It’s been a few months now since baby Toby arrived in our lives, so I’ve had some time to contemplate the changes that it has had on my sewing habits. Gone are the whole days or evenings of sewing uninterrupted, and the sewing until the early hours to finish a project (sleep is too valuable now). So here are my 5 top tips for sewing when your time is suddenly more limited.
1. Be realistic
When your life circumstances change, be that work, family or routine there are going to be changes to your sewing time too. Having limited time doesn’t mean that you can’t continue to enjoy your hobbies, but you may have to change your expectations about what is possible. You will probably enjoy the time that you do have more if you aren’t fretting about the things you can’t achieve any more, or the time you wish you had. Be realistic about your life circumstances now, and choose projects accordingly. I have been loving these baby feeding friendly tops (here and here) because they have been quick to sew, and get worn all the time because they meet the needs of my lifestyle as it is right now.
2. Make the most of short time slots
Toby is not a good daytime napper. If I get 30 minutes during the day without a baby I feel like I’ve done pretty well. To actually use that little time slot I have to plan ahead.
If I’m well planned, there are lots of ways that I can use that time productively, for example, reading through the next section of the instructions, pinning or pressing seams, or even a little hand sewing. I sometimes manage to machine sew a little, but I tend not to because it’s not great if I have to stop midway through a seam to pick up a newly awake and crying baby! with that in mind I always try to make sure that I’ve left myself a job to do which is easy to pick up and put down if I only get a few minutes at a time.
I try to keep things conveniently arranged too, with the equipment and materials that I need for the next stage all together and in easy reach. If you have space, leaving the ironing board set up and ready to go makes the world of difference! (See more pattern and sewing room organisation)
3. Choose fabric and patterns wisely
The first bit of sewing that I did post baby was a Sew Over It Lucia top and it was exactly what I needed- just 3 pattern pieces, and super simple and quick to sew. The vast majority of the sewing that I have done since then has been well behaved jersey knits using familiar patterns. I don’t have the patience of time for finicky, dainty fabric or complicated pattern fitting at the moment!
By choosing your fabric and patterns wisely you can maximise the parts of sewing which you enjoy, and minimise the difficulties. I know that my least favorite part of sewing is the cutting out, so I have been mostly choosing to sew patterns which are either fairly quick to cut out because they have few pattern pieces, or fabrics which are easy to cut because they don’t shift around too much in the process. You can also make both cutting and sewing easier by avoiding fabric which needs pattern matching (or taking a more laid back approach to it).
4. Batch sewing
More complicated sewing with more complex processes will necessitate more time reading and interpreting the instructions. When you sew several versions of the same pattern simultaneously, you can maximise your time sewing compared to reading instructions and working out construction. The second time completing each step is often much quicker than the first because you can dive in with confidence.
This doesn’t work for all projects, and is best for patterns with either a fairly forgiving fit, or which you already know fit well. I often use this technique when sewing shirts such as these Archer Shirts from last summer.
Even more efficient is if the items that you are sewing are all in the same colour family, then you can keep switching between them without needing to change thread colours.
5. Enjoy the process, not just the end result
This tip is probably the most important. I have come to terms with the fact that I am not going to sew so much as I did before. I just have a lot less uninterrupted time, so even when I have a free weekend, chances are I won’t get much sewing done unless Toby is out on a walk with someone else, or asleep. That actually makes the time that I do get to sew even more valuable though, because it is the opportunity that I get to relax, reset and do something for me. That bit of downtime is my chance to recharge ready for the next challenge.