Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Preparing to Sew

photo credit: BHG

Do you ever feel irritated because you just cannot get time to sew? If meals and clean-up and laundry are putting demands on you, here are some suggestions to free up your time:

1. Clean house the night before: Clear away all clutter, and get children to cooperate with you so that they too, can have a day to pursue a homey interest.  Catch up on the laundry and clean the kitchen.
2. Get the next day's meals organized in the refrigerator. Put the ingredients for the slow-cooker in a container so that you can pull it out in the morning and get it started.  Have sandwich ingredients in another large container or box in the fridge. For breakfast, try something that requires very little clean-up.  
3. During the sewing day, use paper plates and cups.
4. Get out your sewing supplies and prepare your fabric by washing it and ironing it if necessary.
5. Get up before the family starts to stir, and get yourself ready and dressed to face the day. Resist the temptation to be too casual, and dress your best. It will keep you alert and energetic.
6. If possible, cut out your sewing project the night before, so that you can easily sit up to the sewing machine and begin.
7. If you still have trouble getting started, you might need a day to go through your books, patterns, and fabric to assemble the ingredients for your project.
8. Insist that everyone clean up after themselves so that you are not more burdened after sewing. 
9. Avoid confusion while sewing.  Mark with colored chalk  SF for side front, and SB for side back, F for front half of sleeve. There is usually a single notch to indicate the front of the sleeve and a double notch for the back.  Sew up all seams you can first, and iron them all at the same time, including facings and ties and sleeves. Iron all hems in place. Once seams are sewn, start joining parts together: skirts to bodices, sleeves to bodice, back to front.
10. Stay organized by continually cleaning up your sewing space as you sew. 
11. Find a place to sew where you can keep your cutting table and sewing out, so that you do not have to gather it all up and put it away every time the room is needed for something else. I have mine in the bedroom, as it is not a high traffic area, and it is not in anyone's way. The sewing things and machine are on a table at the foot of the bed, so that it does not clutter the rest of the room. 
12.  Look at fashions in catalogs and online to get inspired for your sewing.  I found these at Australian online Targets and K-Marts, and have used the pictures to give me some ideas.  It is summer there now and these are some of the clothes that are being sold there, which can easily be imitated, adding sleeves or changing necklines, etc. to suit your needs.

This is from a US catalog called The Paragon.  

Look at a garment and then mentally add the things that would make it perfect for you: sleeves, collar, higher neckline, longer hem, and so forth.

After looking at some catalogs and pictures of designs, you might get more of an idea of what to make, and be able to make a decision about patterns and fabric.

When I teach sewing, I first show my student the catalogs and point out good features on a dress, to look for.  Then we go to a fabric store and look at fabric, feeling it and determining what would work best. After that we look at the patterns that are on sale for 99c or $1.99 and try to find something that will work with the fabric.  We may also do this the opposite way, by picking the pattern first.

Once you get a sewing area set up, you will find it easier to take a few minutes each day to sew.  Try taking time to sew one part of the garment, such as the bodice or the sleeves.  Each day's sewing will bring you closer to a completed item.


Sarah said...

Lovely post! Thank you! I am always feeling like there is so much to do before I can sit down and sew. This helps clarify.

Anonymous said...

Loved all the practical ideas for preparing to sew.

Today I finished cleaning and organizing the sewing room.

I like to take a big thermos pot of tea to the sewing room. Every now and then a cup of tea and a cookie are ever so good while working on projects.

I got out a pattern and some fabric and started working. I'm so inspired to get back into that room.

Thanks Lydia for the great ideas and blog.

Mrs. J.

Housewife59 said...

Thank you LadyLydia for this. Encouragement like this is much needed. It need it anyway!

Anonymous said...

Excellent tips, thank you. I like the idea of marking the way you suggest. I never thought of that and it could make sewing much easier. One thing I have trouble with is marking so any tips for that are appreciated.

Also, do you have any ideas that don't cost much for organizing sewing in a small space? I have limited sewing room and every project seems to take over half my living space, with all the materials needed, then I have little space to stash everything. I have limited my sewing due to this but would like to do more as the fashions in stores are just getting worse.

Lydia said...

Put a narrow table at the end of your bed and use it to cut out your project. Store the machine under that table until ready to sew. Hang the excess fabric over the end of the table and let it set on a chair while you cut out each piece. Then move the fabric up to lay down your next pattern piece. After each piece is cut, unpin it and fold up the pattern and insert it back in the envelope, with the name of the piece facing up, so that you can retrieve it easily if you need to look at it again for notches, dots, and such.

Take the piece you have cut out and lay it on the back on the chair where you will be sewing. Clean up the sewing table except for your scissors or snips and the instruction sheet. Place the sewing machine on the table and get ready to sew. There is no need for sewing to be all over the place. I've seen women who just lived in tiny trailers sew dresses and quilts without it taking over the place. They took a little more time to fold things up and put them away. They could cut out a garment easily by just laying down one pattern piece and cutting it out, and putting the pattern away, then placing the newly cut piece to the left of the sewing machine. Place the pieces in a stack in the order that they will be sewn, to make it easier, and put the stack of pieces either on the back of your chair or on the left of the machine.

Lydia said...

Mark notches, pleats, tucks and dots by making small clips. If you do not like to mark darts, choose patterns without them, which have the princess seams.

I plan to do a tutorial of a dress which will explain this.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the tips about keeping sewing neat. It seems like it is a matter of planning the process and concentrating while doing it.

I went to look at an apartment once and the lady showing it told me the previous tenant had used a large walk-in closet for a sewing room!

Lydia said...

I once had the doors taken off a closet to make it into extra room, an alcove, for sewing. If you have the folding doors, you can close up the sewing area if you need too, however, in a bedroom it seems it would not matter if the sewing area was visible.

Mrs P said...

These are great tips!

The size of my house precludes a dedicated sewing area, so I do this: I keep all my sewing supplies in labeled plastic shoeboxes (you can find them at Target, Dollar Stores, etc) & store them in a nearby closet. I store my machine nearby as well. When it is time to sew, I take the 'sewing essentials' box out (scissors, pincushions, sewing machine plugs, seam ripper, etc) and the machine, put them on the dining table, and sew. When I need to remove it for meals it literally takes only a minute or two to put items back into the bin, tuck the machine away and put the unfinished project into its own bin (or I lay it across the guest bed). With two little ones I can only sew in snippets of time here and there!!! This works for my time limitations and the tiny size of my house. Soon we will be renovating and I will likely have a dedicated space in the laundry area!

Mrs. V. said...

I don't sew, but I do quite a bit of cross stitching which requires many supplies and an organization system as well. My house is small, so no dedicated stitching room but I keep all my supplies for my current project in a basket that I can take with me from room to room.

I am lucky enough to have a sweet friend who sews for me though and I was surprised to see the pink fabric with the little roses in your stack in the picture. At this very moment, I'm wearing a nightgown from that fabric that my friend made for me!

Finding Joy said...

Love that first dress, something I would certainly buy - gorgeous colours, cut and I love that neckline. I am not a sewer, but interesting tips for anyone who is.

Lydia said...

The dress with the roses is my favorite and I am trying to figure out how to make that neckline. I think this might have been an Australian online K Mart or Target catologue.

Lydia said...

Joluise, I put the link to that dress just under the picture.

Anonymous said...


A lovely post. This summer, the Australian clothing options 'off the rack' are an improvement on years gone by, with not too much that is needed to make blouses/dresses modest, whether by using a broach to close a bodice or shirt front, layering with camisole or sleeveless T-shirt underneath or wearing a lightweight shawl or bolero. However, do not be deceived; the fabrics are mostly synthetic, thin, wispy affairs, even if they are opaque, the stitching isn't the best and the beautiful beadwork and sequens will come off after two or three washes. if one sews, they are well advised to use the colours, cuts and designs as an inspiration, but don't be parted from your hard-earnt cash - these items are mostly designed to last a season, and not give you years of faithful service as a good clothing investment, which is a real shame. $80-$90 for a blouse, same for skirt, same for dress. half this amount for good modesty-accessories, and one has outlayed $500.00 before even four outfits are purchased. (This would buy eight good 'kings daughters' dresses that would last five years and then some each!!

So get sewing, catch the inspiration that is this season's offerings, and hopefully when the modest, lovely things come back around in eight years time (they only release this sort of thing every eight years or so) the fabric and quality will be far better.

these prices are Myer prices (for Aussie ladies) DJ's and Noni B would be the same (as the other two also sell some items that are always good modest, attractive finds).

may you be richly and wonderfully blessed,


Katie in FL said...

I only sew projects a few times a year. However, my 19-year-old daughter is now working for a fabric store and the sewing bug has caught her big time! She has been asking for help on projects, and I have been showing her the basics. Since we don't have room to dedicate just to sewing, we use the dining room table and only sew for about an hour at a time. I find that to be helpful because it cuts down on fatigue and careless mistakes, at least for me. If we do this regularly, the dress or apron, or whatever is finished before we know it!

Mo said...

I LOVE the Paragon dress! Looks like it would be slimming.