How To Sew In Chunks Of Time

Clear Focus app

Some people ask how they can fit sewing into their busy lives. I ask a different question. How can I fit sewing into my busy life without throwing everything else off schedule?

It’s far too easy to get lost in sewing. The activity absorbs all your attention; you don’t even notice the minutes ticking past. Next thing you know, you’ve forgotten to eat, missed that important meeting and the rest of the day is a train wreck. There has to be an answer!

It’s called the Pomodoro technique.

At it’s simplest, you take a kitchen timer and set it to 30 minutes before the alarm rings. 30 minutes of sewing, then STOP. Go on, get in the shower. But, of course, there are a gazillion apps out there to do the same job. I like the Clear Focus app, which breaks activities down with short or long breaks or a combination of both. (You can work four sessions with 5 minute breaks before you are rewarded with a long 15 minute break.) Great for clearing the mind and reminding you to step away from the sewing machine.

Do you have any tips for making your precious sewing time really count?

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26 Responses to How To Sew In Chunks Of Time

  1. Hallways leave yourself five minutes to tidy up and get things ready for your next sewing session! X

  2. sewbusylizzy says:

    Maybe I’m cheating but I do all my preparation the night before. As much pinning and basting as I can – which means I sew out of order. This means that I can sew and press as many seams as possible when my segment of sewing time appears. Then I start the process over. I find I make less mistakes and find solutions to problems rather than getting stuck & wasting my sewing time!

  3. I sew in blocks of one hour. If an hour is up I have to stop. If I get one of those one hour chunks a couple of times a week then I am happy. I am lucky though because my stuff is all out upstairs so I can literally follow a pattern and sew for one hour without tidying or putting away. I find I swear less if I only sew for one hour! My work has been of much better quality than when I sewed for long periods because then I got jaded. Jo x

  4. I really struggle to find the time to do any sewing, especially during the week. Plus I am really old – school and tack everything first. I think it helps to have all the cutting done at a time, then sew all the bits that I can before giving them an iron. Plus I am trying to get a set of TNT patterns to work from as it will save me time doing alterations. Xx

  5. Miriana says:

    I’ve got a full time job and two small kids, so it’s more a case of how to do any sewing at all. There was a Tilly and the Buttons tip that blew my mind which was something along the lines of … don’t wait until you have a nice clear hour, if you only have ten minutes, sew one seam and lots of little bits of ten minutes will add up to lots of seams and to a full garment. It’s not efficient as I have to set up / tidy away a lot (I have a box that I shove everything I’m using for a particular project which helps), but I end up making stuff in the ten minutes that it takes pasta to boil.

  6. TamsinW-P says:

    I have been doing this subconciously for a little while now as I am in the middle of some health issues as well as having a family and home to work around. I have found doing it this way has yielded surprising quick finishes for simple garments. If i have longer I will will use the time, but equally, 10/15 mins here or there can make a huge difference!

  7. Hilary says:

    I almost have the opposite problem – Loads of time for sewing, but limited energy (I’m right there with you, Tamsin W-P). I still suffer from getting carried away with a project though, and that can cause me problems afterwards (so thank you for the tips for pacing!) One thing I have found helps me, though, is to not have deadlines. I try to not focus on the finished article too much, and instead to enjoy the process of making. It stops the project from starting to feel like a chore, and I find the completed garment always arrives like an unexpected treat! Hx

  8. helen says:

    I work and have two young children so all my sewing is on weekday evenings after bedtime. I usually sew between 8.30ish and 10pm. My problem is that I have to sew on the dining room table and sometimes the whole setting up and then tidying away gets me down. I can’t leave anything out. Sometimes when I’m struggling with a project I break it down into chunks and set myself the goal of just doing one section per evening – shirts is where this usually happens. So I just focus on getting the sleeves in or attaching the collar. If time is nearly up don’t try to rush the buttonholes as it will always end in disaster!

  9. jay says:

    Good idea. I’m lucky to have a dedicated room at the moment. Since I often get interrupted, its not unusual that I have a seam half sewn in the machine.

  10. Abigail says:

    Thanks for sharing the app, I’ll check it out.

    Sometimes I’ll wake up one day and have an urge to sew. If I have time in my schedule (which I normally do), then I’ll estimate how long the project I’m working on takes and find time for it. In the summer, I enjoy sewing in the morning, because it’s not as hot and I have more time in my schedule. When I sew at night, my head hurts and I’m more likely to mess up what I’m making.

  11. qplourde says:

    Great advice – I have been having trouble finding chunks of time to work on my projects. I usually have time in the evenings during the week, but the trouble is, by the time I’ve started, I end up working on them too long and going to bed much later than I want. I think I might try timing myself and trying to “let it go” when I am not where I want to be in the process. One thing I did do this weekend when I had few extra hours was cut everything out that I want to work on in the next few months. Now I can stitch these together bit by bit throughout the week.

  12. I should get myself a hold of one of these apps! My problem is kind of the opposite – I go up into my sewing room at midday and keep having “just ten minutes more” until it’s 6pm….! I should try these shorter bursts; they’re probably more productive in the long run 🙂

  13. sewsincity says:

    This is awesome. I haven’t learned how to prioritize my sewing yet.. It gets so bad! *must finish bodice… Ok let me just finish the dress…* and 6 hours later dinner isn’t cooked and the house isn’t clean. Lol! I will try the timer method

  14. ellegeemakes says:

    That technique sounds great! My problem is that I get inspired to make something, then become so obsessed with it, I let my life slide. The other issue for me is that I get in my head that I want to wear something new to a social event, then I rush to the finish line because I’m so excited to wear it. This leads to fitting mishaps, sloppy sewing etc. I think the pomodoro technique would help me to move away from the machine, take a break, then return refreshed.

  15. Louise says:

    As I see and cut from the same table I find cutting out batches of fabric beneficial. I want to try your method sounds fun, but sometimes you find your sewings flowing and want to keep going

  16. Ros says:

    I find that sewing in small bursts doesn’t work well for me. I don’t have my head fully in it so I get mixed up and end up unpicking more than I sew. So I do tend to wait for whole days/afternoons/evenings and then give myself over to the luxury of just sewing till I’m finished.

  17. fabrickated says:

    I find the desire to wear the finished garment for a specific occasion is the motivator I need to keep focused on it. So it is sewing for a deadline that works for me rather than snatching time from a busy schedule.

  18. ktkreuchauf says:

    I love the Clear Focus app. I find it helps me keep a healthier pace. Without it I can sit for three or four hours and not realize the time has gone by. On the one hand, it’s a great sense of flow. On the other, sitting that long is murder on the hips and knees, not to mention the width of the backside!

  19. Love this technique, I use it at work and get a lot done when on a ‘pomodoro’ day!

  20. sewchet says:

    Yes – disappear into my studio, turn off my phone and pretend the world outside doesn’t exist!

  21. Linda Wilson says:

    If I get really obsessed with it, I leave them all, the family that is, to look after themselves, they’re all old enough now anyway and it’s time for me to regain some self indulgence time. If I can’t stop I don’t stop – until I start to make stupid mistakes and then I need to stop!

  22. Right now I’m sewing in the dining room and going upstairs to iron, so I really like that idea of doing ironing in chunks. Mind you, I haven’t sewn enough to have developed a particular method yet……..I study these answers and hints so carefully to help me get going properly and ideas for what works best.

  23. Gail says:

    I always try to sew for at least 20 minutes a day or if not bobbin up, prepping projects.

  24. CateM says:

    I live in a shared house, so for me, sewing means…get out the machine from the cupboard, clear the table, find everything, lay it out, and then when I’m done, put everything away completely. I don’t like leaving everything just lying around messing up the shared space. So I like to sew in big chunks of time – that way it feels worth it. I dream of a spare room! 😉

  25. Bunny says:

    One of the biggest reasons I sew is for my mental health. It literally makes me happy. I am blessed with a husband who knows this and whose mother brought him up in the equivalent of cleaning bootcamp. He loves to clean. I sew. He cleans and is perfectly happy with that, you know, that “nobody does it as good as me” thing. But working full time there still is not enough time to sew as much as I would like. A couple of things help. If I am looking at a weekend or day off coming up, I will make either a roast of big pot of soup or stew the night before. That way on my free day, I don’t have to cook. Frozen vegetables and salad I premake and have ready to go in the fridge to save me cooking time and therefore more time for sewing.

    I unit sew. I generally read all the directions then go my own thing with the unit sewing. I find it goes fast and before I know it I’m done. The way it works for me I do all the detail sewing first, pocket flaps, collars, cuffs, all the bits and bothers. Then I will completely sew the sleeves. Then I start putting things together. It just seams to work best for me and I don’t waste time with disorganization.

    Another thing really helpful is Nancy Zieman’s “10-20-30 Minutes to Sew”. There are some great time savers in there that have worked well for me. Highly recommend.

    I also do not sew at night. Occasionally I will cut something out but that’s it. I have learned thatis when I am tired and I make mistakes, a lesson learned the hard way.

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