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Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Tips on Finding Sewing Time

The most common question I am asked is "How do you find time to sew"?  Well, let's go back a little.  When the kids were younger, I worked a full-time job and did the usual running to sporting/school/church events, gardening, etc.  I'm also a little OCD (OK, a lot) and have been persuaded by constant nagging from MY Mother that your house should always be clean.  She used to say that you could tell how 'clean' someone is by looking at their bathroom and kitchen when you visit.  Talk about making someone paranoid.  I am not opposed to sneaking into the bathroom when I see her car pull up, grabbing out some Clorox Clean-ups, and wiping down the entire bathroom on the ruse that I was in there going to the bathroom!

I love having things organized!  I thought that once I opened my quilt shop, I would finally have time to sew.  Boy, was I ever wrong!  Customers would come into the shop and praise me for all of the things I had gotten done since they had last been in.  Well, kids, that was because I had worker elves that helped!  Owning a shop did not come without it's joys.  I loved ordering fabric, helping customers pick out fabrics for quilts, teaching classes, longarming, and just the face-to-face time with likeminded quilters.  However, all of these things kept me out of my sewing room!  Then, there was the paperwork!  Things got overwhelming within the first year.  As a result, I wasn't having 'fun'.  I decided to start going up to the shop an hour or so early and having some "ME" time.  I would work on projects, prepare binding, or otherwise get to plop myself down in front of that machine.  Thus, I got around an hour a day to actually sew.  You wouldn't believe how much I was starting to get done!

We moved, expanded the shop from around 1,400 s.f. to 6,000 s.f.  We bought the second longarm, had more employees, took on a sewing machine dealership....and I started falling away from it again.  Afterall, there was so much more to do.  I tried to get back into the 1/2 hour to an hour a day, but wasn't always successful.  I would try to hide in the classroom and just finish a little something.  I had to face the fact that the identity of the shop was me.  I'm not taking away from my employees at all.  My customers ALWAYS complimented me on the friendliness of my staff, and if someone was on vacation, I certainly got the inquiries from customers wondering where they were!  But, those stolen moments in the classroom ended up being 15-20 minutes here and there.

Fast forward to now.  The shop is closed after losing our lease and yet I STILL couldn't find time to sew!  I still have the website and the longarming PLUS the household chores.  Overwhelming?  You bet!  So, I did what I do well....make lists.  Yup, I'm a confessed listmaker.  I've made several that you have heard about, and some that you haven't!  I get a sense of accomplishment from marking things off a list that encourages me to move on.
  • The first list I made was of my flimsies that needed quilting.  It was on the post "Accountability" a month or so back.  Not only did I have MY unfinished projects, but those that my employees helped me with....94!
  • The second list I started to make, and talked myself right out of...UFOs!  Argh!  I had started so many projects for classes, etc.  Class was over, no time to finish, need to move on to the next class sample.  So, we chalked that list up as one that was detrimental and moved on.
  • The third list I made...some of you will groan and realize just how OCD I really am...I made a list of weekly household chores.  I divided these up into 6 days, dividing my house into zones.  (i.e.  Monday I clean our bathrooms)
  • The fourth list I made...well that was more of a schedule.  I am a creature of habit and routine.  So, here is how that one goes.....
The first thing I do in the morning--you guessed it--I head to my sewing room.  I give myself a half hour to an hour, depending on how much "work" I have.  Why first thing?  Well, how do you feel when you walk out of a little sewing time in your sewing room?  I am just downright giddy!  What a great way to start your day!  If I wait until the end of the day, most of the time I am just too pooped to party!

Next, I do my household chores for the day.  Bluck, but it needs done.

Then, I "work".  I have web orders to do, going to the post office, longarming, customer pick-ups and drop-offs, etc.

I told you I like to be organized....well, now you see.  My life revolves around it.  If someone messes with my routine, well, I am just downright evil!  :P

Here are a few things I do to keep "organized":

  • I keep all portions of my projects together in a kit.  This can be a pizza box or a big clear plastic bag.  The pattern, fabric and everything needed for the project is right there.  I keep these in order of what I want to do first, second, etc. 
  • Once a project becomes a flimsie, I use a suit hanger to keep them organized.  The backing goes over the slacks portion.  The flimsie goes over the other bar and the binding is pieced and hung over the hanger portion.  They are hung by size...small quilts, throws then larger quilts.  Depending on how much time I have in between customer quilts, it makes it easier to know which one I can pull to put on the machine.
  • I have organized my UFOs (somewhat) by what needs done.  All of the UFOs that just need borders are together.  All of the UFOs that need more piecing are all together.  If I start to get that feeling that I need instant gratification, I go for the UFOs that just need borders.
  • I have organized my cleaning duties by what they are.  For example, I just do all of the bathrooms at one time.  I do all of my mopping at one time.  I already have the mop bucket out, so just get it all done and over with.
  • I have a 'cleaning' closet where I keep my cleaning supplies organized.  I have one of those little carriers that enables you to carry cleaning products around with you all together.  I know this sounds absolutely ridiculous, but it is a big timesaver.  If I am cleaning bathrooms, for example, the Windex, toilet bowl cleaner, etc. all goes in and I trudge from bathroom to bathroom until they are done.
  • I do at least a load of laundry a day.  Even when I worked, I did this.  I would just throw it in the washer in the morning before I left and in the dryer first thing when I got home...before starting dinner.
  • As soon as I get the mail, I tackle it.  I IMMEDIATELY throw away the junk mail.  I do online billpay, so those are all entered as soon as the bill comes in.  This came from my old days of saving a pile and writing out all of my bills after I got paid, then filing them.  It was taking hours!  No more piles of bills moving around the house waiting to be paid or getting mixed in with catalogs and magazines!
  • I "clean-as-I-go" when I am cooking.  While I am waiting for dinner to bake/boil, etc. I am unloading/loading the dishwasher, washing down the fronts of cabinets, cleaning out the fridge, etc.  If we have had take-out and don't have many dinner dishes, I fill the dishwasher the rest of the way with things that collect dust...i.e. vases, coffee pots, etc.  I keep two crocks on my counter for kitchen utensils.  Every once in a while, even though they are clean, I will take everything out of the crocks and put the crocks and all of the utensils right back into the dishwasher (to fill it up) and run it all through again. 
There are different personality types.  I know this doesn't work for everyone.  This may help someone.  I could go on and on, but this post is already way too long.  The point in all of this a little every day and be organized about it.  You will be much happier for it and won't feel guilty about heading into that sewing room every morning to play!  :)



Cheri said...

I'd have more time to sew if I quit reading all these wonderful blogs. LOL Like that's gonna happen.

Appalachian Quilts said...

I'm guilty of the same sin. I give myself an allotted time to get off the computer, and stick with it. I have placed myself on a computer "diet".

Merilyn said...

I like the idea of having certain chores to do on certain days, that way you get around to everything eventually..... your post has given me lots to think about!!!

Wendy said...

You have so many great suggestions. When I worked full time and raising my 2 daughters alone, I would sew in 10 min intervals. It's amazing how much can be done in 10 mins.

Louisa Lawson said...

I really like your idea of going into the sewing room first thing in the day - I think I will try that and see if I can get more done - as you say in the evenings one is often exhausted and not in the mood to machine at least.