how to Make Time to Sew in Bits + Pieces

This post is part of a series:  the Big Bed Quilt-Along.  We're sewing along February - April 2018, but you can use the resources anytime to help you make a large quilt.  Use hashtag #BigBedQAL to share your progress!

Big Bedquilt QAL.jpg

What's your sewing style?  Do you typically make progress in bits and pieces, harnessing the power of spare moments?  Or do you need to work mainly in large swaths of time? 

As busy parents and working professionals, many of us must fit sewing into the corners of life.  Even if you rarely have hours to dedicate to your project, you can make progress on your goals.  Use these tips for making the most of small bites of time.


Special thanks to Pineapple Fabrics, our February Quilt-Along Sponsor!

Front Load the Hard Tasks

Some sewing tasks just can't be rushed.  I like to take my time choosing fabrics, for example.  Maybe cutting requires your complete focus.  Perhaps you're tackling a new and challenging block.  Don't try to do hard tasks in 10 to 15 minute intervals.  You'll spend so much effort remembering where you were and what you need to do next, that you're sure to be frustrated.  

What sewing tasks are easy for you?  Which feel relaxing and fun?  Those are the tasks to save for your spare moments.  Front load the hard tasks so that you can be productive with easy tasks in short bursts of time.

Make it Accessible

If you don't have a dedicated sewing space, one of your biggest obstacles is the burden of set up and clean up time.  I've been there!  To make use of shorter sewing sessions, you've got to keep the work accessible. 

my sewing space/kitchen table, circa 2011

my sewing space/kitchen table, circa 2011

I understand that you can't keep all of your sewing gear out (or you would!), but what about just one part?  For example, could you keep your fabric stacks out for fabric-choosing?  In spare moments, you could pair fabrics for future quilt blocks. 

Cutting requires lots of space, but sewing does not.  After you've cut your pieces, can you keep just your sewing machine out?  Run those pieces through until you have a pile ready to press at a later date.  

When I was new to sewing, I used to put everything away each time.  Eventually I decided that sewing was important enough to me that it deserved a corner of our kitchen table.  That changed everything.  Not only did I sew more often, but I enjoyed showing what I was working on to visitors.  Sewing became a much more regular part of my life.

Break It Up

Embrace the factory model.  Instead of trying to complete one block from start to finish, break up your work into repetitive tasks:

  • Cutting 3" squares
  • Chain piecing flying geese blocks
  • Trimming half square triangles
  • Pressing seams

When you work on one part of the process in bulk, not only do you make progress on lots of blocks at once, you also make the task so much easier to start and stop.  When you come back to resume the project, you'll know just what to do.  Before you know it, all the 3" squares are cu,t and it's on to the next step!


Stay Organized

The best way to be productive in snatches of time is to be prepared and organized.  Put away what you're not using so that other projects don't clutter your space or your mind.  Use a basket or bin to keep your work in progress all together.  If you precut block pieces, use ziplock baggies to keep them organized until they're sewn.  Even just keeping a little notepad with project notes is so helpful.  You can jot down how many squares you've cut or how many blocks you've sewn, etc. so that you don't waste time counting.

I’m using Richard Caroll’s bullet journal for my WIPs. For each quilt in progress, the remaining work is cut into small slices. It’s done? It’s checked! Each WIP is stored in its own bag with all the necessary supplies: thread, bobbins, pattern - ready for quilting time.
— Muriel Gendreau of Verveine & Lin at
I cut my pieces when I can, but am learning to have a bunch ready for when hubby wants me to join him for TV. Then I can sit and put pairs of colors and neutrals together on my work board, which are ready to run through the machine when I get a few minutes.
— Margaret Landon

Do Double Duty

What part of your day could you merge with sewing?  Yes, I'm talking about multi-tasking.  I like multi-tasking when the sewing task is simple and repetitive.  I've been known to set up my mini ironing board on my coffee table to press fabrics or seams while watching TV.  If you have a relaxing ritual at the end of your day, considering bringing some simple sewing into that experience.  Small cutting mats and ironing boards are portable!

Choose Wisely

It's easy to live moment to moment, especially when it feels like there's so much to do.  Take a step back and be intentional about how you spend your time.  For example, could you save the dishes and laundry for when baby gets up from her nap?  I've always reserved quiet moments for my sewing.  The house chores will wait!  If sewing is your down time, your me-time, make sure you give it the priority it deserves.    

Good luck with your project!