Learn a couple of easy tweaks to your quilting process and boost your productivity!
Listen up, I’m no master of my time and I generally struggle with seeing a project through to 100% completion.
So, be that as it may, I’m as surprised as you are that I am offering “productivity” hacks.
It’s about as laughable as if I were offering you cleaning tips.
Now that the shock has set in for both of us, can we please move on and discuss the Top 3 Hacks I used to increase my sewing productivity to a level where I actually completed ALL of the blocks for my Lori Holt Farm Girl Vintage 2 quilt in, get this – only 9 months!
When I posted my completed Farm Girl Vintage quilt on my Instagram account, I had several comments asking me how long it took me to complete a project as complex as this one. In fact, several followers thought it had taken years from start to finish.
Not so, friend.
I’m not here to judge you if you are, in fact, on a decade-long tract to finish a quilt. I have projects like that and one of them is my Farmer’s Wife quilt that I started in 2015.
BUT, if you are interested in scooting right through a quilting project so that you can wrap yourself like a burrito in your quilt come wintertime, then cozy up and keep reading.
Let’s start by getting a few things out of the way, lest you think I have more hours in my day than I actually do.
This is the inspiring part, because I think we’re mostly all rowing with the same oar here:
- I am not a “full time” quilter and I don’t get to spend hours of my day fondling my fabrics and executing my great projects. For the most park, I mainly get to work in my sewing room on weekends and in the evenings after work.
- I work full time at the day job-o and I often travel enough for work that I earn elite status which gives me the privilege of enjoying 1 extra inch of leg-room in Economy Plus for an entire year following the grind of 4:30 AM alarm clocks and the joy of traversing the TSA line at O’dark-thirty in the morning only to climb on board and sit snuggly next to a stranger with a sneeze and a dry hacking cough. I LOVE air travel! But let’s save the joys I’ve experienced with that for another post. Moving on.
- While I don’t have kids, I do have two dogs who like to sit on my head and that can be cumbersome at times.
- I am a connoisseur of extra-curriculars, so not all of my time is spent quilting. I often divert my attention to other hobbies that are time-consuming like golf and scrapbooking and wood working and painting and Cricut crafting and dreaming up parties to gather the girls. Also, I have the ability like no other to squirrel away hours on Pinterest with nothing to show except a cramped hand from the scroll.
- Lastly, I like naps. They take time.
And now, since we have that out of the way, let’s tackle the Top 3 Tricks that boosted my quilting productivity!
1. Batch Process
Like pretty much any other task, if you can figure out a way to “batch process” each of the steps (selecting your block, pulling fabric, cutting, stitching, and pressing) you will become more efficient.
Think of it like packing your lunch. If you have 5 lunches to pack for the work week, you gain SO MUCH efficiency if you pull out all of your veggies and clean, cut and separate into individual-sized containers one time at the beginning of the week instead of repeating these tasks each morning.
Same goes with your potato chips: if you pulled out the big bag once and sub-divided them right away, each morning you would save the step of pulling out that Costco-sized bag of Cheetos and plucking out 40 of them…or 240 of them.
I’M NOT HERE TO COUNT YOUR CALORIES!
If you did the two tasks above ONCE and then each morning all you needed to do was make a fresh sandwich to add to it, then your lunch-prep time would go from 15 minutes to roughly 4 because the dirty work is out of the way.
Think of your quilt project like this!
Usually on Sunday afternoon I select a few blocks I want to make in the coming week and I rifle through my fabric selection and I get everything cut, labeled (very important!) and laid out on a design board.
Then, in the evenings after work if I had a little gas left in my proverbial tank, I go down to my sewing room and stitch a block together. To me, cutting is the step that requires the most brain power, so if I do this one time a week when my brain isn’t toasted, then I can use a relaxing evening to fire up the Pfaff and hammer out a block.
2. Pre-Cut Strips of Common Sizes
Look at your pattern or book for any common sizes you will need throughout your project.
I quickly noticed after cutting a few blocks for my Farm Girl Vintage quilt that the background fabric, which was used in every block, had common sizes throughout.
For example, for the 6-inch cuties, it didn’t take me long to realize that a number of blocks often had a width of 1 to 1.5 inches.
Instead of cutting out those individual sizes each time I was cutting a block, I would cut a strip of fabric that was 1 inch x WOF (Width of Fabric) and then I would sub-cut from that.
When I was done, I used a small magnet to store the remaining strip on the lockers that are near my cutting mat (if you had a corkboard near your area, that would work great too!).
As my quilt progressed, I had several of these strips in various widths hung up, and when I got to cutting the background fabric, I could just quick grab and cut and it saved so much time!
3. Chain Piece
Chain piecing means you sew several different units together without snipping your thread. I LOOOOVE chain piecing and often make a game out of it to see just how long I can go without cutting my thread. This method not only saves thread, but also time!
To be efficient at chain piecing you might need a few other scraps that you use as “starters and stoppers”. After reading a blog post by Lori Holt on what she calls “bonus quilts”, I now always keep a little pile of pre-cut scraps by my side and use them when I chain piece. I slip one of these in every time I would come to point where I would cut my thread. If you’re interested in a nifty way to quickly cut apart your chain, I swear by this tool.
I am starting two new quilt-alongs this month, so I will take note of whether or not there are other tips that keep me motivated, moving and productive. Tell me below, do you have any time-saving tips?