How often do you sew? Do you feel productive when you barricade yourself in your sewing area? If you’re anything like me, some days are full of efficiency while others… well, 3 hours later and you’re still staring at the pattern….
With our limited time and very busy lives, it’s hard to feel productive when each step takes SOOOO long.
So we procrastinate. We distract ourselves.
Soon we lack the simple motivation to get anything done. If there were ways to speed up our sewing once we DO get there, I think we’d be all over them. Right?
In my youth I considered myself a fast sewer. I could knock out a dress in a weekend. Of course, my seams were pinked (sometimes) and my hems finished by machine. And I had yet to learn the power of grading seams thoroughly.
Yet… as I’ve delved more into Victorian dressmaking and recognized the sheer task of completing a full-blown gown, my sewing has slowed. Perhaps you’ve noticed this in your own sewing: the better your skills get the slower you sew.
I may not do *everything* historically correct because, geez, I want to make lots of costumes! I don’t want to spend years making them either.
Below are a few tips I’ve developed into my sewing regimen to help me be faster at completing garments. These are not necessarily short-cuts. Simply tasks I’ve found to quicken my pace.
A. Grade your seams first before clipping
Have you ever clipped your curved seams in those neat little V’s then discovered you had to trim your seam allowances? Yeah…. Isn’t it FUN to try and trim all those little sections? Not.
To make this process faster (well, as quick as you can get), trim all your seam allowances first into the tapered rows. THEN go back and clip your curves. Here’s a tutorial on grading if you need a refresher.
B. Try the assembly line method
If constructing a skirt or bodice, don’t sew each seam then press. Pin ALL the major seams at once. Take it to the machine and sew them all in one sitting. Then get to your ironing board and press each seam flat and either to the side or open – all in one session. No need to go back and forth between machine and iron so much.
C. Wash and iron fabrics for several projects at once
Do you find yourself coming home with new fabric only to wash one piece at a time? Why not wash several fabrics together to save time? Or even better, throw in a new piece with your regular laundry washed at the same temperature as you want to wash the fabric. Be sure to pin a bit of muslin to the washed fabric marked with the width, yardage and note that it’s pre-washed.
D. Machine apply bodice boning in pre-made bone casing
Really, don’t spend the time to hand tack all your boning to your bodice seams when you can machine them instead. AND it is period correct to use the machine. So don’t hesitate to use this time saver. Flip back the bodice, pin your casing to the seam allowance only and sew. Repeat for the other side of the casing and seam allowance.
Also, buy bone casing. Don’t make your own from lining bias strips. One, it’s bias and some people have real issues with bias; two, purchased bone casing is thicker so bones are less likely to poke through; three, you don’t have to spend the time to make your own; and four, casing comes in black and also white that can be dyed other colors if you want it to match.
E. Save all your hand tacking to finish the raw edges for the end (if possible)
When finishing the raw edges of your bodice – neckline, hem and sleeve hems – machine sew bias tape to all the edges and save the hand tacking for the end. This will be faster than machining the neckline, tacking, machining the bodice hem then tacking, etc.
Same goes for your skirts. Sew in your hem facing but hold off on tacking until you’ve set on your waistband. Then move from machine to hand sewing and do both. Saves you time from setting up each work area more than once.
F. Finally, don’t sit and think and think and ponder and wonder how a particular method will turn out
This is a huge time waster! Of course, some projects will demand you think out how to figure out a technique before you sew. That’s ok. But don’t analyze it to death. Figure it out then get to it! The more you think about it instead of taking action, the bigger your lack of motivation becomes.
Do you have special tips to make your sewing go faster? Please share your methods below!