This comes from my tumblr post: beezeeart.tumblr.com/.../speed… (Feel free to send me sewing questions on Tumblr, or check out my sewing tips tag for more tips: beezeeart.tumblr.com/tagged/Se…)
Hey everyone, I wanted to talk a bit about speeding up your sewing. And I don’t mean physically making your sewing machine faster, I mean just streamlining your workflow to make things faster. When you are running a small business the phrase, “Time is Money,” really can’t be felt more. Unlike a traditional job where you are paid for your time (even if you are slacking off), every second you waste is a second you aren’t making money. And at a certain point you may find your income limited by the number of hours in a day. The only option, then, is to do the same work only FASTER!
1. Cut Multiples at Once
If you fold your fabric in half and cut two out at once, you’ll save time later down the road. You can even fold it in 4s for very simple pieces. For slippery fabrics, pin it. It’s still faster to pin than to cut twice. Use a pincushion on a bracelet so you spend less time wrangling pins.
Even if you just need 1 plushie, if you know you will need another relatively soon and you have fabric to spare, you might as well fold the fabric and cut 2.
2. Chain Piecing
This is where you sew one piece after another, not pausing to stop and cut off the last one and not leaving a lot of space between them. It works best if you are sewing a straight line, or simple shape and lots of them in a row. Then you just clip them apart after you are done.
3. Reduce Seam Allowances
Do you really need all the seam you are leaving yourself? If you are like me, no. If you spend a lot of time trimming away excess seam allowances, try using less of a seam allowance. But make sure your pieces are lined up well so you don’t leave holes in your seam.
If you need to cut notches into your curves so they lay right, try using pinking shears instead of individually cutting clipping them.
4. Create an Assembly Line
There’s a reason this is so common in manufacturing. Perform all like tasks at once. It will take less time overall since you wont be wasting time switching tasks.
5. Stay Organized
If you spend 20 minutes hunting down your seam ripper, that’s 20 minutes you weren’t sewing. Stay organized. Keep all your tools in one place so you know where they are and put them back when you are done. Display your fabric and thread as openly as possible so you aren’t digging for the right colors. Sort cut pieces into small boxes or bins to keep them from getting lost, falling off the desk, etc. I usually put mine in shipping boxes since I tend to have plenty on hand.
6. Don’t Watch TV
It’s tempting to watch TV or movies while you work. It may make the time pass more quickly, but it makes you work more slowly. Even if you only pause to look up for a second, those seconds add up. Especially if you stop working entirely to watch a scene. Instead, opt for things you don’t have to watch so you can focus on what you are doing. Try audiobooks, lectures, the news, or music. Documentaries can be a good middle ground if you need something visual. They rarely actually require you to look at the screen for you to understand what is going on. Unlike a TV show which might have a 5 minute long fight scene with no dialogue.
7. Take Frequent Small Breaks
This may seem counter intuitive, but research has actually shown that taking small breaks increases productivity. A favorite method of mine is called the pomodoro technique.
This technique has you work for 25 minutes, take a 5 minute break, and repeat. At the end of 4 25 minute cycles, you take a longer 15-20 minute break. It’s a great way to remind you to stand up, stretch, and grab a drink. And the 20 minute breaks really give you a good “excuse” to take a breather with a time limit, instead of something with an open ended time limit like, “I’ll just check tumblr real quick,” or, “I’ll just play one level of this game.”
I suggest you skip the physical tomato timer, though, and use an app or browser version. I don’t know anyone who actually works better with a ticking kitchen timer on their desk. (It makes me feel like I need to rush to diffuse a bomb or something).
8. Use A Rotary Cutter or Electric Scissors
I’m always surprised how many plush artists think of rotary cutters as primarily a quilting tool. Smaller rotary cutters are very precise (avoid the ones that are the size of pizza cutters). It may take a bit of practice, but it really does speed things up and it’s much easier on the hands, especially if you get one with padded grips.
If you just can’t get the hang of using a rotary cutter, try finding a nice pair of electric scissors. These make the cutting motion for you. But keep in mind you get what you pay for. Cheap electric scissors wont cut well and wont work on thicker fabrics. Be sure to read product reviews before you buy (or test them out if possible). And, as always, make sure you charge or have spare batteries on hand before you start working.
9. Skip the Pins
Use weights to hold pattern pieces down for tracing. Skip the pins when sewing and use your hands to guide the fabric and make sure it stays lined up when possible. I don’t pin anymore when I sew with fleece since it is a very easy fabric to work with, but I still recommend pinning or clipping for slippier fabrics.
10. Use the Same Color Thread
I was very hung up on matching thread colors to fabric exactly when I first started sewing. I’ve found that for seams, depending on the fabric, you can’t even see the stitches let alone tell what color the thread is. I once opened up a commercially produced plush of a black cat to find that they had used light brown and orange thread. It was an eye opener. You couldn’t even see it with the plush fabric. These days I tend to use white for light/pastel colored fabrics, standard rainbow colors (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple), brown, and black. Of course, test it on scrap fabric to make sure it doesn’t look bad first.
This also has the added benefit of saving money since you wont need to buy a new thing of thread for every single shade of fabric you own.