I often get asked how I get so many quilts done and how I manage to sew and finish so many quilt quickly! This is over and above working on customer quilts and in our little fabric shop.
I’ll let you in on my secrets. It mostly comes down to being organized, so here’s what that looks like.
Have a dedicated sewing space.
This can be hard for some people, especially in small houses or places with tiny fingers. Sewing is something I have to do every so often, as a creative need. Sometimes that has meant giving up one thing so I can have even the smallest space possible.
Maybe it’s a corner of the living room, or part of the kitchen. Maybe it means tidying up a spare room or storage area.
If you DO already have a dedicated space, that leads to my next tip.
Have your tools and machine ready to go.
Is the machine set up and in working order? Are your tools nearby and easily reachable? Do you have thread you need and bobbins wound? Are the cutting and ironing stations ready to go?
Granted I have a HUGE sewing room I can walk into at any point and just start on whatever I want. This could be something to work towards.
I also have a selection of threads and fabric on hand, as well as patterns. Good lighting, a clock, a stand for my iPad are all just bonuses.
Having your sewing table set at the right height and a comfortable chair (mine’s on wheels) are also things you might not think of that lead to a better sewing experience.
Organize your projects
Ah, here we get to the meat of it. We all have UFOs (Un Finished Objects) in our sewing rooms, but do you have them organized? I need to have my in-progress projects where I can see them. If they are stuffed in dark containers in the back of a closet I’ll soon forget.
I use large ziploc bags and make my own personal kits for projects in progress. At any time I can grab a bag and pick up where I left off. Sometimes I will work on one projects, then switch to another – especially if they can be done with the same color thread.
A little bit of work each day or week means it all adds up.
Take hints from production sewing.
Some things I’ve been doing so long I forget others don’t use the same techniques. When I am making a quilt with a large number of blocks, I not only chain piece (sewing one right after the other with no break in thread) I do the same step on multiple blocks.
So instead of sewing all the steps on one block, then doing all the steps on the second block (and so on), I’ll do step one on all or a large number of blocks. Chain sew 30 pieces, iron 30 pieces. Do the next step on 30 pieces. At the end of all those steps – voila – 30 blocks done at once!
If the pattern is new to me, or the block is complicated, I will make one block all the way through so I have to organized in my head, and I have the finished block to refer to as I go. As fast as doing 12 to 30 steps at once, it is less fun when you have to unsew them all if you mess up.
The other tip is to use a neutral colored thread and wind plenty of bobbins ahead of time. If I run out of a certain color bobbin thread, I’ll wind 3 more, minimum. And if I’m working on a scrappy quilt, I’ll use up the half empty bobbins of any color. It doesn’t have to match the top thread when piecing scrappy quilts.
in the photo above, I was working on THREE quilt tops at once – two using the same pattern. I like to stack each unit that needs to be sewn in neat piles so as I’m sewing, I just pick up the next one.
Have a regular sewing day or time.
If you can’t make time every day, or every other day, you might wish to consider a dedicated sewing day or afternoon where you just work on your quilt tops for a couple hours. Think of it as a date with your creativity!
For daily sewing, whenever everything is set up and can be left undisturbed, you will be amazed at how far you can get on a project with even just 20 minutes after dinner. I’ve seen other quilters dedicate a half hour in the morning before the day gets started. The important part is to make some time in your week somewhere.