Hi readers! I have a little treat for you today: my friend Robin has written you a guest post on her method for maximum sewing efficiency when you're making multiples of a garment. Enjoy!--Gertie
Greetings, Gertie Readers! You may be aware that our book-writing, Bombshell-Dress- teaching, sample-sewing blogstress is just a little overloaded these days. So allow me to pontificate on a topic I don't see much about, but gives me great sewing pleasure. Imagine you are the proprietress of a small, but well-appointed little sewing factory. It's OK to sweat in this shop, and in fact, I encourage it. Crank up some Michael Jackson, and get into the groove to do some assembly-line sewing.
The sewing factory is all about efficiency and with that in mind, I recommend using:
• a tried and true pattern – if you don’t have one yet, how about an apron pattern? There shouldn’t be any fitting issues or construction surprises for assembly-line sewing
• multiple pieces of fabric with the same properties - this is very important!
◦ same weight
◦ same hand (amount of drapey-ness)
◦ same background color, so you can use the same thread on everything
• rotary scissors, cutting mat & pattern weights
A good factory worker strives for optimal performance. Boredom is welcome – just call it zen and relax into it. As the boss, you get to choose how the employee (also you) will be graded. Perhaps it’s a matter of punching in on the time clock to sew for 30 minutes. Or the worker can be rewarded after milestones are reached. All of the apron straps are sewn? Let’s order in lunch to boost morale!
By now the fabric has been pre-washed and any fusible interfacing has been obtained. Fold each piece of fabric consistently with the rest. For example, if the right side is folded in on one piece, make it folded in on all pieces of fabric.
If you aren’t yet a convert, try a rotary cutter, cutting mat and pattern weights. You can save time by not pinning the pattern to the fabric, which you only have to unpin in order to sew. Because I prefer my patterns without seam allowances, I love a rotary cutter with a guide.
It may take practice to gain speed with the rotary cutter, but think of yourself as an ice skater doing your compulsories. Slow and steady in the beginning will get the job done. Speed comes naturally with practice. Hey, all the more reason to cut out multiples, right? Cut the fusible interfacing, now, too.
Another time-saver is marking the notches and darts with little clips into the seam allowances and for this, scissors are a lot more accurate than rotary cutters. To mark darts, I insert pins on both sides, like so:
It might be time for the afore-mentioned employee morale-boosting exercise. Donuts, yoga – boss lady (or boss gentleman) it’s your choice!
Here is where the sweating comes in. Fire up the iron and take the time to fuse each necessary piece now. After fusing, double check that it hasn’t stretched or shrunk, by comparing the pattern piece your work. Taking time at this stage increases quality of the finished goods.
Lay out each individual garment in its own pile. It is not considered anal to lay the pieces in the same order. No, this is called efficiency and some might even take pride in their little piles of sewing goodness.
Let’s say you want to sew all of the collars first, then cuffs, which are then attached to sleeves, which are then sewn to bodices. Lay the bodice pieces on the bottom, the sleeves on top of the bodices, the cuffs next and the collars on top.
The Beauty of the System
Not only will assembly-line sewing generate a wardrobe in short order, these techniques will build the fine motor skills necessary to master techniques. You will never fear another zipper after you have installed three, four, or, let’s get wild – five in a row. You can just look at the fifth zipper and see the improvement. Awesome.
Another benefit is less thinking. Once you have identified the steps you will take, you can go on auto-pilot. That allows for turning up the volume on the music, or even having a movie playing in the background.
One caution: advise the spouse, the kids, or the pets that mommy gets mad sometimes. Mommy is just frustrated about ripping out a seam now and then. You know it will happen. You will not sew everything perfectly; no factory worker is perfect. And let’s assume they get a raise every year, anyway, so it is OK!
Fun Decisions – How is it best to maximize The Win?
When sewing assembly-line style, there are many variations on this theme. I like to repeat as many steps as I can before moving on. I like to get all of the cutting, the marking and the fusing done before sitting down at the sewing machine and/or serger. Then it is buckle-down-and-master-the-skill time. I would rather sew 30 buttonholes so that the last six are perfect than finish one shirt at a time.
Let’s not forget that hand-sewing may be involved. There may be times to sit and sew. Remember, boredom can be transformed into zen and/or learning time.
You will choose your own approach – because you are the boss of this shop and you are in charge. (Can you tell I like that part?) Whether you finish several garments at once, or you space them out between other projects, assembly-line sewing makes sense. If you are like me, you have invested time and money into this hobby, so it feels good to get tangible results. Naturally, you may simply find it easier to buy most things, but if you hanker for the perfect gym shorts, skirts, dresses, whatever – you can fill your closet this way.
Pat yourself on the back for making such efficient use of your time and your resources. You have leveraged the power of the tried & true pattern, you have saved money, clothed yourself, improved your skills and listened to some good music, too.
Check out Robin's blog, A Little Sewing!