In the (paraphrased) words of a certain Taylor Swift, makers gonna make. But what happens when makers can’t make? Whether it’s a hectic day job, family commitments, a house move, or just a plain-old loss of sewjo, there are inevitably going to be times in our lives when our sewing machine gets neglected.
I’ve been thinking lately about sewing productivity – or, more specifically, my lack of it. I hate the word productivity, and I hate it even more when it’s applied to my favourite hobby. But if I only find time to make two or three projects a year, does that make me any less of a sewist than someone who makes 20?
This month, the worst happened: my sewing machine broke. It wasn’t beyond repair (I hope) but it did need a long-overdue service. And the irony of it all was, it happened at a point when I felt at my most ‘productive’. I had my first project of 2019 (yes, really) all cut out and ready to go. I had lots of free weekends coming up. And my sewing machine was having none of it.
So, what’s a sewist to do? Quietly sob while scrolling through everyone else’s finished projects on Instagram? Sew an entire dress by hand? Finally learn how to knit? Okay, so that last one is quite tempting. What I actually did, though, was prep. So much prep. Pattern alterations and tracing. Cutting out fabric. Fusing interfacing. Overlocking edges. I had my own little factory line going.
By the end of it all I had three projects ready to sew, and another pattern ready to toile. That has never happened in my entire sewing life. Once my sewing machine is back in action, there’s going to be no stopping me. And although it used to be the part of sewing I would dread, I actually started to enjoy the process of it. Turns out that sewing is as much about the preparation as it is the actual sewing. Who knew?
3 ways to boost your sewing productivity:
- Prepare. Prepare. Prepare. Bet you knew this one was coming, didn’t you? Yep – try to avoid the siren call of your sewing machine for a weekend and instead set aside the time for prepping your patterns and fabrics. This has been a revelation for me – and it took my sewing machine being out of action to discover it. I know it’s hard to resist the temptation to start sewing once everything is cut out, but you’ll be feeling smug as hell when you’ve got a pile of projects ready to go.
- Choose projects you feel excited about. This seems so obvious, but lately I’ve fallen into the trap of only sewing ‘classic’ styles for fear of making something I won’t want to wear. But you know what? All work and no play makes sewing a dull hobby. From now on, I have no room for ‘meh’ projects in my sewing life.
- Slow it down. This may seem counter-productive, but it’s never worth rushing a project. Trust me, I’ve done it more times than I’d like to admit. You will have to get the seam ripper out. There’s a reason why dressmaking is called slow fashion; not only will you make fewer mistakes, it’s so much more satisfying to take time over each and every step. Go on, give your seam ripper a day off.
- Find your flow. I know this sounds like some kind of yoga thing, but I’m not suggesting you meditate while inserting an invisible zip (although maybe it would help, who knows?). It’s all about finding a sewing routine that works best for you. I just cannot deal with cutting out patterns after work; I don’t have the time or the energy. But I can sew in short bursts – say, half an hour to 45 minutes most evenings. And that’s what gets a project finished! Try sewing at different times and days to work out what suits you and your lifestyle.