get in the groove and whiz away at the machine efficiently!

  60. Julie D. August 14, 2013 at 8:39 pm #

    Such a great post. I’m always super impressed with who much you churn out and your advice to use small bits of time to do smallish tasks is so so good!

  61. Andrea August 14, 2013 at 8:42 pm #

    Sink full of dishes? Meh, I’d rather topstitch my waistband. Furniture coated in a layer of dust? Meh, I have those princess seams to adjust. Stray threads tracked into all other areas of home, including the bathtub? Meh, I have this hem to blind-stitch. This is my secret to sewing productivity: ignore all household chores… until guests are coming over. I will even pre-wash my new fabric immediately but if I can’t fit my actual dirty clothes or towels in the washer at the same time, forget ‘em. Not saying I endorse this method! But I do get a lot of sewing done, haha.

    • LLADYBIRD August 15, 2013 at 10:05 am #

      I skip housework too :X the only way it gets done is by making myself keep a schedule – I clean on Saturdays. If I skip a Saturday, oops, gotta wait until next Saturday. I also try to clean as I go (put dishes in the dishwasher, pick up clutter, make the bed, etc), so when Saturday rolls around I only have to clean the bathroom & the floors :P

    • Seattlerain August 15, 2013 at 10:45 am #

      I do the same thing as Andrea more or less. I clean as I go but leave chunks of mail or laundry scattered about. Then when the cleaners come every other week, it forces me to clean up big time. So I get a lot of sewing done, but yet I still have UFOs. At least I finished 2 UFOs yesterday!

      Still can’t give up tracing certain patterns, like Colette or Sewaholic. My $1.99 patterns I could care less about tracing, but with the more expensive indie ones I can’t do that. Even if I’ve made several with the same brand and know my size. . . That would make me speedier if I could give up tracing!

  62. oonaballoona August 14, 2013 at 8:45 pm #

    i love this post. good point about muslins….the few times i’ve done them, i do breeze through the ACTUAL garment. and getting stuck halfway through a make is the number one reason it goes to the UFO pile!

    i would add that it’s good to know when something just ain’t workin. i spent the better part of my sewing hours last week trying my damdest to make a sundress work. i feel so much better now that it’s marked for anywhere but my closet. i just wish i would’ve given up the ghost sooner and moved on to another project!

    • LLADYBIRD August 15, 2013 at 10:06 am #

      This is true! One should always know when to fold!

  63. Miss Celie August 14, 2013 at 8:49 pm #

    I could not agree with you more.

  64. Kathy August 14, 2013 at 9:38 pm #

    I love this post! :) A lot of your advice is very useful. Although I do have a queue, in my head, your method is so much better! I’m going to do this! I’m trying to make more muslins because it sucks when it doesn’t fit! I end up wasting more money and time because just because I didn’t make a muslin. I wish I had a dedicated sewing room just like yours!

  65. Katrina August 14, 2013 at 10:04 pm #

    Bless this post. Thanks for the tips Lauren, I’m trying to be a good seamstress and make more muslins these days.

  66. Sarah C. August 14, 2013 at 10:43 pm #

    I agree with everyone — a fabulous post, and perhaps even better than you had first thought! So much of what you note is applicable to many elements of life, both personal & professional: dedicate space, complete projects, prepare properly, maximize time, and enjoy the process. I have no idea what you do professionally, but the next time you interview for a new position, think of your list. It’s fantastic. Or if ever you decide to go into business for yourself, know that you have the operational mind for it.

    Hope you are recovering well!

    • LLADYBIRD August 15, 2013 at 10:06 am #

      Aw, I like this comment (and needed to hear it about right now). Thank you!

  67. Jennifer @ Workroom Social August 14, 2013 at 10:45 pm #

    Loved reading this! It’s so interesting to read about people’s work processes.

  68. Esz (@kittysdrawings) August 14, 2013 at 10:52 pm #

    GREAT post! I do a lot of these too – maybe not waking up earlier in the morning cos I already get up at 6:15am…but those little blocks of 20mins here and there really add up. When you think about a dress taking max 7 hours to complete (I sew FAST too, but hand sewing and underlinings add time), then finishing one a week at least is dead easy.
    Also – I do a lot of hand sewing in front of a show to watch. Yay for killing two birds with one stone.
    Glad you have a queue too – I always know what I want to make next. Right now, my next project will be tap pants! Yay! In silk.
    Then a linen two piece dress.
    Then – I’m not sure but I’ll figure it out soon enough.
    As for UFOs – I have – three. Two coats that I’m really procrastinating on because I need to find the right buttons, lining and underlining. And another, a short jacket that needs some handstitching and buttons but my love for it died quite quickly mostly cos I HATE slippery lining fabrics.
    Anyways – must stop rambling. Rad post! You’re awesome!

  69. Sally {thequirkypeach} August 14, 2013 at 10:58 pm #

    Awesome post! I have definitely wondered how you are such a whiz at sewing! Thanks for the tips :) I just started displaying my patterns and fabric swatches in the “queue” – helps me remember what I already have ready to go, that way I don’t buy new stuff… well… sometimes ;)

  70. Haylee August 14, 2013 at 11:04 pm #

    This! This post is so spot on, it’s exactly what I do too. Well.. almost everything except for the notions stash but I NEED to do that. Gosh I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve had to stop in the middle of something in order to go buy a freaking zipper.

    Also I loved what you had to say about enjoying it. I too get caught up in the mindset that “oh my gosh, I have to post xx amount of times or everything bad will happen in the world” but at the end of the day, sewing is meant to be ENJOYED. I love what you had to say about that.
    Oh and also, you could post once a year and I’d still totally follow you. So no worries about that!

  71. Fabric Tragic August 14, 2013 at 11:22 pm #

    Thanks for a great post. The only other productivity idea I use is to do PDF pattern taping, and pattern tracing in our lounge room, so that I am officially ‘spending time’ with my love, rather than being holed up at the other end of the house but still getting my sewjo on. Sometimes I will cut out knits too (carpet heaps easier for holding slippery knits in place!) and if we go away for the weekend to my in-laws holiday house I always take something with me to trace off and cut out – last weekend it was the Beignet, and I’m so glad I did because that thing took me 90 minutes just to trace the bloody thing and another hour to cut out the fabric! I too have started taking advantage of quiet short periods of time too. I think if something is your passion and hobby you just seem to make time for it too – less time watching shitty television and more time creating I say!

  72. Sunni August 14, 2013 at 11:36 pm #

    This really is awesome! I agree with everything you’ve said, even though the #1 thing I need to work on is the UFO pile. Such a great idea to not allow yourself to have one. Reading through the comments here, I also find it awesome that you limit yourself to thrifting garments that already fit or only need very small adjustments. This is the majority of my UFO pile. Stuff I think is great at the thrift store and needs several adjustments to work. I think I’m going to go through that pile this week and make some serious decisions about it. Loved this! Now, off to make myself more productive!

  73. Nikie August 15, 2013 at 1:57 am #

    Wow, thank you for soo much helpfull info, off to sort my sewing space a little better!
    Nikie

  74. Muriel Carroll August 15, 2013 at 1:59 am #

    Thanks for putting in perspective. This year I dedicated my machine to all the UFOs. It Is liberating. And you go girl……

  75. Tilly August 15, 2013 at 2:01 am #

    Great tips, Lauren. I do ask myself nearly every day, or whenever you post YET ANOTHER finished project, “How does Lauren do it?!” Thanks for sharing your advice and general motivation – you’re an inspiration!

    Now plotting how I can get a dedicated sewing room. I currently sew in the room that’s also the sitting room, my flatmate’s sitting room and my office – ie. requires constant tidying!

  76. Layla August 15, 2013 at 2:02 am #

    Haha, I am totally with you on inhaling my food- my dinner disappears just as everyone is taking the first bite! I’m a speed demon too, and my output is pretty high….just got to get it on the blog now, for some reason I just can’t bear the thought of that…seems so slow!
    Feel better soon.

  77. Kay August 15, 2013 at 2:10 am #

    I do most of my sewing in the early a.m. too.

  78. peskycat August 15, 2013 at 2:46 am #

    Thanks for your honesty! I will get my butt un gear and try to take some of it on board. I so wish I had a spare room {sigh}. Your sewing room looks like an Aladins Cave.

  79. Ruth August 15, 2013 at 2:54 am #

    I work in exactly the same way except that for me muslins are as rare as hen’s teeth. That’s because I stick to one pattern line – Burda – so I know how I compare to Burda’s fit model and can make the same alterations every time. I found the Big 4 have a range of fit models for different pattern lines so you really need to muslin every time. Sure I can, but I don’t want too. The other thing is, you obviously bought a serger very early in your sewing career. I sewed for almost thirty years without one. I swear mine almost tripled my productivity rate. Amazing machines. But I don’t have so many different colours of serger thread – just black, white, beige, grey, and pink. They can blend into many other backgrounds or colours and – less rethreading is quicker.

    • LLADYBIRD August 15, 2013 at 10:08 am #

      If you’ve found a pattern line that works for you, then I don’t blame you for skipping the muslin! And you’re right, I bought my serger right around the time I got serious with sewing. Although i will point out that mine self-threads itself – so it’s fun to change the colors around :) That’s why I have so many haha!

  80. Cari Homemaker August 15, 2013 at 2:59 am #

    I don’t know if it really increases my productivity, but one consideration I have as far as spending my time sewing is that for most items, at least for myself, it doesn’t necessarily take any longer to sew things than it would to pack up my children, haul them to a mall, and wander through multiple stores looking for clothing that a) I like and b) fits well. At least when I sew I usually have a pretty good feeling that I will end up having a well-liked garment after I’ve spent my time; with shopping, that isn’t necessarily so.

  81. Sandra (Sewist-Stitch) August 15, 2013 at 4:18 am #

    Great post! I am determined not to have a UFO pile. So I have invented the “I’m not so impressed hanger” where I might leave an almost finished project while I think about the best way to move forward, but I don’t let that hold up my next project, otherwise I may never move on. So I start my next project, but always looking and thinking about what is actually hanging on my “I’m not so impressed hanger”. Then I have a light-bulb moment and get it done!

    • LLADYBIRD August 15, 2013 at 10:10 am #

      Yes!! I do that with my dressform (or a hanger if I’m REALLY mad at it, haha!). Sometimes just stepping away for a few days can really give you a better perspective on what wasn’t working.

  82. Ela Sews and Doesn't Sleep August 15, 2013 at 4:26 am #

    I have to admit, I was also wondering how you manage to sew so much in so little time :) I am really surprised that you even have the time to make a muslin! Fitting the muslin and transferring the changes to the pattern takes usually most of my time. I like that you always try to sew a little, even if you are having only 15 min. I always thought, it is not really worth it to sew or fit only 15 min. But you are right, it accumulates and you are much faster in the end. I will definitively try to try this out :) Thanks so much for sharing!

  83. SewMeow August 15, 2013 at 4:35 am #

    This was so interesting to read and all of it makes so much sense! I will definitely try to follow these tips now – at least the ones that don’t require to move to a different place.

    I have a another tip though: don’t take that fabric to the sewing room/stash before you WASHED it!!! I know that this is really a beginners fault and like very stupid but I’m so lazy…The last days I haven’t started any new project because whenever I had an idea I thought “oh no, you still need to wash the fabric”. And instead of walking four floors down to the basement and put that damn fabric in the f*’*% washing machine I spend my time browsing the internet to look for other projects. This wouldn’t happen if I had washed every fabric before even taking it upstairs.

    I feel embarassed now…but maybe there’s more like my kind out there ;-)

    • LLADYBIRD August 15, 2013 at 10:11 am #

      Great tip! I do that same thing – my fabric gets washed the minute I take it home. That way, it’s ready for me when I’m ready to sew it!

  84. Lou August 15, 2013 at 6:12 am #

    That was really interesting to hear what your techniques are for fitting stuff in. I don’t have a dedicated space, but the OH works away so I have the house to myself during the week and the dining room/lounge turn into a sewing mess. I do the sewing before work thing, and I have to set my alarm to tell me when to go to bed otherwise I end up staying up too late!!! The one thing I need to do that would really help productivity is stock up on fabric and notions – I’ve only been sewing this year so there isn’t much in the stash….

  85. Orange-Lingerie (@orange_lingerie) August 15, 2013 at 6:42 am #

    Priceless comments on UFOs and I love that you are an advocate for muslins. Thanks for posting this! (Hope you are feeling better!)

  86. Cameron August 15, 2013 at 6:47 am #

    Really interesting post! Your productivity is amazing, but I can see how you do it now. I was telling my sewing teacher that I was sick of a project and just wanted to give up, and she said that I should finish it up fast before it started talking to me from the corner. So, your not the only one. UFOs are stressful, man! Hope you’re recovering well! Can you still knit?

    • SewDucky August 15, 2013 at 7:23 am #

      I don’t have a dedicated anything (and I don’t want a dedicated sewing room anyway), but I do keep projects in queue of sorts. I get the fabric, notions and patterns out and keep them in a box (bought at Hancock’s) and when I get to cutting them out (all at once) they stay in it, so I can grab a box and go. I also keep a folding basket on my treadle with the WIP so I have whatever handy when I can get to a machine (and when I don’t have one, it can be “neat” and go away).

      I cut all the projects for a box at once (6 to 8 of them) and then when I am getting close and can’t get to a machine, for a variety of reasons but most are because I have a 2 year old, I start planning the next batch. Keeping a record of patterns and fabric on the computer has helped a bunch since I can plan instead of wasting time playing Candy Crush. There is also another upside: I don’t shop as often for fabric if I am actually doing something productive with what I have.

      I also have more notions then I will use in my life, but if I do need to order something, I have the time to get it in.

      I tear down a lot, and I use my serger on everything all at once. Most of my “speed” is in the prep work and having everything right there. And stealing my daughter’s play ironing board for the serger, since it sits under the table just fine.

      I also do a lot of stuff outside with my kids. Hand sewing, ironing (yeah I’m the one that is ironing in their front yard), marking, tacking…whatever.

    • LLADYBIRD August 15, 2013 at 10:12 am #

      I am knitting! Slowly (I’m trying to work from home as much as possible so I don’t use my precious PTO haha), but it’s coming along :)

      • Cameron August 15, 2013 at 10:49 am #

        Phew! I would be losing it if I couldn’t sew or knit.

  87. Melissa S. August 15, 2013 at 7:57 am #

    Uh, I think I’m doing everything wrong. I have a lot of UFOs and I feel like I can’t sew if I don’t have a 2 hour chunk. Also I don’t have a good muslin habit. So yeah, I really am doing everything wrong ha ha. No wonder sewing is starting to make me feel stressed!

    Probably if I planned ahead and practiced some discipline and organization, I could save myself a lot of time and trouble. You’ve inspired me to do it right from now on!

    Thank you for this post. All these things are really so obvious, but I don’t know if I would have realized that on my own!

  88. Carrie August 15, 2013 at 8:36 am #

    Wonderful post – thanks so much for sharing this with all of us! I have been trying to explain to my boyfriend lately how amazing you are – seriously. You make the most beautiful clothing and then somehow find time to throw in handknit sweaters!! Plus your fucking hilarious – that post about the recent Vogue patterns was simply perfect.

    Since I’ve begun sewing I’ve been lucky to have a dedicated space which I never realized was such an advantage over others but it definitely make sense.

    The one comment I find particularly helpful is that you always have a queue set up and ready to sew from. I kind of do this in the form of a notepad on my computer (so I can edit it at work :) with the patterns/fabric I’m intending to use but once I get home I completely forget what I was planning! I already followed your suggestion and taped a piece of fabric to a pattern and put it aside so I’ll know where to begin this evening!

    • Carrie August 15, 2013 at 8:58 am #

      Ooo I forgot sometime. I wanted to ask you in how you find time to take all your pictures!?! My blog is very minimal and mostly there as a diary to myself but I find the hardest thing is taking pictures right after making a garment. I currently have a list 8-10 garments long of things that need to be photographed!

      • LLADYBIRD August 15, 2013 at 10:14 am #

        I try to take them as I finish the garment! Sometimes that’s not possible – it might be dark, or I might be in my pjs already, it might be raining, etc – but for the most part, that’s what I aim for. I also take them in batches on the weekend. You can totally tell which ones are in batches because my makeup and hair and nail polish is the exact same, ha!

        One thing I will mention is that getting a remote made photo-taking a LOT easier. I always take my own with a tripod, but previously I was using the self-timer… which is fine, but you end up with like 100 pictures to weed through. A remote gives you more control, so you take less pictures :)

  89. Marianne August 15, 2013 at 8:37 am #

    Great post! Your productivity level makes me curious about your closet. If you finish as much as 2 or 3 pieces in a good weekend, how do you prevent your garments taking over your apartment? How often do you wear your finished projects before they have to move over for new stuff? Any tips for keeping your closet organized?

    • LLADYBIRD August 15, 2013 at 10:20 am #

      That’s a good question! I try to make things that fill wardrobe gaps and replace RTW, which means I can get rid of old things as I make them. As much as I love making pretty frou-frou dresses, my lifestyle is really more one for tshirts and denim skirts! The other thing is that my body has changed size quite a bit in the past few months (not to sound like a broken record, I’m sorry! But i have lost like 20 lbs and it makes a huge difference in how my clothing fits) and I had to get rid of most of the stuff I made in the past – I sold it on Etsy. So now I’m actually rebuilding my wardrobe almost from scratch.

      As far as closet organization – well, I store things that are out of season and I try to be really vigilant about getting rid of stuff that I don’t wear anymore. It’s a neverending process, for sure :)

  90. robinsnc August 15, 2013 at 9:10 am #

    Great post! I hope to use some of those tricks. I like your suggestion of stay stitching in short time periods because that’s a step I tend to skip because I feel I don’t have time. Which is so foolish in so many ways.

    One trick that helps me–though not really relevant to you, but others with kids maybe–is that I try to work on two projects at once. One for me and one for my daughter, as long as both can use the same needle/thread. So if I get frustrated with one step I can switch to the other project to take a break rather than walk away. It really works for me and I can usually complete two projects in the time it used to take to do one.

    Also, my (tall and thin) husband likes to clearance and thrift store shop for button downs that are too wide and I alter them to slim fit. So whenever I feel like quitting before finishing, I scold myself that the alternate is altering another men’s shirt. Boring.

  91. sometimessewist August 15, 2013 at 10:15 am #

    I still think you are probably some sort of sewing cyborg from the future. ;)

  92. Jacey August 15, 2013 at 10:16 am #

    I too have a dedicated sewing space and I find that one thing that helps keep up my productivity is making sure it’s tidying and clean (my productivity has been shit lately — my sewing room is a disaster). There’s nothing more frustrating then taking 20 minutes to sew and spending 10 of those minutes searching for your rotary, which is hidden under pattern pieces, which are under the muslin from your previous UFO :)

    • Jacey August 15, 2013 at 10:16 am #

      ETA — apologies for the typos!

    • LLADYBIRD August 15, 2013 at 10:21 am #

      Yes! I think keeping the sewing area clean is REALLY big for getting stuff done – it’s easier to find things, easier to work in, and it just feels better :) I find that as long as I tidy up as I go, I don’t really have a huge mess to clean at any given time :)

  93. ShanniLoves August 15, 2013 at 10:29 am #

    Great post! I don’t have a ufo pile per se but more of a pile of finished objects that don’t fit right and have fell out of love with them. Do you ever have these items? Do you fix them right away or get rid of them? Also I wanna know what you do with all your scraps. For someone who can crank out garments so fast you must surely have a mound. For the life of me I can’t force myself to throw them away and keep telling myself I can use them for something. I don’t know what my problem is….but yeah, your a sewing god!

    • ShanniLoves August 15, 2013 at 10:38 am #

      ok yes I know if I did a muslin I wouldn’t have these sort of problems. But occasionally I do have items I’ve made a muslin for and then have had problems with the real garment because my chosen fabric was all wrong. Is it ok to just trash these items?? I feel so bad :)>

    • LLADYBIRD August 15, 2013 at 11:03 am #

      I try to fix things as much as possible before trashing them – sometimes it’s as simple as pulling the bodice off a dress and turning it into a skirt :) Or even ripping it up and salvaging the fabric for bias binding or something :) I don’t like wasting fabric, though, so I try to reuse what I can!

      For my scraps, I toss the really tiny/string ones and save the rest in a box under my cutting table. Once that box gets full, I donate it (I just post on Craigslist or Freecycle – you’d be amazed at how many people want fabric scraps! I’ve ever mailed some to readers before, haha). I will save my bigger scraps if I think I can use them for something, but anything under 1/2 yard gets donated. I used to save all my scraps but I found that I never use them.

      • ShanniLoves August 15, 2013 at 12:03 pm #

        The bias binding is an awesome idea!! I will give Freecycle and Craiglist a try for scraps. I bet someone would like them for quilting and what not! Thanks!

      • dragonzflame August 15, 2013 at 4:56 pm #

        I’ve got a friend who’s a primary/elementary school teacher so I give them to her for use in craft projects. I’m also planning to do the same with those little ends of balls of wool you get from knitting. (You know the ones, too much to throw out, not enough to do anything with.)

  94. smonakey August 15, 2013 at 10:48 am #

    Great post that begs a new question – how do you manage stash for two hobbies? I’ve got a dedicated sewing space, but I’m a knitter too & while my fabric stash isn’t out of control (yet), my yarn stash is. I have a small bedroom that’s my craft space, but it’s out of control with yarn & fiber & fabric & knitting/sewing books. I’m struggling to regain control of that space, but can’t find a spot for everything.

    • LLADYBIRD August 15, 2013 at 11:05 am #

      I don’t stash yarn :) I know it sounds crazy – considering how much I looove my fabric stash – but yarn just seems harder to use when it’s stashed (you have to worry about having the right weight/fiber and yardage… and it’s hard to fudge the yardage when you can’t lay the pattern out and eyeball it before starting). I have a small stash, but it’s mostly 1 balls that people give me. Anything suitable for a sweater, I buy before I am ready to knit. So my yarn stash fits on a tiny shelf, under my sewing patterns :)

  95. Peter August 15, 2013 at 11:12 am #

    Lauren, you are truly an inspiration. This post is fabulous!

  96. sewingpetal August 15, 2013 at 12:08 pm #

    You just answered so many questions I had of you AND solved the mystery of how you crank out so many garments in such short amount of time… I’m so glad that you shared with us. Great tips too! I think the most important is SLOW DOWN and don’t rush…I have to tell myself this all the time, even if it means putting my project down and picking it back up tomorrow to avoid a huge screw up that would entail spending twice as much time to fix. 

  97. Deborah Moebes (@whipstitch) August 15, 2013 at 12:13 pm #

    Dude. These are totally the same things I’ve been telling people for ages, esp about having a dedicated sewing space and learning to sew even in small spurts. Makes a HUGE difference in how much you can accomplish. I also remind people that it’s a process, and that not every product will be perfect. Knowing your body and what shapes will flatter it is a HUGE help in not wasting time in the dreaming phase–why would you do all the work to find the pattern, choose the fabric, plan the details, make a muslin, get all the way to a finished garment and THEN realize that you’re an apple-shaped person in the wrong shape dress?? Much more efficient to know what works on your own figure and run with that–we’re all happier when we look pretty, and it makes the sewing seem less like an exercise and more like time well-spent.

    Totally great post–really enjoyed this kick in the pants today!

  98. Brooke Lowry August 15, 2013 at 12:26 pm #

    Great post! Thanks for sharing. I also work a full time job so I am always trying to sneak my sewing in any free moment I get! Just a simple tip I use.. Keep extra bobbins already filled with the color thread you are currently using right next to your sewing machine! Isn’t it the biggest pain to reload in the middle of a zen sewing moment! Love your blog:)

  99. Erica August 15, 2013 at 12:39 pm #

    These are great tips! I’m new to sewing, so it takes me a lot of brainpower to do even the simplest things. I generally make a goal for myself to sew one or two items a month. This keeps me focused without feeling overwhelmed. Someday,(with practice) I hope to be churning out garments with the ease you do. :)

  100. Tasia August 15, 2013 at 1:06 pm #

    Great suggestions Lauren! I like the ‘sew whenever you can’ tip. It’s so easy to think, ah, this is a big project, I’ll save it for when I have more time and can really get a lot done. Much better to spend 15 minutes and pin a bunch of things so they’re lined up and ready for the next chunk of time. And not tracing patterns, that’s not only time consuming but quite boring.. even though I know it allows you to keep the pattern in near-new condition. Not surprised to see so many other people interested to hear about how you manage to make so much stuff!

  101. Helen August 15, 2013 at 1:43 pm #

    Bet since I came across your blog, I’ve wondered how you are able to be so productive. I think the room, the stash and the no kids are key! I am, and will always be, a slow sewer. Funny, cos I’m fast at most other things. But trying to speed up sewing stresses me out, so not worth it. I’m ok with that. Just wish I had the space that you do. It looks perfect! Thanks for sharing this! Hope you feel better soon!

    • Helen August 15, 2013 at 1:45 pm #

      *ever* since!

  102. sati5000 August 15, 2013 at 2:24 pm #

    This is such a great post! I was just starting to panic because I have a lot of my sewing time being taken away soon, but I love the idea of sewing whenever you can. It’s so easy for me to sit down for a few moments at a time, and I just don’t usually bother – mostly because I like to get large chunks of things done at once. But what good is that if I don’t have large chunks of time?

    Also, sewing and knitting during lunch – such a great idea! I usually just go for a walk. And while that’s nice some days, I’d much rather be knitting. :-)

  103. Amy W August 15, 2013 at 2:43 pm #

    Thank you so much for the advice on sewing even if you only have 15-20mins. So helpful! :) I actually put it into use this morning, by fixing a problem with my current project. It’s so nice to have that done before I left for work. It only took about 15 minutes to get it fixed. Yay! I keep my sewing kit stocked with my “use it on every project” items: scissors, seam ripper, pincushion, chalk, tape measure, hem gauge, etc. It makes it easy to have everything there instead of hunting and gathering. I keep it by my machine as I work. I’m also in a sewing group and when we meet, it makes it easy to just grab it and go.

  104. missparayim August 15, 2013 at 3:03 pm #

    Great post! I agree with all your tips, which is probably not your best endorsement since you tend to churn out 20 finished project blog posts for every one I do- which has amazed me for quite a while!

  105. Becca August 15, 2013 at 3:20 pm #

    Thank you for sharing your work-flow and process for staying on-track. I didn’t even finish reading before I forwarded it along to a friend. You do remind me that I need to tidy up some things that have been hanging around for a while, though.

  106. missjoiedevivre August 15, 2013 at 3:22 pm #

    I think you have enslaved elves. Why else would you have mentioned them but to throw us of the scent?

    But this is very interesting, brilliant. I think the biggest tip here for me, and one I’ve been working on (and failing at) this year is to do a little bit often. It’s amazing how those 10 or 20 minutes add up! And they’re certainly nicer than surfing crap online. I’m going to up my efforts to sneak in more snippets of time where I can.

    Thanks for sharing, and I hope the recovery is going well!

    • LLADYBIRD August 15, 2013 at 4:20 pm #

      Trust me, if i had elves, they’d be cleaning the floors and scooping out the cat box… not doing any sewing :P ha!

  107. redknitter August 15, 2013 at 3:44 pm #

    In looking at these comments, it sounds like all of us were wondering how you do it, Lauren!

    This post is a great motivation for me to tackle my UFOs, both sewing and knitting, as they’re definitely holding me back and deserve to be finished. If I didn’t realize that before, when I had to haul them across town to my new apartment, I’m definitely realizing it now!

    I also liked what you said above about how your productivity works with your wardrobe. I’ve wondered about this with a lot of prolific seamstresses–at what point do you simply have “enough” clothing? Or does that point even exist? I wanted to cull some items from my closet earlier this summer because they’re not really doing me any favors, but they’re also basic garments that need to be around if I’m going to get dressed in the morning. I decided to wait until I can replace them with handmade before dumping them.

    Thanks for an interesting read, as always.

    • LLADYBIRD August 15, 2013 at 4:23 pm #

      I don’t think I’ll ever have *enough* clothing – for now, I’m slowly phasing out my old RTW and older pieces that either weren’t constructed so hot or cease to fit anymore. I figure once I’ve swapped out all that (if ever, ha), there will be worn-out pieces that need replacing, new styles that I want to try… and new types of garments to make (undies, maybe?! I dunno, I also swore in the past that I’d never make my own bathing suit!). I don’t buy new RTW ever, except underwear and the occasional cardigan (the kind that’s too fine a gauge to knit myself), so I think I will always have space in my closet for new handmades :)

  108. Frances McInnis August 15, 2013 at 3:47 pm #

    What size is your table and what do you have on top of it? Do you keep your serger out? This was a very helpful post with some great tips. Thank so much
    Frances

    • LLADYBIRD August 15, 2013 at 4:26 pm #

      My cutting table is the Norden Gateleg table from IKEA; the only thing I keep on that is my cutting mat and whatever project I’m currently working on. My sewing tables are just standard desks. I have two – one for my machine, one for my serger – and yes, my serger stays out and plugged in 24/7 :)

  109. Aubrey (@Aubreyland325) August 15, 2013 at 4:21 pm #

    I get people who ask me how I have time to blog so much… but I only spend like 1-2 hrs a week on it. So I guess I should be happy they think I dedicate that much time, because it must look like it? I dunno. It’s blogging magic, how you can schedule stuff and make it look like effort.

    As for sewing, I live in UFO land. I’m glad I have a dedicated space for it now, I just need to dedicate some time! Everyone’s busy, it’s your priorities that count.

  110. denebiebe August 15, 2013 at 5:04 pm #

    Very inspiring…thank you!

  111. Annie Streats Streater August 15, 2013 at 6:27 pm #

    Thanks for this! I have known ever since I got into sewing last year that I need a dedicated space. I have a second living room but I live with people so it’s not all mine, although I have considered offering to pay a little more rent for exclusive use of the room! I also cannot agree more about muslins/toiles. Even though I am just starting out and have not made very many things, this part is so crucial for me because I know that once it’s done, when I make up the real thing I can just enjoy it and know what I’m doing rather than referring back to the instructions every 30 seconds to make sure I’m not making a mistake. I really love the point about sewing little and often – that’s my rule for a lot of things (grocery shopping, etc) so it makes sense to apply it to sewing too. Thanks for the tips!

  112. Gertrude August 15, 2013 at 6:37 pm #

    Talking about UFOs — I recently finished a baby bib that was in the works for 32 years! I am not kidding. That bib is older than you. LOL But now that it is finished, which only took about 20 minutes, it is really cute and looks great on my granddaughter. LOL

  113. Sarah August 15, 2013 at 9:17 pm #

    Definitely agree about the notion hording! I got fed up of always having to go the fabric store (with no car, not on my way home at all), and just stockpiled the things that I’ll always need: dress length and skirt length invisible zippers, buttons by the bucket, lots and lots of black lace, etc.

  114. Gjeometry August 15, 2013 at 9:28 pm #

    Great post and great tips! I am not currently a fast sewer, but am getting faster, the more I learn. But, I also try to not make it a race. I try to enjoy it, just like you say.

  115. Chris August 15, 2013 at 10:54 pm #

    Fantastic post! So inspirational, especially the muslin tip. It was the kick I needed – I actually worked on a muslin today until I got it to fit well. And tomorrow I get to go and buy the actual fabric. So excited! :-)

  116. crystalpleats August 15, 2013 at 11:38 pm #

    Thanks for this post. I love to know how productive people are able to accomplish so much. I am sure I can carve out more minutes with some of your tips.

  117. Orange Who? August 15, 2013 at 11:55 pm #

    I have only just start following your blog and had to make a comment on how interesting I found this post. I’m fortunate that I have my own sewing room as well and I catch a train to work which allows me time to crochet. One big time saver that I have found recently is to reuse my patterns and then maybe doing a different neck treatment or sleeve to make it different. I usually make all my patterns so each new outfit would take some time but last week I was able to make an 3 children’s outfits as they were all from a previous pattern

  118. Elena Knits August 16, 2013 at 2:35 am #

    I really loved the post, Lauren. These were good advices. Those 20 minutes that you can dedicate to sewing is the most valuable one. Pity than I don’t have a dedicated sewing space. Our apartment is just 50 square meters! In this situation organization is must!

    I hope you get well soon.

  119. Emmely August 16, 2013 at 4:20 am #

    Great post! You are so right about having a dedicated sewing space. You mentioned in one of the comments that you once used the smaller bedroom as a bedroom and the larger one as your sewing room and I totally get that! We did the same, we are lucky enough to have 3 bedrooms and I am using the largest as my sewing space, although I do have to share it with the drying laundry and the occasional overnight guest. I am still not really sure how I managed to convince my boyfriend that it really would make sense not to use that room as our bedroom. I am really happy that I don’t have to put away all my sewing stuff anymore when it is time for dinner (and then get it all out again after dinner….). Very good points on stashing also, I bought a box with several hundred zippers a while ago, you should have seen the look on my boyfriend’s face when I opened it after it was delivered! I was totally fed up with shopping for zippers at the moment I needed them. For one bag that I was making I had to go to THREE stores in order to find all the zippers that I needed and they weren’t anything special. Now, I can just look through my stash for the right colour and the most appropriate length, if I only have one that is too long I simply make it shorter and continue with the project.
    To get more done I also have another tip: handsewing. Didn’t think I’d ever say that. I took Nathalie Chanin’s hand embellishing knit fabrics course on Craftsy and am now working on an embroidered jacket (not the one from the course). It is not going fast, I mean I am embroidering ALL the pattern pieces so that will take (a lot of) time, but I am sewing at times that I otherwise would not have sewn and enjoying it. I can carry it with me when I go somewhere, but usually it sits beside our couch in the living room and I will take it out when we’re watching tv. I am not yet far enough to start the actual construction of the jacket but in the video’s this seemed pretty fast. After I finish this I think I am going to make some unembroidered t-shirts with this method and I expect that I will get more projects done by doing hand sewing as well as machine sewing.
    I hope you’ll recover soon from your surgery!

  120. Flavie August 16, 2013 at 5:59 am #

    I just love you !!!! THX for this discussion…
    And when do you take time for this blog and for answering everyone ????????

  121. Katherine August 16, 2013 at 7:33 am #

    I wish I had a sewing room…. I don’t do sewing unless I have at least 1 hour ahead of me.. 10 minutes for preping the kitchen and 10 minutes to clean the “sewing mess” ! And I will read you even if you don’t write a post a week!

  122. CSL August 16, 2013 at 7:55 am #

    Your idea to pin swatches to the pattern that you want to make with that fabric is so smart, I did it last night and now I feel more ready and prepared and organized to start on the stack of all the beautiful things to make. Thanks for sharing!

  123. Stephanie Ayala August 16, 2013 at 8:06 am #

    Excellent post! Yes, I have always wondered how the hell you managed to whip up so many garments, but everything you mentioned makes so much sense. These tips can be applied to anything we are trying to achieve in life…stay focused, finish what you start, and prevent/avoid distractions. Thank you for sharing! I really admire you and I appreciate the work you put into your blog.

  124. June August 16, 2013 at 9:19 am #

    Now you need to give us diet and exercise tips, LOL. I agree that UFO is clutter – mental clutter, physical clutter. UFOs also are tricky because after the momentum of the honeymoon phase is gone, it’s hard to generate enthusiasm. I tend to finish what I start or recognize the wadders and get rid of them.

    Someone I know recently quoted a friend who apparently lived by the motto “Anything worth doing is worth doing quickly” – and thus raced through gardening, housecleaning, etc, but did everything well. It sounds like her motto can apply to you, no?

    I have the dedicated space and supplies but not a lot of time after taking care of 3 young children and working FT. I remember those childless days, and while I would not trade my current life for my former, I do miss the endless hours of pursuing my own interests and advancing my skills. :) Good times, those.

    Above all, enjoy yourself! Hope you are recovering and not pushing yourself too hard as you heal.

  125. PendleStitches August 16, 2013 at 10:35 am #

    UFO’s drive me crazy too. And whilst the pets stay out of the sewing room, the kids not so much! They are the greatest impact on sewing time…and sewing energy. But I wouldn’t change a single thing! I have a sewing space in our loft at the moment and it makes a real difference, although I’ll be on the kitchen table soon as we’re about to remodel and I’ll eventually have a custom sewing room in the space bedroom. I often find that I may be too tired to sew or simply not in the mood, so that’s the time when I do things like taping patterns together, a big pile of cutting out, or generally tidying up. It’s not time wasted because when you’re ready to sew…the sewing is ready for you.

    • PendleStitches August 16, 2013 at 10:57 am #

      PS…and I do my knitting or handsewing on the sofa in the evenings. Hubby, handwork and a movie is my idea of bliss.

  126. Jess August 16, 2013 at 10:43 am #

    Love your shit, Lauren. Thanks for the tips.

    But man, I’m so jealous of your sewing space. You’re so right though, it’s really helpful to have a dedicated sewing area. I’m stuck in a 700 sq ft, 1 bedroom apartment for at least the next six months, which is not conducive to creative work at all. Setting everything up just to take it down again later is EXHAUSTING, and it totally takes away from what should be an enjoyable time sewing.

    So for now I’m getting my sewing fix from reading blogs and enjoying other peoples’ work :P

    • Louise P August 16, 2013 at 3:55 pm #

      I only recently started sewing, but I love it. I have three very demanding kids and even as a newbie I get asked how I find the time. But its a compulsion- a need to sew. Like the need to scratch an itch you just have to do it. Move the kids crap to the other side if the table and get on with it. Even if its just for half an hour while they watch TV.

  127. Rachel August 16, 2013 at 3:13 pm #

    I had that muslin-making eureka moment with my last project – by the end, I think I’d made 3 muslins of the bodice, so sewing up the final project, even with finishing the seams and paying closer attention to the stitching, was SO FAST.

    But I am a very slow sewer overall. That’s my goal this year – to try and speed up the actual sewing, without making a million mistakes.

  128. Colleen August 16, 2013 at 10:53 pm #

    Girl your tips are SO GOOD. You’re inspiring me. I’ve been so lazy with sewing for awhile. It’s been so backburner. (not to mention that unfinished sweater for Danny that I can’t think about let alone talk about, ever since I got a ring on my finger, I have not picked it up, OOPS!!!!)

    Thanks for sharing your wisdom!

  129. ruthe2013 August 18, 2013 at 3:42 am #

    Best blog post of the month! Great, sensible approach to “Getting on with it”. I have been sewing for many years and am too a speedy sewer. It isn’t just about speed, it’s about understanding the process, your figure and having a solid understanding of your equipment. I am sure you too will sew for many years to come.

  130. Max August 18, 2013 at 4:41 am #

    Oh man I LOVE this post. I manage to sew quite a lot too, despite having two little kids, but I think your tips will make me churn out even more ^_^

  131. Jean August 18, 2013 at 4:45 am #

    Thanks so much Lauren for the insight into your sewing world. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post. You have inspired me to become more organised and make every minute count.

  132. Ava August 18, 2013 at 8:27 am #

    Awesome tips..thanks..

  133. Jess August 18, 2013 at 3:43 pm #

    I don’t have a dedicated sewing space and use my dining room table as a cutting table AND sewing table! I keep my machine boxed up nearby with the power leads and I make sure that before I start on a project I have enough of all of the notions and the correct fabrics/linings etc so it is a case of cutting out all of the pattern pieces ahead of time – I tend to prefer mornings to cut as I know I’m at my least tired and therefore don’t make a sloppy job of cutting.

    Trying to keep my kitty off the fabric – now that is my main problem. He makes a beeline for anything I’ve just washed and promptly lies all over it! He also likes to sit under the table and swipe at any pieces of fabric that happen to be dangling over the edge of the table…

  134. Jo @ bubala August 18, 2013 at 10:27 pm #

    Great post, thanks! I consider this my kick up the bum to stop the UFOs, get them finished and don’t look back. I’m sure my head (and sewing space) will be much less scrambled that way.
    And on the sewing time issue, when people annoy me by insinuating I must: have too much time on my hands/neglect my kids/need to get a life and they also say “I don’t have time for hobbies” I ask them if they watch TV, and when they say they do I say “well, you could sew instead!!”

    • LLADYBIRD August 19, 2013 at 9:24 am #

      It boggles my mind how many people think they don’t have time for hobbies, yet have plenty of time to watch tv!!

      • Trisha August 21, 2013 at 4:06 pm #

        Word. I mean, nothing wrong with TV if that’s your hobby, but I don’t think that some people realize how much free time that eats up.

  135. Sabine August 19, 2013 at 5:27 am #

    Hi Lauren,

    I am just another one dazzled by your productivity, so I was thrilled to see you address this topic!

    I read your post the day you put it up, and I find that it still resonates with me. I happen to be a very slow seamstress – for some reason, I am always the last one to finish her project at sewing class. I so wish to change this, and I keep hoping that with more practice, greater speed will follow. But at least, at sewing class, I finish my stuff, because I *have* to! Funny what a little peer preessure can do ;-)

    Reading your post, however, made me realize how much I get bogged down by both the past and the future. UFO’s from the past keep haunting me, and the wish list of ‘things I want to sew’ is so mindbogglingly long, that thos two combined makes me always want to start something new asap, and in the end, I just keep adding more future onto the past pile.

    Reading your mail has now made me decide to change that. I went through my UFO’s and discarded thise that will never see the finish line, and those that remain are getting their long ignored love and attention as we speak.
    Furthermore, your way of handling future projects, by already pairing fabric swatch and pattern and keeping both together within arm’s reach will hopefully also help me in fire-starting new projects. Until now, I spent ages prepping, looking for ‘just the right this or that’ – until my anticipation was already knocked unconscious before I had even started, and then simplu reached for some ‘quick satisfaction’ project instead.

    In short: thanks for this great inspirational post, I always like it just how real your approach and your writing style it!

  136. Laura August 19, 2013 at 4:31 pm #

    I am also very fast at sewing (and other handwork like knitting and beading) and people are always surprised at how fast I accomplish things. I agree with all of your points above. The things that really help me are to A) clean my space every day (I always tidy up at night before I go to bed if I am working on something and it makes it much easier to come into a clean space to start work), B) to sew as an assembly line (as this makes things move so much quicker and you have to change the thread less frequently, etc.) and C) having your own space and the right tools. My serger has made such a difference for me. Having sharp rotary cutters helps. My husband looked at my large container of scissors and said “Do you actually use all of those?” I considered them and responded “You know, I really do!”

    I am getting back into sewing clothing again after having done nothing but costumes for years and am really enjoying your blog. Thanks for being honest about how sometimes things just suck in sewing, lol.

  137. Seamstress from Venus August 19, 2013 at 11:27 pm #

    This is one of my favorite posts!! (And my first time commenting!) I found myself LOL-ing A LOT because I can totally relate to you with your obsession for sewing. I just moved in with my aunt and uncle and they’ve expressed their concern for my sewing addiction. Those who don’t do, don’t understand.

    Love your blog! Check out what I do:

    http://www.seamstressfromvenus.wordpress.com

  138. Clare Szabo (@Clarebel79) August 20, 2013 at 10:48 am #

    Massive hats off to you for such a great, informative post. I have a new obsession that I picked up at camp in Canada: TRAIL FUCKING MIX! Omg. Anyway, I read this post while cramming shovel loads of trail mix into my mouth like I was watching a movie with popcorn. My long-winded point is….I love this post! One of the things that really stuck out was the not rushing a project, but to enjoy it. I think that is such an important approach to hobbies/crafts etc or life in general (unless I am eating trail mix or drinking Pabst, then I can inhale that shit!). But seriously, actually taking your time on projects is far more efficient then rushing and ending up in a ditch of problems. I also want to utilise small units of time more, such as the stuff before work, or the odd ten minutes here and there. Working on a project doesn’t always mean sitting for x hours straight in your sewing room. I also only make the bodice part of dresses unless the skirt looks like it is going to need fitting. It saves alot of time!

  139. sarahsewlove August 20, 2013 at 3:56 pm #

    ahhh love it thank you for all your protips….I need to find one that gets me off reading sewing blogs and getting all motivated…to actually putting that motivation into practice haha!

  140. Trisha August 21, 2013 at 4:04 pm #

    We’ve talked about this some, since I get the same questions about how I read so many books! Funny how many of the things you list here also apply to reading. Having a stash of books, setting a timer and reading before work, and just generally doing things fast…totally ditto. It’s all about priorities. Maybe one day the same will go for sewing. :) Thanks to your tutelage of course!

  141. marcyhmakes September 16, 2013 at 4:41 pm #

    Your recent corduroy post you mentioned testing your fusible interfacing before starting – being careful like that saves so much time and even more frustration. I love this post.

    Also I can’t wait to get the guest bed out of my sewing room so I can keep it a little more organized – I’m thinking I’ll be able to finish 5 projects a year then.

  142. denebiebe September 18, 2013 at 6:09 am #

    I love this post. I read it immediately after it was posted, and immediately after dropping one project because I’d gone all green-eyed over the Jeddediah Sew Along and on impulse bought the material and notions, etc. I do love shiny new things!

    Having read this post I immediately put the Jeddediah shorts into the queue for next spring and returned to the project I was about to drop. It is still unfinished though, I just can’t get the bloody zip to behave! I persevere…

  143. Sandra November 19, 2013 at 3:49 pm #

    I love your blog, and I like the cursing because I do too and I think that way too. Not offended AT ALL!! keep it real, thanks for that insight. How do you stay organized? I have a smaller dedicated sewing room and I feel like there are piles of fabric in every corner!! I have a queue too, in fact I cut 4 garments (knit) at one sitting so that there is always one in the wings. I have found that I love the beginning of a project the most. I have just a few unfinished but will strive to finish them all!! Thanks again!

    • LLADYBIRD November 19, 2013 at 7:01 pm #

      I stay organized by trying not to stash, having a place for everything that I do stash, tidying up at the end of every session, and keeping my WIP limited to just one or two garments at a time :) I mean, I can and do still make huge messes, but doing these things helps keep the workflow moving!

  144. aisha January 5, 2014 at 2:10 am #

    whoa.. so exited with your tips. I hope I can do this! I’ll try to finish my UFO :)

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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