Hey y’all! The holidays are a time of both 1) lots of sewing demands and 2) less time to sew. Which means that any little thing you can do for faster sewing is a good thing. So with that in mind, my Baby Lock machines and I are going to share our best tips for assembly line sewing today.
Tip #1: Organize fabrics and Patterns
I have discovered that it often takes only a little longer to sew multiple items than it does to sew one item. This is particularly true when you can sew multiples of the same thing or the same types of things. For example, we’ve had some early cold snaps this year, and that led to figuring out that the boys don’t have enough long sleeve shirts and long pajamas. So, I pulled a whole pile of fabric and a few patterns, and sewed all of these in one day.
They’re not exactly the same – a few raglans and a few Tee x 3 and a set of cuffed legging pants. But I sewed all of them from pulling fabric to finishing in about 2 hours. I like to create piles of fabrics that are going to be cut with the same pattern and stack them.
Tip #2: Cut Multiple Items at the Same Time
If you stack your projects as I described in the previous step, then whenever possible layer fabrics together to cut the same pieces out of multiple fabrics at the same time.
Tip #3: Use Pins Sparingly
I’m a pin girl. I love to pin things. I only use wonder clips on things like leather, and I hardly ever use pattern weights. Except when I’m assembly lining. Then, it make sense to use weights to cut your pattern. And by weights, I mean my phone, my pin tin, and anything else handy and nearby.
When I got to the neckbands on these, I put two pins (center front and center back) to hold them, and did the rest of the stretching/alignment as I sewed.
Tip #4: Minimize Movement Between Sewing Tasks
And by that I mean pin everything that you can pin, then sit down and sew as long as you can without going back to pinning or pressing or anything else. I organized a stack for myself, then sewed all the neckbands and cuffs into loops, sewed all shoulder seams, set in sleeves (I’m pretty confident about doing these without pinning in t-shirts; see Tip 7 for more), side seams, and I sewed the rises, side and inseams of the leggings.
Tip #5: Use Gray Thread for Inside Seams
This is a trick I learned from my years of theatre. If it’s not couture, it’s unlikely that people are going to see and/or care about what color thread you used on the inside of things. So go with gray. It blends into most everything. Which is why my Baby Lock Imagine so often sports gray thread cones.
Tip #6: Don’t Trim Threads Between Each Piece
When you can, sew chains, then you can cut all the threads later. Again, minimizing moving from one task to another.
Tip #7: Whenever Possible, Use Flat Construction Methods
Flat construction means manipulating your pattern to sew seams while you can still lay the garment fabric flat. The most common way I do this is with sleeves – I sew the sleeve seam before the side seams or underarm seam. At each of those steps I can lay the garment totally flat while I’m sewing and only shift to round construction for cuffs and collars. Flat construction is almost always faster (and for me, easier. Less likely to sew a sleeve closed this way).
Tip #8: Get a Rolling Swivel Chair
And set your machines close together if you’re using more than one. As you can see, Elizabeth and my Imagine are in a corner together, and this allows me to turn from one to the other easily. If you’ll be pressing, put your pressing station near your machine(s) too to save even more time.
Tip #9: Use a Kneebar
If your machine comes with a kneebar that controls the presser foot like Elizabeth does, use it. I was skeptical of it at first, and it did take some getting used to. Not moving your hand to make the presser foot go up or down really does same time. A few seconds, but those add up over multiple garments.
Tip #10: Minimize Changing Topstitching Thread
And think about using a gray bobbin for all your finishing. For the last step on all my shirts I was hemming and topstitching neckbands down. So I put gray thread in the bobbin, and then grouped items together based on what color thread I needed for the top side of each garment.
Hopefully these tips will help you get through your holiday sewing list!