Are You Really Sewing?

sewing machine and ipad

Lots of us claim that we just don’t have enough time for sewing, but when we say we’re sewing is that what we’re really doing?

This is the era of distraction, for sure. How many of us sit on the sofa with multiple screens on the go? I almost can’t watch the telly without my laptop open. And sewing can be just as full of distraction. Do any of the below ring true?

  • There’s an ipad propped open next to your sewing machine, social media feeds scrolling up the screen.
  • You’re following an online sewalong, and keep pausing to check the next blog post in the series.
  • As a sewing blogger, you’re snapping construction photos for your next blog post.
  • Netflix is on in the background. Who just killed who?! Pause and rewind.
  • Cup of tea? Glass of wine? Why, yes please!
  • A pet gets jealous of your sewing machine and makes regular demands on your attention.

Our sewing productivity might benefit if we switched off all devices other than the sewing machine. Radical. Sewing in convent silence might not appeal, but why don’t you make a personal vow?

For an hour, just sew. See how it goes. That dress-in-an-hour pattern might actually be sewn in 60 minutes! Just don’t ask me what to do about the jealous pet. I’m still working that one out…

sewing distractions

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72 Responses to Are You Really Sewing?

  1. Jan Brown says:

    My problem is totally the opposite of this. I am fortunate enough to have a small sewing room so no TV, tablet or pets to distract me. I start sewing and get so absorbed I forget the time, forget to stop for meals, coffee breaks etc. Can someone tell me what day of the week this is???

    • francescapia says:

      Snap:). That’s me, except for two demanging cats that sometimes manage to drag me away for games or food:).

    • Suzie says:

      Since I’m retired, I have the whole day to sew and I often forget to eat (I set an alarm on my I Phone for lunch!). My husband, luckily, is very understanding when dinner is not even started when he gets home at 6:00! We do enjoy a lot of Chic-Fil-A!
      Suzie in Richmond, VA

      • Me too! I actually can’t sew if the computer is on or something. The most I can do is listen to Pandora (Thomas Tallis radio!) with the screen off or turned away from me on a far counter. I try to do my learning and other computer related tasks at other times of the day, but sewing is such a rabbit hole for me. I’m constantly having to remind myself to pace my projects, take breaks when I get tired, eat when I get hungry, etc. I’m getting better about setting reasonable limits (kids are good for that too!)

    • A says:

      Yes…food? what it is 8pm not noon? no…just 5 more button holes to go!!!!

  2. foxhollies says:

    So true!! I decided to do just that yesterday and managed to finish a dress and make three cushion covers that had been on my ‘to do’ list for absolutely ages!

  3. Jenny says:

    A really interesting post. I can’t watch the T.V. without simultaneously scrolling through something on my iPad or my dog on my lap insisting on attention. In fact the only time I give the T.V. my full concentration is when I’m watching something with subtitles, or if we make firm plans to have a movie night and then all phones and iPads are banned. And I must say I prefer it – I know I prefer it, but I just can’t seem to break the habit. Now, sewing is different. I prefer to sit in a room without a telly. I never play music. The most distraction I’ll allow is a podcast if I’m doing some unpicking. Anything more complicated than that gets my full attention. Oh, and I much prefer to print out instructions rather than read them on screen. Even my dog is happy lying on the sofa alone when I’m sewing – I think he knows he won’t get my attention anyway! I’m a sewing tech free zone – well, apart from my sewing machine, and overlocker, of course.

  4. sew2pro says:

    My pet tries to make out he’s helping: testing the fabric fibres for sweatiness by lying on it, for example. But during cutting?! It’s amazing he still has tails and whiskers. I listen to R4 Dramas when I sew and am always rewinding to catch the bits where my concentration lapsed. I have made some serious mistakes because of the drama on the radio. If sewing for a client, I force myself into having silence, in case.

  5. Debbie Jones says:

    You have hit the nail on the head. I’m forever complaining that I don’t have enough time to sew and yet whenever I’m in my sewing room I end up distracted by something or other and my productivity takes a nose dive out of the window. I’ll give your ’60 minutes of quiet’ a go.

    Great post!

    Debbie
    http://www.sewnfromtheheart.com

  6. Nelba says:

    True. I spend way too much time online that I could have been sewing. As for living sewing disturbers (is there are word like that?)…. Cats and children…

  7. Jess says:

    I was sewing last night. All was going well until one of my cats decided that the waterfall cardi I was about to hem was THE place to have nap. Cue grabbing a scrap of the same fabric, making a bed next to my cardi and moving him onto it. He happily dozed there watching me pin the hem and Sew it. Am I soft or what!

  8. Katie M says:

    I regularly listen to podcasts when I’m sewing. I love having the stories in the background. I don’t often watch TV, but for a while I was watching the back-catalogue of MASH, and I’d have that on in the background on an iPad propped up in a corner of the sewing table. I’d occasionally watch the episode, but mostly I listened to them. It was quite nice, as I’ve seen those shows so often, they don’t demand much attention.

    • That’s the answer for sure – familiar things that don’t require attention. I listen to the radio or to books on CD when sewing – while there is a PC not far from my sewing machine I don’t tend to turn it on for that reason. I’m not very technically savvy and have avoided streaming TV or music or anything because I recognise another rabbit hole when I see one. My attention, like yours, is frequntly split. I too rarely have the TV going without the lapop open, unless I am hand sewing

  9. jujuvail says:

    I can’t imagine “watching” something. I’m a Podcast listener but I only listen to podcasts that I can zone in and out of when sewing. I can’t listen to a long narrative.

  10. Pauline says:

    So true. I spend more time on pinterest than actually sewing anything. I’m much better if I need to hand sew anything as then I do it whilst watching television.

  11. I usually have the TV on in the background but become to engrossed in my sewing that I can never pay attention to it. I always have to have a cup of tea on the go though!

  12. Ingrid says:

    I had the same thought the other day when I read the article ‘Breathing Easy’ in Seamworks (https://www.seamwork.com/issues/2016/03/breathing-easy). I ALWAYS have Netflix on in the background and it’s so distracting, especially when I need to follow instructions. I think I’m going to stick to having music on in the background for a while. Having focus to several things at once is actually a stress factor, but in these days with multiple devices buzzing at all times it’s hard to not do.

  13. Hannah Ellis says:

    I try not to watch Netflix when I’m sewing but occasionally succumb! If I’m just hemming/ doing simple bits, I can watch and sew, but otherwise I tend to get distracted or take ages to do really basic things! When I really want to concentrate, I put the radio on in the background and just let myself zone into the sewing -that’s when I do my best work 😉

  14. Lesley King says:

    No chance. I hate silence. There’s not enough me time in this world so I have to cram as many activities into my little bit of free time as possible. I have the sewing machine on, the tablet showing TV shows or documentaries, my phone beside me bleeping messages from friends and a regular visit from the dog just to remind me she’s still alive and would love a cuddle.

    • Hah! Agree on the silence and trying to mutlitask on activity time. I can’t handle TV too often tho– I get super distracted. I listen to so, so, so many podcasts. Which I don’t find cuts into sewing concentration at all.

  15. Thimberlina says:

    Me too! I’ve just sat down as I caught glimpse of homes under the hammer whilst en route upstairs to stitch the hem in my nearlybfi finished top. And then check my reader …. Off now to have that hour! 😳

    • Ruth says:

      I’ve just sat down with a coffee, to spend a few mins surfing before I start cutting out fabric, on a precious day off. This post has at least shortened my surfing time, I’m off to get my fabric and pattern now!

  16. Bunny says:

    Unfortunately, devices distract from much that is valuable in life, whether sewing or communicating with those we love and much in between.Since when is it a positive trait to be able to multi task? Have we lost the desire to do one thing well as opposed to five things distractingly half ass?

    Personally, I have music in my background as that soothes my soul while I sew and it does not distract. If anything, it puts me in the ambiance of my sewing room, a place to enjoy. But when sewing, I want to be in the moment, focusing on that that truly gives me joy, challenge and pleasure. Whether I get more sewing done or not is irrelevant. What’s important is being mindful of what I am doing. We need more mindfulness in all aspects of our lives.

  17. Fabrickated says:

    I generally sew in silence, but that doesn’t stop me from getting distracted all the time – by the internet, doing a job that needs doing, wandering off to see a family member. Usually the distraction comes when the sewing gets a bit hard. Or boring.

  18. ooobop says:

    I hear you Karen. But I think my brain is only fully functional when I do have more than one thing to think about. I listen to audio books while I photoshop, I watch/listen to movies/radio when I sew and I’ve got a pad and pencil always at arms reach for flashes of inspiration! If I give anything my full attention it always seems to take ages to get round to doing it and then twice as long to do it. I think I think I’m one of those odd ones that needs to be over stimulated to fully function!! x

  19. jay says:

    I don’t do machine sewing or pattern drafting with distractions, but do use tv or music whilst handsewing. It helps. Time wasted twitting about on the computer is just that – no multi tasking involved.

  20. Carol says:

    I just don’t have room in my sewing cave to have one more thing, so usually it’s silence or Spotify. It’s my quiet time. Just me and the wonderful possibilities of fabric and pattern.

  21. anna irving says:

    Lol! I am one of the worst offenders ever!

    I read this post on my P.C. with my IPad and my phone on my lap, flitting between the three and I almost choked on my tea, when I saw the Netflix comment… I was so chuffed when I got the Netflix app on windows, so I can watch Homeland, whilst sewing… I am just glad I’m able to multitask!!!

  22. TamsinW-P says:

    I alway s have the radio on while I sew, but I have just in the last week, deliberatly decided to leave my phone downstairs while I sew upstairs. It’s amazing what you get done without distractions! I have been panic sewing for my youngest as she had no warm weather clothes and not time to shop with her – 2 pairs of shorts, 2 tops and a dress so far and we leave on Saturday.

  23. I’m with Jan up above. I need complete SILENCE in my sewing room. There is no tv, I don’t take my laptop in there, I can’t listen to music, nothing. I’m good at multi-tasking for other things but with sewing I have to give my full attention or it’s inevitable that I mess up. ESPECIALLY during cutting lol

  24. Beth says:

    ok. where is your hidden camera in my sewing room? distraction is exactly my problem when trying to sew. I get frustrated with seemingly spinning my wheels when trying to sew when in reality I am just not concentrating. I will take suggestion of 60 minutes quiet sewing time as a challenge. Today! thank you

  25. Hélène says:

    All of these points ring true, but not in my sewing space. As a freelance copywriter, I keep looking for distractions (sewing for a little hour is one example) to escape my office and postpone any boring work I have to do for a pay.

  26. heather says:

    awesome insights! i am guilty of not just sitting down & getting it done (without the kids, dishes, laundry, etc.). being a beginner, i tend to second guess myself a thousand times & want to see if anyone else has made my vintage pattern & their thoughts, etc. that even starting gets put off… need-to-focus!! aside from that, i Love the teacup in your photo/post! & love your blog… thAnks! 🙂

  27. carlamayfield says:

    I actually do sew when I sew. Right now I’m making my first pair of pants, so I am referecing a blog post on the fly of S2860, but in general, my laptop doesn’t even go into the sewing room with me. Even to reference the blog post, I go into the other room, isn’t that silly? I think this morning I’ll take it in so I can get this fly in! I do occassionally listen to a book, and I always have something to drink, which I’ll never give up. I also have my laptop open on my lap when I watch tv or a movie, which I rarely do, but my sewing is generally electronic free. I like it that way.

  28. Betsy says:

    My pup learned the hard way to stay out of the sewing room after I accidentally knocked a box of pins down on top of him. No injuries though. His thick wire hair was a sufficient barrier, but I was left to pick out the pins. Usually bully stick works wonders to delay the playing.

  29. bdejong says:

    I teach music, so at work all I do is listen. When I get home I need quiet! If I have anything on, it would be a podcast, but I usually sew in silence.

  30. I have the radio on when I sew but try to keep social media out the room. Kids pestering me whilst in the zone is my stumbling block!

  31. I like to listen to talk radio or podcasts. It allows my mind to zone in and out of the talk and still pay attention to what I am sewing. (For the most part!) I’m guilty of not leaving it alone when I am having a bad sewing day! Sometimes you have to take that break or you just make it worse.

  32. Stephani says:

    I usually do have a movie or TV series going in the background while I’m sewing, or the radio, but as it’s in the next room, I’m not really watching. It’s just noise, and usually it’s something I’ve seen a few times before so I can visualize the events without having to watch. Sometimes I remember to snap photos of my progress as I’m sewing, but more often not; I just get caught up in the activity. And since I ‘lost’ my sewing kitty last fall, there’s no distraction from that side. Although she was more of a silent supervisor than an active participant. She just liked being in the sewing room with me and sleeping on my fabric–and stealing my chair when I got up to press things (every. time.). Sure do miss her, though.
    Sewing is my Zen time, usually, even if it’s only in 10-minute chunks.

  33. sewsincity says:

    Surprisingly, I sew in silence. It’s quite nice!

  34. I am guilty of having an ipad propped up with Netflix on – but ridiculously I quite like silence and no tech around. But I never do that! A conscious choice may be made this weekend…. 🙂

  35. Margaret Beard says:

    You are so right about all the distractions! I guess we just do the best we can…

  36. Sue Lawson says:

    Aren’t all sewers very alike?

  37. My problem is the TV and laptop distracting me from getting to my sewing space upstairs. I too just can’t seem to watch TV without having the laptop open, unless I happen to have some knitting or crochet on my lap. Once in my sewing space, there is only a radio, which keeps me concentrating on the sewing. Once I’m there, it’s all go….

  38. My problem is that the TV and laptop distract me from getting to my sewing space upstairs. I too just can seem to watch TV without the laptop open, unless I happen to have some knitting or crochet on my lap. Once in my sewing space, I only have the radio which keeps me concentrating on the sewing, and it’s all go. Without all the modern social media, I’d spend longer sewing.

  39. Colleen says:

    Cat purring, rain on the window, a snip here and there, BBC Radio player, gentle revving of the machine, that’s enough for me. Well, maybe a cup of tea and a square of chocolate now and then.

  40. You’re so right Karen. I couldn’t find anything to watch on Netflix last weekend, so decided to sew without, and guess what? I got loads more done! Fingers crossed I can make it a habit not a one off.

  41. Very funny post! I can definitely relate!

  42. PsychicKathleen says:

    I have tried both as well. My favourite is to put one of my favourite movies in the blueray and have it running in the background. I seem to need SOME sort of talking/music playing – the odd distraction helps me to take a break sometimes sitting down to have a coffee at particularly enjoyable part. I have my laptop on only when I want to check a sewing video or blog when I need some helpful advice on something I’m sewing 🙂

  43. I handsew mostly and have talking books on while I do that but recently I used my machine to sew my first dress and bizarrely found I was unable to listen to the book doing that,I did best in silence.I couldn’t do much about the small furry friend who kept trying to sneak on my lap though! 😀

  44. Linda says:

    Sometimes I pay some music, but mostly I like being alone with my thoughts. I sew for an hour or two at a time and usually bring hand sewing upstairs for the evening in fron of the tv.

  45. sewandsnip says:

    I’m guilty of a lot of those but I often put the tv on to watch a certain program only to find I get so engrossed in my sewing that I don’t realise it’s started until it’s all over!

  46. Too funny and bang on point. Radio 4 drama listener here, TAL too, Serial was compelling and last week Jayne Eyre was a treat.

  47. when i moved, i was able to add a sewing area to my office [i have a fulltime job and i work 10 to 20 hours a week as an EA] when i’m sewing, i’m sewing. computers off, radio off, doors shut. i relish the time i spend on something i do for pure pleasure.

  48. tinygoldenpins says:

    I sew to get away from social media. Nothing is that important to me that it can’t wait. I definitely do listen to podcasts and watch Netlix — usually period pieces and often ones I’ve seen before (I think I’ve watched the Emma Thompson version of “Sense and Sensibility” 10 times). I don’t need to rewind because I don’t usually watch it to keep up. I have it for comfort and there is nothing better for me than a good afternoon of sewing ahead of me, a cup of tea, and a series on my tablet. I don’t feel bad about it and don’t really want to change it. I’m fortunate to have a lot of time to sew and if Netflix slows me down some, I think I still have a lot of time.

  49. Miah Grace says:

    Whenever I sew the bunny goes in the kitchen and I either turn on music or Pokemon. It modivates me ^^ but other than that I hardly do anything other than see when it’s sewing time!

  50. Nikki says:

    No chance! I only watch TV of any kind if I am hand sewing. My tablet is only used for music when I am machine sewing, which is a help not a hindrance.

  51. Jess says:

    You’ve hit the nail on the head Karen. I’m guilty of faffing, but I like to call it ‘multi-tasking’. I can never just do one thing, I always have several things on the go at once. The result of this? I achieve absolutely nothing.

    Today you have inspired me to try just one project. I have no idea what it’s going to be yet as I had visitors last weekend so I have all the extra laundry to do. Maybe I’ll do the one project AND put the laundry through.
    Just think, our Mothers would have been standing over the sink or the lucky ones the twintub and not be able to just walk away while the machine does all the hard work. Although if they found the ultimate answer to ironing I would
    be disappointed. That’s my favourite part of sewing, pressing that brand new fabric and creating a new shape with it. It’s surprising how much difference pressing makes to a garment and how professional the finish looks.
    Oh, I’ve gone completely off the subject. I don’t think I’m capable of sticking to one thing, it’s a good idea though.

  52. Jess in a mess says:

    Can anyone solve the problem I have with my two Westies? They seem to think I’m in the conservatory just to satisfy them. Charlie, or ASBO Charlie, (we have him that for barking ALL the time) likes to stand guard, we have a totally walked in large garden which is totally secure but if anyone walks along the footpath on the other side he has to tell them off, he also shouts at the birds, a pigeon likes to land on our roof and that sets both of them off. Every time he barks he wants to be let out. Then in, then out, then in. Getting the picture? Ok, leave the door open you say. Yes in fine weather (what’s that? I ask).
    Now Bobbie, or Teflon Bob, we call him that because nothing sticks to him, now Bobbie is a mummies boy, a soppy date, when I’m not in the conservatory he gets himself under a blanket. When I’m trying to sew he has to be as close as possible. This was even worse a week or so ago. We had been away for a few days and the Westies stayed with friends. They love going to this family and running around with their dogs but for some reason Bobbie was very unhappy when we brought him home. He stuck to me like Velcro. Under the sewing machine on my feet (yes, he operated the pedal too, (little monkey) then at the ironing board, then at the table. Around and around he stayed attached, I tripped over him a couple of times so had to put a stop to it.
    So between the two of them it’s hard to get much done. Would I shut them in the kitchen out of my way? Not a chance, I love the very bones of them and I’ve felt the pain of losing these little family members. Bobbie and Charlie are the best time wasters I know and they are welcome to every moment.
    Happy sewing🤓

  53. So happy it isn’t just me! I must sew in silence….but my phone and laptop are with me, just in case I need help with something, or need to see what someone else has encountered with a certain pattern. It’s so easy then to just keep scrolling and scrolling while the sewing sits and sits. Very distressing. Will try the “60 minutes” trick.

  54. Last year I set myself a challenge to sew for 1 hour every day for a month (I make patchwork quilts). It was fabulous and I achieved lots. Must do that again soon.

  55. LinB says:

    I can sew in silence, but I generally move my basket/box/bag full of project to the t.v. room to pin pieces together. It’s almost as boring a task as cutting out, but I can sit down as I pin, and have some entertainment as I pin.

    This posting gave me inspiration to drag myself off the sofa at about 9 p.m. last night, after an emotional worship service for Maundy Thursday at my church. I told myself, “You can at the very least change the needle in the machine, and wind a bobbin, and thread the machine.” Ended up doing those things, and sewing together all the pieces for that project (a spinach-green, cotton gabardine shirt dress from a 1980s Vogue pattern) to the point of pressing seams. Thanks for the pep talk, Miz Karen, honey!

  56. Couldn’t agree more – we’re all hooked on screens and not wanting to miss anything!

  57. Catherine says:

    I find that The Archers Omnibus and Radio 6 Music are all I need to pack in a day’s sewing. The radio shocks me though – that news bursting in every hour! How quickly they roll by!

  58. Kristen says:

    The jealous cat- oh my I’ve got two ha! Why aren’t you paying attention to meeeeee?! But sewing just wouldn’t be the same without their companionship 🙂

  59. UtaC says:

    Love it.. So true.. Many distractions .. if we did take the time and dedicated specifically to sewing… we may surprise our self at the results..

  60. Evelyn says:

    Have you stopped blogging? No new posts in ages. Hoping all is well.

  61. My problem is being committed, I’m going to take you up on this. Thanks

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