Sewing Against The Clock – Do You?

Sewing Against The Clock

The Great British Sewing Bee is known for its challenges against the clock. I come out in a cold sweat just watching from my sofa. If I was a contestant, I know I’d immediately forget how to use a seam ripper and what a zip is for. I don’t blame anyone for making what look like basic mistakes.

In my own sewing, I take all the time I need. Right? Wrong. In the past, I’ve found myself setting unrealistic deadlines.

  • Oh, I’ll just finish this seam before taking the dog a walk. 
  • I should be able to finish this and blog about it before lunch.
  • Make a dress in a weekend? Sure thing!

Yeah, not so much. Entire days could be eaten up as I disappeared down the Alice In Wonderland rabbit hole of sewing. Ella patiently waited as her morning walk became a lunchtime stroll. I learnt the hard way that no dress worth making gets sewn in a weekend.

So, I’ve tried to cultivate the fine art of sewing time management. Want a dress to wear for a special occasion? Now I give myself at least a month. My new blog rota has definitely helped me manage the time I think I can cram sewing and blogging into. The thing is, I don’t really relish deadlines. They are for the day job.

What about you? Do you enjoy the adrenalin rush of sewing against the clock, or does it just leave you with ruined fabric?

PS Can someone please force me to cut into that beautiful scarab silk in the photo? It’s been sitting in my stash ever since I bought it on a shopping trip with Oonaballoona, two years ago!

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48 Responses to Sewing Against The Clock – Do You?

  1. Lesley King says:

    I do tge same. My challenge is I do most of my sewing in the evenings when my husband is at work and once my daughter is in bed. This means I sometimes end up staying up til silly o’clock because i just want get a hem done. Its always when I make silly mistakes as well and I’ve tried to mend my ways but there is always that thought that this time will be different. This time I won’t rush it……bugger. Did it again.

  2. Miss J says:

    I think that sewing against the clock schiols only be reserved for a production environment.

    If you are making an item for yourself or a loved one, pride in your techniques and finish are the priority.

    Taking the time to see that something is done beautifully and that feeling of achievement you get at completion is priceless, even if it took you longer than you initially thought!

  3. I always like to give myself time, nothing worse than sewing until 4 in the morning and then noticing something when its to late to do anything. I’ve found sewing on my days off, it helps with a break to walk the dogs, come back ready to start again.

  4. I totally agree with you here, Karen. TGBSB is great in all senses but time management. In that sense, I even consider it unhealthy psicologically. Maybe some people feel stimulated by all that hurry hurry and preasure, but I just simply stress myself and that is not a good path for me. Of course the crazy deadlines are part of my sewing. My boyfriend looks at me sewing like crazy to finish a dress and wear it in a family lunch, and he tells me I am completely bananas. Like you, I am trying not to stress myself with my hobby!

  5. I far prefer slow sewing, I hate to rush things and make a bad job of it.

    For your Silk, how about the top in Vogue V1247 which you’ve made before I believe? 🙂

  6. Nicole says:

    I tend to give myself unrealistic deadlines- like I want to enter this contest, but it’s a week before. I make it, but then the pictures are not awesome as they’re taken late at night, so it’s not worth it. I feel like sometimes sewing takes much longer than it should. This morning as I was rushing to finish the dress I wanted to wear today- it took 30 minutes to sew on the buttons. But it got done. 🙂 On the other hand, watching shows like the Great Sewing Bee and Project Runway, I think- well, if you had changed the order of how you did that, then you wouldn’t be inserting a zipper last minute- or not being able to hem. I often think that the outfits (especially on PR) would last a day in real life, they for the most part are so hastily thrown together.

  7. I really feel for them on the Sewing Bee. I hate sewing against a deadline and I always end up doing it. Had to make a corset for a photo shoot overnight before , and don’t ask me about the 8 that I made for a show. I still wake up in a cold sweat. I like to take my time sewing and savour the process. I hand tack everything first and like to finish stuff by hand. I would be still making a dress at the end of a series. Oh, and sew the silk. It’s lovely. Xx

  8. Beth says:

    I think you need to set yourself a deadline to use your beautiful silk! There are benefits to deadlines!

  9. Bekki Hill says:

    It’s so easy to be an armchair critic of ‘basic mistakes’ but, yes, the time factor makes such a difference. If I was on Sewing Bee I’d probably end up not just sewing things wrong, but cutting off fingers. It’s a great reminder not to set unrealistic deadlines and, if we recognise we have, to reset them. My dog too has learned to be very patient.

  10. Tricky! I find that once I start, something inside propels me forward. ‘I must finish by…’. Even when I’ve made a mistake I carry on as if I’ll be able to hide it in the end. All because I’m sewing against the clock. Even when I don’t have to! I’ve started my own ‘Not the GBSB’ challenge for myself on to try to improve. But in the blog there’s lots of evidence of nearly-but-not-quite garments sewn with a silly personal deadline in mind…Need to slow down!

  11. I agree with some of the comments – as soon as you put a time frame on your sewing, you start to cut corners and the results aren’t so good and everything that can can go wrong does!

  12. louise says:

    I dont know if it is physiological, but If i rush something I personally find that I am not happy with the end results. It may not look different than if I had taken ages but I don’t feel completely happy with it. Strange but true.

  13. Elena Knits says:

    I used to rush and make tight schedules, especially when participating in sewalongs. Fortunately it’s a thing from the past, and the only deadlines are the ones at work. My finished garments look much better and I enjoy the process a lot more.

  14. I often find myself trying to rush to produce things as I get so excited for the end point so recently i’ve been making a conscious effort to slow myself down and take time over gettign things right.
    That said, I did set myself a GBSB inspired alteration challenge with a time limit on it and actually it was a lot of fun and I foubd I could be a lot more creative than usual as I didnt worry so much about making everything perfect!
    You can read about my attempt here

  15. SewingElle says:

    I hate deadlines with sewing too. Deadlines are so day job!
    Your scarab silk is divine. Take your time and enjoy it.

  16. kieravanella says:

    I’m definitely a “give myself time” person. I just don’t want the added stress of sewing against the clock. Plus…when I do there always seems to be more mistakes

  17. Jenna says:

    That silk is beautiful!

    I too, am a sucker for deadlines. I am really super good at self imposing them. But with the way my brain works sometimes (I am a procrastinator extraordinaire) I need these deadlines.

    I have been getting better at stopping when something that I am doing is stressing me out, or I am making too many silly sleepy mistakes. As the items I make I want to wear.

    I’m also doing a GBSB challenge (self imposed of course) however, its just the garment challenge. I don’t feel like I’m quite in the zone to make the items they make in the time frame allotted, but do enjoy making what they are making week on week!

  18. Kelly says:

    Having two kids under the age of 2 has been a double edged sword as far as my sewing is concerned. I have far, far less time to sew, but I actually make fewer mistakes when I get to it. I can’t possibly give myself deadlines, so when I have a little spare time I savour the enjoyment I get from being locked in my sewing room and take my time over what I can do. Rushing always leads to me messing up. It has been a long time since I made a silly mistake.

  19. Polly says:

    Make something classic from your beautiful silk, something you can dress up and down, so you will wear it loads and really enjoy it. Maybe a shell top or blouse? We should enjoy the thing we love and wear them often rather than leave them in a cupboard and save them for rare special occasions

  20. Hélène says:

    So, you didn’t rush to use this gorgeous sik, n’est-ce pas! My suggestion: the new Carolyn pajama by Heather Lou (Closet Case Files). As per her inspiration board, you could even sport it in a special occasion et make a fashion statement.

  21. Thimberlina says:

    In the past I’ve sewn frantically to get something finished for an occasion when I’ve realistically not had time to complete it. The dress I’m intending to wear this Saturday was started 2 weeks before ago but i ended up making 3 Muslins so now I feel I’m behind. (Tho previously I wouldn’t have even picked my fabric with 2 days to go!)
    I do enjoy a challenge tho, and flying by the seat of my pants.
    I’m at paramedic and for 12 hours I clock watch and have to be at jobs within 8 minutes so having a whole day to make a frock doesn’t seam too bad! ✂️

  22. Lisette says:

    I’ve seen that scarab fabric before! I’m sure I was tempted – my sister is studying to be an Egyptologist.
    Since I sew against the clock all the time for work – I once sewed a dancer into her dress only minutes before she had to be onstage after her zipper busted mid-change – I’ve learned not to have too many expectations about being able to sew anything “fast”. There are too many things that can put a glitch in what you’re doing. It is definitely better to take your time.

  23. Mary says:

    This is why I am starting my Easter dress now. I know I’ll still be last minute. Life gets in the way too much when working full time, and having to cook for the family. Ugh.

  24. Jen (NY) says:

    No deadlines, just hopeful “start by” dates! I remember watching my mother stress about last minute sewing before events; that’s the last thing I want to do. It’s a pure leisure activity for me.

  25. I learnt from attempting to finish two, very simple beach tops the night before flying off on holiday: not fun! I love the whole concept of an Alice in Wonderland Sewing Hole- my husband and children would say say I spend a lot of time down mine ;

  26. I seem to be the odd one out and am a compulsive planner with definite deadlines. But I will brag that I sew really fast. I don’t get a lot of sewing time, so when I do it’s pedal-to-the-metal. My usual to-do list encompasses not what garment components to squeeze into a single day, but how many garments to make. Definitely guilty of overestimating the time available though (4 pairs of pants and a shirt in one day, anyone?)

  27. Jess says:

    My immediate thought for that silk is a Tilly Mathilde blouse. Or a blouse with a tie at the front like the Simple sew Lottie. That kind of thing.
    I always take my time with sewing projects. I’m not particularly confident with my sewing so I find it helps to stop me from getting frustrated or feeling like I’ve wasted my time sewing something that I’m not happy with (be that rubbish stitching, poor cutting due to rushing, wrong fabric choice…etc)

  28. dani e says:

    i am currently doing this now! oh i can finish a birthday dress for the niece! and make rolls and potatoes and corn and be presentable after running errands all morning! down to the wire! i am a hoarder of beautiful fabric…i would just enable you to keep it as is uncut. cheers!

    dani e

  29. Chris says:

    oooh, I think I will settle down on the sofa with a glass of wine in hand and gloat at the basic mistakes getting made in the Sewing Bee rather than imposing these kinds of deadlines on myself. I do sew quite fast, but not because of deadlines. If I had any I don’t think I would enjoy the sewing process.
    Oh, and Karen: Do cut into that silk 😉 What would Oona say if she found out about your restraint?

  30. helen says:

    I do impose deadlines on myself and get frustrated when the plan fails! It’s silly really and can sometimes take the pleasure out of it. I made a failed toile last week so I’ve relaxed and put it to one side and picked up a bit of knitting which I can do in front of the telly.

  31. Najah says:

    No hard deadlines for me anymore. Just a realistically calculated LEVEL OF EFFORT. For me, a lined dress has an LOE of 32 hours. If I want to wear it a week from now, I better find and schedule (good luck!) 32 hours of sew time.

  32. 5currantbuns says:

    I’ve learned not to impose deadlines, it takes the fun out of sewing… for the same reason I tend to avoid sew a longs and offering to test patterns… however I also have to avoid procrastination…I am a champion at putting things off…

  33. Desirée says:

    When it comes to apparel at least- there is no racing the clock for me. Whenever I try to, I either overlook something really obvious or cut corners that shouldn’t be cut to speed things along! Allowing myself to sew at a strolling pace has greatly improved the quality of my finished projects!

  34. Ros says:

    My problem is that my house is so tiny. I basically have one room which is kitchen/sitting area/small table etc. In order to sew, everything else has to be cleared away. So it makes sense to try and finish a project in one go, rather than do it in bits.

  35. When I’m sewing, or quilting, or knitting, I remind myself that I do that because I love doing it. The end product is not the motivation, but the relaxation of doing something I love. It’s nice to have beautiful, hand-made things but not at the cost of a lot of stress!

  36. Stephanie says:

    When I was little I went to see the scarabs at the King Tut exhibition three times! That silk deserves to be a dress of some kind, if you have enough of it. Maybe something with short, kimono sleeves and perhaps a covered front button placket? It’s exquisite!

    I’m a very slow sewist – not only because I’m trying to improve my technique, but because I spend a lot of time thinking about what I want to make and why (same goes with my knitting, at which I’m more experienced). I’ve discovered that it’s very important to me to think about what I really want to spend my time and money making. I want wardrobe originals, not necessarily a lot of clothes. When I have rushed to make something for a vacation, for example, I ended up feeling very silly and of course realizing that I did not need that new thing at all by that deadline.

  37. C. Richelle says:

    I am slow as a sewist, but every year Emerald City Comicon and Sakura Con roll up in short succession here in Seattle. And Every year I find myself sewing up until the moment I’m to leave, trying to finish sometimes elaborate costumes for myself and others. This year will be no different. I am reading emails and blogs at the moment when I should be sewing!

  38. sewsable says:

    I’m currently working on some 1810’s stays (a corset in today’s terminology), it should have been finished by the end of January but wasn’t. This month is supposed to be a blue 1810’s dress, but instead it’ll be the stays in the wrong month for the challenge deadline. I’ve pushed for deadlines before and generally it results in a finished item I’m not completely happy with.

  39. Debbie says:

    I have to sew against the clock or I would never sew! I have a very….um… busy… three year old, plus two bigger children and sew in little snatches of time. It means I tend to choose patterns I can sew in small stages. I find the light is so bad at night that there are some sewing tasks I prefer to do in daylight. But these little snatched pieces of time keep me sane.

  40. I used to but since having a permanent place to have the machine and all my gubbings out, I don’t anymore. I can sew for an hour and then walk away before the swear words start. I think I might accidently tell the lovely Claudia to F off if I was under the clock!!

  41. I tend to multi-task sew! I sew a seam, then put the washing on. Sew another, load the dishwasher, press the seams- make the diner! Whenever I get a big lump of time at the machine it feels wonderfully decadent. Oh I Love it. I could sew to the clock but for me- sewing is to de-stress not to encourage it! Re; the silk- a pussy bow blouse?

  42. Sheree says:

    Although I like to watch GBSB, I can’ t understand why anyone wants to be a contestant. It would be hell for me. The time pressure unbearable. Reading about sewing on-line has made me feel a slower sewer than I ever used to. I compare myself to others ( made that dress in only a couple of hours!) and I am still plodding away days later.

  43. tinyacorns says:

    I don’t do sewing against the clock, it would stress me far too much and then I wouldn’t enjoy it. Personally I love watching the sewing bee but can think of nothing worse than being on it, and I consider myself an experienced and competent sewer!

  44. susew says:

    I`m a very slow sewer. Cutting out, even a simple dress takes me at least an hour. Speed sewing is asking for trouble – ie the seam ripper and having to fudge something because the time wan`t taken to read and follow the instructions.

  45. In 2013, Sew Mama Sew had an online sewing challenge that was inspired by The Great British Sewing Bee! I was one of the contestants, and did well with sewing on a deadline. There was ALWAYS the initial moments, (hours) of panic, but I was forced to make a decision, and once I did I motored along really well! When I don’t have deadlines, even if they’re self-imposed ones, I can take forever, LOL. Sewing is definitely a hobby for me….I try never to take away the fun…’flexible’ deadlines are probably the best for me.

  46. audrielle says:

    wow i should really get to places like this more. love it

  47. Anna says:

    I have a slightly different opinion on time limits when it comes to sewing… But I realise it has to do with my background, as well as with what I do for living now. I used to work in industrial sewing for 7 years. Time was money, literally, and during all those years I learned how to do it fast without compromising quality. You see, quality was money, too! If you made a 1mm mistake sewing two pieces together it doubled in the next step of the process, tripled in the step after that etc. It was hard work and as much as I resented it in my last couple of years, now I can honestly say I am so grateful for everything it taught me.

    I have always been an impatient seamstress – I can’t wait to have a finished item in my hands. And now that I’ve taken the step to make sewing my profession, I seriously have to think about time. This is where I’m happy about my background. I would never sell a product I wasn’t 100% proud of, so every single seam needs to be very accurate. But at the same time I have intentionally challenged myself to sew faster and see if I can make a garment in less time than I estimated. Many would be surprised to find out what they’re capable of if they just tried. 🙂

    Most importantly; having practiced and developed the skill of speed is why I’m able to keep my prices reasonable. I really believe that’s one way of bringing handmade clothing closer to consumers – I mean, we would all love a handmade garment but we can’t always afford one because of all the time that was put into it.

    Having said all that, I do admire people who take their time planning and making a piece of clothing. It’s a good lesson of patience that I personally have yet to learn! 🙂

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