Finding the Time to Sew

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Inside: Finding the Time to Sew

Do you struggle with finding the time to sew? Does it seem like time slips away before you can even begin a project?

Today, I want to start a long conversation on the topic of finding the time to sew. I want everyone to share ways you find the time to sew. What works and what doesn’t work. How to sew when you have a full-time job. Sewing without a dedicated space. Sewing around family, household chores, and daily life.

Finding the Time to Sew

Finding the Time to Sew

When I think of finding time to sew I think about something I call the Sewing Space-Time Continuum. You know the one I’m talking about where you sit down to sew for 15 minutes and three hours later you are still MIA.

It’s like the minute your foot hits that sewing machine pedal you enter a sewing black hole and sometime in a distant future you find your way back to reality.

Here’s an example

You notice that your husband is cleaning up the kitchen so you think, “Ah, I have fifteen minutes. I’ll just whip up that quilt block I’ve been planning. It’ll only take a few minutes.”

Next thing you know the sun is rising in the East.

That, my friends, is the Sewing Space-Time Continuum

The Reality

In reality the problem isn’t time, it’s time management. Back to my quilt block example above. Yes, a quilt block can likely be sewn in fifteen minutes, however, everything must be ready to go for that to happen.

The quilt pieces must be pre-cut and ready to be sewn. The correct color thread and bobbin must already be loaded into the sewing machine. Scissors, rotary cutters, mats, iron and ironing board, etc. must all be in place ready to go. That way, when you can grab fifteen minutes to sew your quilt block all you have to do is run to your sewing space, sit down, and sew the block.

Have a Plan

If you know that sewing time is difficult to come by in your life then you are going to have to have an organized plan or sewing will never happen.

Finding the Time to Sew

Below are a few suggestions to help you get a plan. Before you ever sew your first stitch, you need to have taken care of a few things ahead of time.

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  • The Sewing Machine: (10-15 minutes) If you can only sew in small units of time then you will need to have your sewing machine ready to go. Be sure that the machine is cleaned and oiled from your last project. Have the correct needle for the project loaded into the machine. In an ideal sewing world, you would have a dedicated space for your sewing machine. Also, there should be an iron and ironing board close by.
  • Project Boxes: (10-15 minutes) Put everything for a particular project into a clear plastic storage box. Think about everything you’ll need for the project like the pattern, fabric, scissors, notions, pins, fabric markers, tracing paper, tracing wheel, etc.
  • Wrap it Up: (10-15 minutes) I prefer to have everything for my project folded up in the fabric. That way I can set it out on my table and get started. With quilts this can be a little tricky if it’s a larger quilt, but for smaller projects like kids clothes, this method works great. Everything sitting there, ready to go.
  • Plastic Zip Bag: If your sewing area is a shared space such as a dining area, you may want to store your project pieces in a clear zipper bag. That way nothing can be spilled on your project and it doesn’t take up much space. For larger projects I love these Extra Large Ziplock Bags.

Put it on Your Schedule

Finding the Time to Sew

I know this sounds crazy, but schedule in your sewing and be clear about this with your family. Maybe it’s only 30 minutes once a week, but by golly, take that time and use it wisely. Maybe you could trim a pattern or cut out a few quilt pieces. Or, sit and plan your project and all of the elements that need to go into it.

Where it all Heads South

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Finding the Time to Sew

I think the place where our plan-to-sew-but-never-get-around-to-it idea falls short is in having above-average expectations. For example, you see a One Hour Sewing Pattern; you know you can grab an hour sometime during the week so you pick up the pattern, fabric, and all of the notions.

The reality is this: The pattern pieces can likely be assembled in one hour, but the entire process will take more like four hours. The pattern needs to be trimmed and, likely, altered. Maybe a muslin should be attempted first. The fabric may need washing and drying. The pattern pieces will all need to be cut out. You get the idea.

Instead, break down all of the steps to this project into bite-size units. The first unit would be trimming the pattern. The second unit would be altering the pattern to fit your body. And on and on. Take those small units of time and accomplish the steps. You’ll be a much happier sewist if you do, I promise.

The Sewing Space-Time Continuum

True story. Recently, I had planned to go to the fitness center and work out for an hour. Before going, I thought I’d snag a few sewing minutes so, I trotted upstairs and began working on an ongoing project. I was so lost in the Sewing Space-Time Continuum that I had no idea what time it was when my husband came home from work. I hollered from upstairs, “Are you OK? Why are you home so early?”

In reality it was well past 5 pm, but I thought it was more like 2 pm. On the positive side, exercise was averted and sewing was accomplished.

Your turn. Where do you find time to sew? How do you avoid the Sewing Space-Time Continuum?

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  1. Well I have a sewing room.
    BUT – it becomes a dumping ground for everything that goes upstairs > FIRST I need to clear space/put everything away
    I should lock the door … but then I’d have to clean the hall way 🙁
    Dedicated time to sew – I have joined a quilting group for FOUR days a month
    BUT I need to keep projects separate and ready to go. I have sorted and cleaned and purged to have these projects RTG (ready to go)
    SO FAR – seems to be working well. In between sewing days – I have mending to do, one or two ongoing projects that are HOME projects AND I am keeping my sewing room clean, clear and accessible. Housework is scheduled for specific times during the week – AND I have an understanding, encouraging husband. BONUS!

  2. I too can get lost in the time continuum thing. But having recently bought a house, 1st one since becoming a single mother 7 years ago, I have carved out a niche in the laundry room. I can easily be there ALL day. I have had to make a deal with myself and the remaining un-opened boxes. If I can for a few hours unpacking and organizing the home I get to sew for the rest of the day! The unpacking is slower but the sewist in me is MUCH happier indeed.

    1. Kathy, Just an FYI (I know this is an old posting but the information is still important). Years ago I had my machine a few feet down the hall from the laundry room with a small bath in between the two rooms. My machine always had a regular “tune-up” and one time when I retrieved my machine from the shop the technician told me he found quite a bit of rust inside and asked if my machine was in a laundry area. Of course it might as well have been. No door on the laundry area, shower in the bath next door, and I never covered my machine. It was then that he told me to make sure to always cover my machine when it wasn’t in use. I did this from that point on and never had rust problems again.

  3. I sew precisely because I seek that meditative state – a sort of trance whereby the whole world is shut out and it’s just you and pleasure until something shakes you out of it. Sure beats any drug folks are into these days!

    I am fortunate to be retired and not have to worry about finding time; sewing is my full-time occupation and I’ve never been so happy.

    That doesn’t mean I don’t have stress-saving tricks. One of them is to thread several needles in advance when I’m going to perform a big basting job. It’s such a treat to just grab a new one and continue without interruption!

  4. I can now give up avoiding the SSTC. In fact, it is one of the reasons that I love sewing. I have a sewing room and it is my space to get completely lost in my creative processing. But, before the kids all grew up and moved on to their own lives, I scheduled time around their activities. I would grab time during naps or the viewing of a favorite video or after bedtime. It was very difficult to make myself stop once I began sewing. Back then I would set up my sewing in the same area they were, even if it meant converting a closet into my sewing space. “Just one more seam, please.” or “I just need to finish this hem and you can wear (play with) this.” I am so happy that I now have the time to get lost in the process. My problem now is scheduling ALL those projects I want to make.

  5. I do think that there is something about sewing, maybe that it’s a different kind of thinking, that makes it hard to get out of the “zone” once you are in. Whenever I start sewing, even if I’ve set it aside I am still thinking about it. I have four small children (ages 8 and under) that I homeschool, so at this point I am not even attempting to work on things during the day, but my husband graciously watches the kids for a couple of hours several nights a week after dinner so that I can work on projects (and it’s with the hope of eventually earning some extra income, so it’s partly to contribute to the family as well!). I have found that ziploc bags really help me, whether it’s an embroidery project or something else. When we are on the go, I make sure to bring projects that I can work on while we are driving somewhere. English piecework really works well, as does cross stitch!

  6. I know this sounds anal but I have goal, check off sheets that I plan out all the steps to finish a project. The main goal (a sewing or quilting project usually) is broken down into small, manageable pieces that I know can be done in short periods of time. I have a full time job and two kids with very busy schedules so I have to be very organized or nothing gets done. I do have a sewing room which i try to keep neat (which almost never happens) so I can find things and not waste time looking for what I need. This may not work for everyone but I need this type of system to push me in the right direction.

  7. My Mom made all 3 of us older girls everything we wore. She had no sewing room, 5 children, and a job. At night when we went to bed, she would pull out our little play table and set up her sewing machine in front of the couch. You could hear the table legs bouncing on the floor as the sewing machine seamed 3 outfits all made to match with beautiful fabric. I think it was her stress relief. I miss having the kind of clothes no one else is wearing. By the time I get something cut out, I am probably hoping I never see it again.

  8. Plastic bags! Before owning a house, I focused on clothes and really enjoyed the Vogue designer patterns However, sometimes it was very difficult to understand the directions as most of them were different. So I usually spent quite a bit of time just reading the directions. Then another allotment to cut and mark the fabric. Then everything needed went into a large clear ziplock until I had time to start. And by that I mean everything, thread, binding, needles, buttons. I had a little catalogue of projects that just sat until I had the time. I still have one from years ago!
    When sewing I may do one instruction section at a time, but I’m impatient and once I start sewing, I like to finish. When I did cross-stitch I did similarly, but that’s much easier to do on the run. I guess I do the same with home sewing, but I generally do it all at once.

  9. My biggest problem is accepting that my sewing might just need to happen in small chunks of time, and that’s ok! I have project boxes, but somehow still can feel overwhelmed some times. I think I need to go to each project and make a detailed check list of remaining steps in small, bite sized chunks.

  10. I have six children all grown up now I would put them to bed and get my husband off and sew till 1 am three times a week now I sew on Tuesday and Thursday for the grandkids from 10 in the morning till 4 in the afternoon. I Set aside those day’s when I have sewing projects

  11. I have no dedicated space. My guys think any flat surface is ok for a dumping ground for whatever they bring in the door. The only space in the house big enough to lay fabric for cutting fabric is my 6″ X 3″ kitchen island. I’m disabled, bad back, so I can’t be on my feet long. by the time I clear it off I have to rest. repeat next day. I love to sew so I have to get some cooperation. I’m also caretaker for my husband and adult son with autism, so I NEED to have some me time. Any suggestions?

    1. Janet, I know my suggestion is going to see a little extreme, however, it has helped me. My husband who is an electrician would come in and drop stuff in my sewing area. And it wasn’t an area that was really accessible, it was a separate room. We had the discussion many times that I needed my space clear of the junk so that I could do what I needed to do (after all, he had the garage). After many discussions, the day came that I went in to sew and I just threw up my hands. I grabbed a black garbage bag and threw the junk in and then put it in the closet. When he asked where something was I’d ask if he had checked the garbage bag. He still puts stuff in there on occasion but I think he almost likes that all he has to do most times is look in the bag.

  12. Janet, I empathize with you, I also am disabled, hubby and I are raising our 9 year old grandson with autism…….what I realized six months ago is that I can’t possibly do it all without help and my own space. So I sat down with all the guys (no other females here but the dog!) and just spelled it out. They all need me to be healthy and happy to take care of them, so they need to pitch in and do their share which included finding me my own space. I never would have believed it but they did it! They each chose what they could do to help,( hubby does laundry and dishes) ( son took over dog walking and trash duty) ( even the 9 year old does recycling and setting and clearing the table!) And the key, for us, is praising, praising for everything they do, cause I really do appreciate them for giving me some time for myself. Oh, and I do have a designated table and workspace in a corner of the family room. Who knew all I had to was stop trying to be Supermom and ask for help!

  13. I love the idea of putting projects into a plastic tub. I have started many projects, but haven’t been able to finish them. I have 3 kids, so finding time to sew usually means deciding to sleep or not, lol. But I have been setting aside free time for all of us – if all the chores get done, and homework is done, then I light a candle for 30 minutes. The kids have free time to go outside or play video games and I go sew. My two oldest know not to bug me, but my youngest is only 1 and will have to learn as she gets older. The candle visual really helped though. I use this in the morning now for my Bible time, if the kids wake up while I’m doing my time, they see the candle and don’t bother me unless f an emergency.

  14. My sewing room is not that big. I havee so much stuff in there. I have (8) eight sewing machines and two are still in there boxes.
    And I love fabric. All kinds. Buttons. Xipers any thing that has got to do with sewing.
    And all of it is nice stuff and can bee used. And to say nothing on patterns .
    I have already given away boxes of fabric and sewing stuff.
    I Guess I need help putting all this stuff up somewhere so I can sew.

  15. I need to stop being a Rainbow Guider so can have time to sew! I have no set place to sew which I would love. Tend to leave the machine on the dining table where it says to me “please sew”! usually when I’ve no time or I’m due to go to work so it’s now away. Ps what is MIA and SSCT please?

    1. MIA = Missing in Action.
      I think you mean the Sewing Space Time Continuum (SSTC). It’s a play on words about the scientific term Space Time Continuum. I consider it a time differential because I get lost in time when I’m sewing.

  16. Thank you so much for this Leslie ?? being an Architecture student and having a passion for sewing its hard to find time to sew when you have assignments like every day,thanx for sharing this

  17. I am an amateur seamstress but I love it! Right now my sewing moments are those of necessity (hem this so son can wear it, lengthen those so son can wear it, mend that so it’s not unsightly, etc.) You have hit the nail on the head for me to find / make more time to sew for pleasure (that dress I’ve been wanting for years). Thanks for your insight.

  18. I absolutely love this article and thank you so much for finding the time to write it haha! You’re the first person I’ve come across to use the phrase Sewing Space-Time Continuum. I’m fairly new to sewing but I have already been sucked into that vacuum so many times and completely relate. These tips are awesome and though not mentioned, it’s inspired me to get a kitchen timer to keep on my sewing table – that way its easy to set and when the bell dings its time to stop! … or add another 5 minutes 😉 I’m interested to see how that works. Thanks again!

    Happy Sewing!

  19. Raising our 2 granddaughters and working full-time keeps me from sewing much at all. After losing my sister 4 years ago, we were in a Counciling appointment and the gal could see that I was grieving and having a difficult time. She asked me what I used to do that I no longer had time to do. I told her my love of sewing. She said that we needed to find a place where my machine could be set up and ready at all times so if I had 10 mins I could sew for 10 minutes. So my husband and I discussed what room to put it in. He said our bedroom and I said no because he likes to go to bed early when I might want to sew. He said he didn’t want it in the TV room or the dining room. I agreed with him. Then he said why don’t you put it in the living room and I said really? Are you sure? Yes he said and it has worked out really well.

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