Who We Are: Busy and finding time to sew!

Today’s Who We Are is about how we make time for sewing! We all have busy lives in different ways and it can often feel like everyone else has so much more time for sewing and is so much more “productive” than we are. But really… we all know it’s almost never actually like that.

We have heard in previous Who We Are posts that for many of us sewing is about fun, or escape, or healing, or creativity. It is our refuge and self-expression. It is pure magic.

So how do we find the time? Today’s post explores how some of us make the space to sew.

Picture of Lucy smiling at the camera, from the shoulders up.

Lucy

I started sewing three years ago when I gave up my career to look after my children. It’s funny that back then, sewing was a way to fill some of my time with something just for me, something that used my brain again and something that gave me a focus and sense of control. I went from a challenging and demanding corporate job to being a stay at home mom, and it was hard. It felt like a very rare thing in the modern UK. It took years to come to terms with giving up my career, and sewing was a big part of that. 

Now that I am working again, albeit in my family business, the coin has flipped and I am trying to find time to sew rather than trying to fill empty time with sewing! I have two children, a part time job, a husband and other hobbies and commitments. I find that a mixture of stealing a few moments where I can, batching sewing tasks, late night sewing and the occasional ‘stuff it, I’m having a sewing day!’ are what works for me!

To add another layer of interest, my family business is a sewing business! This may sound like a dream to most, but in reality it sometimes encroaches on my sewing time because I always feel like I should be recording what I’m doing/Instagramming it or making a blog post out of it. The solution to this? Sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t. If I don’t feel like it I push the guilt to one side and remind myself of the reason I first started to sew — for me!

Lucy lives in the UK and blogs at https://www.sewessential.co.uk/blog.


Picture of Jennifer wearing a dark teal Rivermont dress.  She has a suitcase next to her ready to go on another work trip.

Jennifer

I am the founder and president of a sustainability consulting company. In addition to working a full-time job, I travel to far-flung places with alarming regularity. I am married and a mom to three kids (ages 8, 10, 12). I live in a historic manor house with a mini-farm out back, where I garden and raise chickens and goats. I am on the board of the local Arts Council. I’m on the board and the Treasurer of a new grocery store in my revitalizing downtown area. I’m a Court Appointed Special Advocate, volunteering on cases involving youth in the foster care system. I am a trainer and facilitator for a nationwide entrepreneur and start-up program, teaching 9-week classes to aspiring business owners. I am a reading judge for a socially responsible business plan competition, rating and providing feedback for start-up companies with a social or environmental purpose. I’m the co-chair for a local non-profit that seeks to identify, mentor and elect women to positions of leadership in the state of Virginia. I’m a facilitator for our region’s anti-poverty initiative, and I sit on the city school system’s Equity Task Force. I read about 60 books (both fiction and non-fiction) a year. We foster about two dozen kittens and puppies a year through the Humane Society. I just announced last week that I’m running for the Virginia House of Delegates

Oh, and I sew. About 80% of my wardrobe is handmade, and I sew approximately 2-3 garments each month. 

I was invited to share my sewing story specifically because I am so busy. I hear all the time “how do you do it all?!” and I’m here to tell you the five ways I manage to fit sewing into my jam-packed lifestyle. 

#1: I sew in the evenings after the kids are in bed. We maintain a pretty strict bedtime of 7pm, where the kids need to be in their rooms and reading. That means I have at least a couple of hours each night of unencumbered free time. Even if I’m coming home from a board meeting at 9pm, I can usually squeeze in 30-60 minutes of sewing before I head off to bed myself.

#2: I am a sewist first, TV watcher second. While it’s tempting to flop on the couch and relax after a long day, I’ve made it a priority to sew. I might have Netflix going in the background, or be listening to an audiobook or podcast, but if I have free time I’m almost always sewing or planning my next sewing project. 

#3. I stick to my favorite pattern designers. I used to be a lot more adventurous in choosing sewing patterns. Over the last couple years, however, I’ve found that narrowing down my choices to 2-3 pattern designers that have solid drafting *and* work for my particular figure has been a game-changer. Not only does sewing patterns over and over again make it faster and more efficient, but knowing that these patterns are going to fit impeccably makes it much more likely that I’ll truly wear and value the final products. 

#4: I stock up and am prepared at a moment’s notice. I have a large stash of beautiful garment fabric, along with a robust set of notions. I always pre-launder and fold my fabric around comic book cardstock, which makes it easy to organize and ready to go when I find a free window in my schedule. I find that when I run into a project that requires an extra trip to the fabric store, I’m less likely to tackle it in a timely manner.

#5: I am an efficient sewist. I have a sewing machine and a serger set up next to each other, and I just added a second sewing machine for projects (like jeans) where having a second machine dedicated to top-stitching is helpful. I sew several projects in a row that need the same color thread to minimize the time and hassle of changing my serger cones. I will often batch-cut several projects at a time. And I’m known to completely veer off the pattern instructions and follow my own construction ideas to be more efficient with switching between machines, ironing, hemming top-stitching and basting. 

Are you a whiz at fitting sewing into your busy schedule, too? I’d love to hear your tips and tricks in the comments below!

Jennifer is an avid sewist, preferring instant gratification projects over fancy finishes. She travels internationally (always hitting up the local fabric store), leaving her family to take care of three kids, two dogs, three cats, 11 chickens, and two goats. She is on instagram at @weboughtamanor.


Picture of Becky Jo and her children, all of whom look grumpy.

Becky Jo

This is what it looked like when I still worked full time. Every single child’s face shows the truth. Nothing about this photo says, “Lean in and be a success at your career AND family!”

I really thought the burn-out every quarter for corporate marketing was me being creative. It wasn’t until I intensionally demoted myself, and took a work-from-home position that was nothing but number-crunching, that I realized using all of my creative-self for someone else was SO DUMB. Seriously. 20 years of drawing Rite-Aid signs and freight trains, making quarterly million dollar+ spiff B2B programs for MFPs (multi-function printers; read: YAWN), running shareholder meetings, designing annual reports, and super exciting grand opening events for colo-facilities (zzzzzzz…..).

I quit 3 years ago. Sure, I still picked up a freelance job here and there the first year… but I am privileged enough to have a partner who told me he didn’t want me doing something I didn’t love anymore.

Our Juggling:

  1. We only live on half of my partner’s income. I’m certainly not contributing at this point and retirement in the US is: Make a fund yourself or you’re S.O.L.
  2. I cook, clean, garden, laundry, all doctor/dentist/optometrist/sports driving — I do it all myself. My partner’s career requires a lot of travel and much more than 40 hours a week, so that is the trade-off.
  3. We live in an area that is socio-economically stressed. We are surrounded by Title 1 schools. What that means to us is that a lot of funding and attention goes to kids who really, really need it. In comparison, we do not, but that also means there are not advanced programs, and bored kids = kids that get in trouble. Two of my children still in school have private school paid for by a grandparent, and the youngest is homeschooled via online public school until likely being transferred to public school next year.
  4. We have one car for our whole family. If you don’t have the car, you take public transit or bike.
  5. I love LOVE our sewing community so very much, I have decided over the last 3 years to contribute back. I’m here on Sewcialists, mostly in the background; I’m working on a pattern launch; and I organized Portland Frocktails. Even without a “job,” #5 is dead last to get done.

My Sewing Cheats:

  1. No pins. I think the last time I used pins was a flat-felled seam on an armscye. I don’t use pins unless absolutely necessary. You should be able to trust the drafting and your iron to do 99% of it.
  2. Flat-measure finished measurements on patterns. I rarely make a muslin, and especially not as a first-round of fitting. Know your body measurements, and flat-measure a pattern to compare.
  3. Batch cut & sew. I need underwear? I’m going to bust out 10 at once. Cut items layered in a basket ready to go.
  4. Be a list maker. List of things to do every day, week, month.
  5. Xbox. Kids are old enough now I can steal pretty large 3-5 hour chunks on the weekends. That’s what Xbox is for. No, I don’t freak out about “screen time” or any of that… they have sports, they have art, they have a SAHM, they don’t take photos like the one above anymore.
  6. Kids have a chore list. Sure, I have to go back over a lot of it, but it’s better than nothing. If they want the video games: chores, homework, and personal hygiene come first.

I look forward to reading how we all live and juggle! It’s such a great way for us all to empathize more and bond with each other.

You can find Becky Jo in various places, but mostly Instagram.


Gillian and her husband Jamie, both wearing handmade garments — a floral dress on Gillian and a hoodie on Jamie.

Gillian

When people ask me how I find time to sew, I used to joke “Well, I don’t have kids!” In one way it’s totally true — I have a LOT of time at my discretion once my work day ends. I’ve stopped saying that though, because I think it disrespects all the parents who do find time to sew… and it makes light of the fact that I don’t want kids, and my husband and I chose to value personal time instead!

So, how do I find time? I sew mostly on weekends, because I’m usually too tired on weeknights. I spend time every single day on the Sewcialists, and I blog once or twice a week on my personal blog… plus I’ve got friends (who happen to sew) that I talk with every day in group chats, two cats to tease, and a partner who, like me, needs quiet time to be mentally ready to take on the world! And, you know, dinner to cook and a day job I adore. Being home makes me happy, and sewing makes me happiest, so I’m a better person when I make time to sew.

Gillian loves sewing, bright colours, and cats. She cofounded the Sewcialists in 2013, and blogs at Crafting A Rainbow.


Picture of Ebi standing next to a statue.

Ebi

Sewing for me is not just a hobby — it’s a career path! Almost a decade ago, I decided to make a career for myself in the arts. I’d long wanted to be an artist, but as a first-generation Nigerian-American — I got the message loud and clear that my parents did not come to the US just for their kids to become artists. So I did other jobs until I couldn’t take it anymore!

It was pretty hard at first; I lived with my parents to save on rent, rather than move out and live independently like most late 20-somethings in my social circle. I’d also saved up $10K in a generous employer-matched 401K, which I cashed out to fund several months of creative exploration, a home sewing studio, and trips to the Garment District in New York City. When the money ran out, my sewing plan began with tip #1 below. I admit some of my tips are crazy, but hey — they worked!

  1. Get paid to learn. I couldn’t justify sticking to my path without earning any money — not under my parents’ roof. I took every sewing-related job I that would have me: theatrical costume design, custom sewing, garment alterations, admin at a custom menswear company. I refused to work full time during this training period, and supplemented my earnings with odd jobs. Emphasis on odd.
  2. Forego sleep. I literally sewed all day, because I knew that at some point I would need a job, and wanted to develop committed sewing habits. When my parents went to bed, I did quiet things like tracing and altering patterns, and ironing fabric. Sunlight was for sewing and the odd catch-up nap, since I don’t take caffeine.
  3. Forego socializing. When I eventually resumed working (more on this next), I had to decide whether I wanted to stay home and sew, or go out to eat overpriced dinners, go on dates with insulting and uninterested men, catch new movies full of actors I didn’t recognize. I may have lost friends? Dunno. My wardrobe was fab, though.
  4. Seek balance. Once I’d injected sewing into my blood and knew it wasn’t going anywhere, I dialed it back a bit. My wardrobe was bursting, my skills were hot, and I was confident — nothing to prove to anyone anymore. I allowed myself to slow down the sewing in order to maintain my remaining relationships and build new ones which were sewing friendly.
  5. Be flexible. Blogging, the occasional sewing meetup, Instagram, photo-a-day sewing challenges, being a guest editor here at the Sewcialists, and teaching my very first sewing class, all count to me as sewing. Diversifying the definition of ‘sewing time’ is where I am right now! It doesn’t have to just be making new clothes (because really, who’s going to do all that laundry?) — it can be talking about sewing, introducing other people to sewing, and sewing things that are not garments or not for me.

So even though I work two part time jobs and a side gig, the side gig and one of the jobs are actually part of my sewing time! Every bag or or quickie dress for a friend keeps my skills from rusting over completely, and I continue to be able to call my sewing a career, and keep it central in my life.

Ebi is a Sewcialist in Boston, MA (USA). In addition to being a total sewing nerd who *will* go on about finishing seams without a serger, she loves posing with random life-size figurines the cheesier, the better. Find her online at Making the Flame, and on Instagram as @makingtheflame.


We hope that this is just the beginning of a conversation about how you all find time to sew! We know that everyone has different responsibilities, from working multiple jobs to being a caregiver. As we’ve discussed here before, health is another major factor. Whatever your life is like, we want to hear how you make time to sew! Email us at Sewcialists@gmail.com if you’d like to contribute to our next post about making time to sew, or leave a juicy comment below!


Dear Reader: Our goal is to build community and make everyone feel welcome. We support crafting as an inclusive and welcoming space for people of all ages, abilities, ethnicities, genders, orientations and sizes. Regarding sewing challenge themes, we ask that you take each challenge as you see it fitting in your life, and express your involvement how you like, at the given time. Our challenges are for the pure enjoyment of participation and the love of community. Extended Mission Page Here.