Sewing Tips: Time Savers

Make the most of your sewing time by incorporating these tips on organizing and storage.

Whether you sew for love or for necessity, organization is the key to making your projects flow smoothly. From storage to the procedures you follow, there are several ways to make sewing a "seamless" effort!

Let's begin with storage. Having items within easy reach is half the battle. There are numerous containers specifically manufactured for storage of notions, threads and fabrics. If you cannot find such items, be creative! There are several storage containers on the market that are perfect for keeping your scissors, threads, and smaller items organized and easy to locate. Purchase smaller, thread-size boxes for storing thread, and longer boxes for scissors. Recycle small coffee tins as storage for needles, pins, beading and other small pieces. Label the lids, using permanent marker, and you have stackable, space-savers, which will fit well into larger containers. If you can fit all your sewing items in one container, storage will be hassle-free and you will have much more time to focus on completing your projects efficiently.

Storing fabrics requires more care and effort. If you sew regularly, invest in some garment bags and multiple pants hangers. These items shouldn't be costing you a fortune, they are for storage, not for show. When you purchase fabrics for later use, hang them up, still folded and place them in the garment bags to prevent soiling and fading. You can even recycle dry cleaning bags from your cleaners, to cover the fabrics, simply tying a knot at the bottom to seal the bag. Another recyclable storage item is a bedspread bag. These often come with zippers, so you can place all your fabrics inside, and keep them sealed from dust and moths. Store fabrics in a dark area, such as the back of a closet so that sunlight and even nicotine residue will not fade or stain them.

If you don't sew often, it may be more feasible to buy only the fabrics and notions you will need for each individual project to cut down on storage space. If, on the other hand, you sew regularly, Try to stock up on general items, such as basic colors of thread (black and white), elastics in various sizes, and fusible interfacings in assorted colors and varieties. Look for end-of-season sales and even at garage sales for great deals. Keeping the basic notions stocked up will save time at the fabric store. Keep a running inventory list of the items that you have, so you will know exactly what you need when selecting patterns.

With storage needs solved, you can focus on organizing patterns. You may choose to put the necessary items (pattern, fabric, notions) together in a set, or you can store patterns in file boxes for easy access when you need them. When beginning a project, prepare your patterns first. Cut out each piece of the pattern, whether needed or not, and then iron (low heat) each piece before ever laying out the fabric. This will ensure accurate layout and cutting later on by eliminating and wrinkles in the paper. After pressing, select only the pieces needed, paperclip the remaining pieces together and hang them on a hanger, for easy access. If you choose to put the extras back in the envelope, take a little time and fold each piece neatly to avoid tearing and mangling. When using a multi-sized pattern, to save money, cut out the complete pattern, and then fold back the edges to the exact size you will need. Cut slits around the perimeter to ease in folding, and you will be able to reuse the pattern for a different size.

With the pattern prepared, you can now work on layout and cutting. Two useful, time-saving tools available are the rotary cutter and a rubber cutting mat. Used in combination with a large table or other smooth, hard surface, cutting will be much more precise and error-free. While folding and laying out the fabric, as recommended by the instructions, you can rearrange the pieces more closely together to save waste and excess. Follow the same method for cutting interfacing, too. Cutting out notches can be one of the most annoying tasks of any sewing project. To avoid this irritation, simply cut out the pattern, ignoring the notch. After the piece is cut out, go around and snip out and inverted "V" at each notch. To make markings on fabric pieces, place a pin straight through the marking spot, pull the pattern paper up and away from the pin and mark the spot with your favorite marking device.

Once you have all the fabric preparation completed, it's time to set up your work area. Getting things organized before hand can provide assembly-line convenience to your sewing time. Set up your machine, load several bobbins with the required thread. Also, make sure to have your ironing board and iron nearby, keeping the iron at the appropriate temperature. There are two ways you can proceed. You can follow the pattern directions and complete each step as directed, or you can complete certain steps together. Things such as interfacing application and sewing together smaller pieces can be completed first. Once you have the main pieces sewn together, trim and press seam allowances as instructed. As you complete each step, make sure to fold the pattern pieces and put them away, to avoid clutter and loss. Keep a waste can or bag nearby to place scraps in, after trimming. Left over pieces of fabric can be saved for a quilting or appliqué project.

Once you have completed your project, put your notions, tools, and fabric back in their storage containers, put your machine away, and enjoy your newly completed project.

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