Work with a Sense of Purpose
Not all studio time is spent making a quilt. Sometimes, we need to refresh our perspective on the craft, to find new sources of inspiration, or perhaps experiment with a new technique. Whatever you intend to do in your studio, whether it is quilt-making or any of the many peripheral activities that we need as artists, do it with a sense of purpose.
If you feel blocked, or simply want some time to play around with materials and ideas, do that. Set aside time to relax in your studio, become refreshed and inspired to tackle the next project. If you are relaxing, take it easy and enjoy it. If you are working, get on with the work. Try never to mix the two!
Push the Machine
Then, when you’re working, push for speed without sacrificing quality.
Increase the speed of the sewing machine. Learn to push the foot pedal all the way down. Shift any gearing mechanism to high speed. Sew as fast as you can while still maintaining control over the work. Push yourself just a little every time you sew. With practice, the speed will come without sacrificing quality.
Work with more than one bobbin loaded with the correct thread at a time. If you have two bobbins ready to use, you cut time spent shifting and filling bobbins almost in half. Leave an empty bobbin on the bobbin winder at all times, if possible, quick and easy to find when you need one!
All those special features on your sewing machine? Make time to learn how to use them so you never have to learn how to master a mechanical or computer feature when you want to work.
If your sewing machine has a knee lifter for the presser foot, learn to use it. If you have a walking foot but have never put it on your machine, do so and learn how to sew with it.
All special features, feet and stitches on the sewing machine are there to improve the nature, quality and speed with which you work. Use them!
Do not use a pincushion. I know – you have one that is just SOOO cute, and you just love it! Well, set your pincushion on a shelf and admire it whenever you like, but don’t use it when you are working.
I have a pincushion tacked to my design wall, so I don’t have to keep moving about the room reaching for pins while I try to hold a patch or section in place on the wall. Otherwise, I store straight and open safety pins in covered boxes. Add a silicon sachet to prevent rust, like those used for cameras, if you need one.
When ready to pin, tip a few pins out on a table or other work surface. Pick up a pin, put down a pin, quickly and easily, and without fussing about where to stick it into a pincushion. Sticking pins into a pincushion takes more time than sliding them off a table into a small container. Do not pick pins out of a box; you will get stuck–ouch!
Better yet – don’t pin! Apparel manufacturers require factory workers to sew without pinning, even for complicated tasks like setting sleeves. Put some of that pressure on yourself, gaining skill in controlling fabric with your fingers whenever possible. Pin only if you absolutely must do!
Similarly, learn to quilt without marking. Marking quilting patterns is a time-consuming task. If you can possibly quilt without marking a design, do so. If you must mark, seek the fastest ways to do that. I cannot help you with this as I gave up marking quilt tops for quilting many years ago. Discover and follow Leah Day avidly; she is the best!
Calm, Quiet Control
As you work, quiet your hands. The stereotypical patchwork quilter lays fabric on a work table, then strokes it to death. Have you ever seen any one of us do that? Are you guilty of it yourself?
How much time do you suppose you might waste stroking fabrics? Instead, develop self-awareness about all the wasted motions of your hands, not to mention feet, in the studio. Less movement means less wasted time.
Be Ready for Anything
Do you live in an area plagued by power outages? You sit down behind a sewing machine, eager to piece or quilt, and the power fails? At ALL times, have a hand-sewing project set aside for such moments. Whether the power is off for five minutes or for five hours, use that time productively.
The power fails. You pick up some handwork and get busy. A little time passes, and suddenly the power returns. Should you drop what you are doing and go back to the sewing machine?
Think quickly about the handwork. Continue working on it until you reach a logical stopping point. Then, quickly roll up the work with all its necessary tools (needles, pins, scissors), and set it aside to return to machine sewing. Next time the power fails, the handwork unrolls quickly and includes everything you need to carry on with the work.
Extend your studio. As remarked earlier, being in the studio is a state of mind as much as it is actual habitation of a workspace. Have handwork you can carry with you. Work while traveling by bus, train or plane, or while stuck in traffic, if you can. Work while you wait in an office for an appointment. Do hand sewing any time and place that is comfortable for you, but always do it in such a way that you do not make others uncomfortable.
These are but a few time-saving ideas for how you can make more time for quilting by working thoughtfully and with a sense of purpose. If you pay attention to your work methods, you can no doubt find other actions you can take to work more efficiently and save more time for quilting!
Time-Saving for Quilters is an 8-lesson series of blog posts, similar to the kind of instruction students receive at QuiltEd Online in all of our online art quilt classes. Read the entire series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5 and the remaining posts to follow in sequence in coming weeks. Subscribe to QuiltEd Online News to receive notifications of these and other useful quilt blog posts!