Sunday, 3 April 2011

Sewing productivity


How many hours of sewing do you get done each week? How do you fit sewing around the other things you do in your life? Do you ever get frustrated by how little time you seem to have to sew?

In my work (and... er... social) life, people often comment on how efficient, conscientious and generally productive I am. These attributes don't, however, seem to translate into my sewing life. Other things always seem to get in the way - paperwork, cooking, eating, social engagements (although sometimes I try to get out of social engagements so I can spend time at home sewing - sshh!), commuting, eating, sleeping, eating, reading blogs, faffing about... I'm particularly busy at the moment and all the other projects I'm working on don't leave much room in my head to even think about sewing.


Sewing is, however, a big part of my life. I want to make it bigger. I want to make time to sew. With this in mind, I'm planning on implementing a three part research and strategy process to improve my sewing productivity:

1. Keep a diary for a week, maybe two, noting what I do with each hour of each day. When sewing happens, I'll note down how I feel before, during and after a chunk of sewing time.

2. Review the diary to assess what I'm spending my time on and to identify factors contributing to sewing productivity. Report back on my blog.

3. Create and implement a strategy to improve my sewing productivity based on what I learn from my research.

Now, I'd love to add a fourth part to the strategy - external research. Basically, you - how much sewing you get done each week and what makes you productive. Would you like to join me in this process? It would be great to pool ideas on how to become more productive.

If you'd like to join in, let me know, and I'll post up some more details next week about how we'll go about it. Pie charts will definitely be involved. Do you think one week or two would be best? Or maybe even a month? If you want to participate, any other ideas about how we should go about this?

Thoughts, please!

[Soundtrack: 'Guilt' by The Long Blondes]

38 comments:

  1. I know how hard it is to make time for all things outside of the daily grind, but personally have found that I get more creative projects done when I don't blog. I suggest instead of researching to find a cause, you force yourself to sit down at your sewing machine. I often find that the hardest part is getting started, and spending time in my studio helps with motivation.

    You are a talented seamstress...do what you love! :)

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  2. I LOVE this idea (and I particularly love your improvised graph. Brilliant!);)
    I have a 2 year old and TRY and fit my sewing time in around caring for him full time, housework, household finances, gardening, blogging and Etsy. Pins, needles and concentration don't mix well with a 2 yr old so I try and maximise my "spare" time,but could definitely benefit from some time and motion analysis! Sounds like fun (I'm sad like that!) count me in!!
    Px

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  3. Rachel, that's FAR too sensible a solution! Blogging may well be one of the main things that gets in the way, but being connected to other creative ladies is so inspiring and motivating. I'm reluctant to cut down on that... but maybe I should... we'll see...

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  4. Tilly, what a great idea and I'd even like try out the plan you're suggesting to make my work and creative life a bit more balanced.

    Rachel, I'm generally in a believer in the "just do it" method, but I'm not sure if it helps in prioritising tasks. When you have so many different worlds to juggle, I'm afraid "just do it" might not be enough.

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  5. Good luck with your research and hopefully increased sewing time.

    Not sure I'm a useful addition to your research. I am currently "thinking" not sewing as I need to find a solution to a bag lining problem...until I solve it I can't complete current project.

    Also knitting taking priority due to birthday deadline

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  6. Haha, great graph! I'm in - I definitely spend too much time faffing about :)

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  7. I know what you mean, I'd like to do more sewing but I'm one of these people that has to build up to something I think. I also spend waaaay too much time looking at other peoples blogs seeing what they are sewing and I could be spending that time doing my own sewing. I think we should all just do it rather than procrastinate and find other distractions. Even trying to research why you are aren't sewing will distract you from the sewing (Reminds me of revisions timetables, I spent so long designing and planning my revisions timetable that there wasn't any time to do the revision!) although its exactly the kind of thing I would do! I'm off now to prune my Google Reader so I spend less time looking at other peoples makes and less time doing my own (although I'll keep you!!!)x

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  8. Woah! I LOVE your graph, so clever. Yes, I'd be intrigued to keep a sewing diary - let me know how I can help. Love that you bring science to sewing!

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  9. Count me in, Tilly! I think it would be interesting to do a weekly diary mapping the barriers to sewing productivity!! Love it!

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  10. I often find it a challenge to start any sewing project (or finish one) and am easily distracted, especially by the internet, so I'd be up for some time analysis as I'm sure I waste hours that could be spent creating. Just knowing that I would be noting down how I spend my time, would probably make me more aware and less likely to squander it!

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  11. That graph is so cute! Love it!

    I'm new to sewing which means I'm always THINKING about doing some but finding excuses not to because I'm a little scared of messing it up!

    If this was just a week, I'd end up cheating and rearranging things so I got a "better" sewing time; over a few weeks it might be a more accurate result!

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  12. Like Louise, I also spend a lot of time reading blogs when I could be sewing. But, as you say, it inspires me, and I feel as though I'm catching up with friends. So let's count it as socializing time!

    I sew about 4 hours over the weekend, sometimes more, sometimes less, and perhaps 1/2 an hour to an hour 2 or 3 nights during the work week. Unless husband is away Fridays, I never sew Friday night, b/c that is our dinner and a DVD night. I usually choose rather complicated projects (no 1 hour knit tops for me!), so I complete maybe 2 projects a month if I'm lucky. That is a big factor in one's productivity too: what one is sewing.

    A fabulous French lady who comments on my blog, Marie-Christine, once stated that sewing is a *hobby*, not a job, and one shouldn't force oneself to sew because it will begin to feel like a chore. I really took that to heart. Sometimes I force myself to sew because deep in my heart I want to get a project done. But lately, if there's an evening when I just don't feel like tackling the gathers in that skirt, I put it off until the next day, and spend the evening reading (a "hobby" I've been neglecting since really getting into sewing).

    While I'm happy with my current sewing outlook, it's a struggle because there are so many ideas bouncing around in my mind that I'd like to realease! I would like to get more sewing done, especially over the weekends. Can't wait to see what time management skills you come up with.

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  13. I'm not sure I'm much help since my productivity has taken a nosedive and I know why - the children are taking up more time at the moment, and I have taken on a volunteer office that requires time and energy as well. Which is all in line with my priorities, but I'm still a bit sad that I'm sewing so much less. For me the trick will be using smaller snippets of time productively which isn't my strength so far.

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  14. I have a baby so I only get to sew during her naps, if I've time to have a shower beforehand. Somedays I feel like spending her naps lying in a comatose state watching MTV but I try not to beat myself up about that. I need to remind myself at times that it's a hobby not a job.

    So, I get about an hour and half in on a good day.

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  15. I love the graph!

    I am interested in helping you with this project of yours, though I'm not sure what I'll be able to commit to. (I hesitate at the diary portion.) Let me know what you'd need from me and I'll join in! (My profile has a link for my email.)

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  16. This sounds like a great idea to me - if nothing else, it could be a way of finding where all that time goes when you've been busy but feel like you haven't actually DONE anything! I'll try to get in on your experiment.

    I love that graph, too - very fun!

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  17. I have to schedule sewing time or it doesn't happen. I usually sew sometime between Tues-Thur (don't have my grandson on those days). I also save handwork for anytime I watch a movie or video.

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  18. I've been lamenting the fact that I have so little time to sew lately. This is a very busy time of year-- I'm just trying to make it through then end of the school year and then I'll have all glorious summer long to sew all the time. I'm excited to see what you come up with! Your graph is fabulous.

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  19. I know others have said it, but kudos on that graphic. It's fantastic - tells the whole story and it probably cost 5 cents and as many minutes!

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  20. This is a great idea. :) I was just lamenting to myself the other day how long it takes me finish a project sometimes. Not because the project is particularly complicated, but the lack of efficient sewing time. For instance, i was all geared up to finish something yesterday (which I did) but other things suddenly took precedence. Plus, i have two kids, so that just adds to the equation. You can read what happened on my blog, but it is quite long so I won't put it all here. Let's just say yesterday was a very interresting day.

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  21. I have been having similar thoughts recently, how weird is that or is that none of us have enough time to sew!! I would love to join in your research if only to discipline myself better but I'm away from home and therefore sewing machine quite a lot over next three weeks.
    I will keep a chack on your blog and maybe do some diary research of my own in May.
    I have thought of joining The Sew Weekly sewing group, as motivation.

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  22. Oh, don't we all seem to know this problem. Unfortunately, rachel is right. Blogging is a time killer. Thing is, I LOVE your blog. I recently started my own one and keep saying to myself: "I will not become my Blog's slave" over and over again. Does it help? Nope. What helps is to check my mails and Google Reader only once per day - answer right away, comment right away, basically leave nothing on my to do list at all. Because to do lists keep me from sewing. When I sew, I sew. When I finish a project, I take care of all the to-dos, then go back to sewing... sort of.

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  23. I think everyone who sews, knits or designs has similar thoughts. We all have busy lives and blogging does cut into our time, but I agree with others, the blogs are inspiring and motivating. I find that I am more productive and appreciate the "bump" I get from reading about others process. I am a list maker. On Sundays I tend to lay out my work list for the week. It is very fluid and can change at the drop of a hat, but it does structure my days enough to accomplish something. I tend to have several projects going at one time and sometimes I think I should concentrate on one, finish it and more on. I would like to be part of your research. I do keep a work calendar where I record the amount of time I spend on my projects. Yesterday, for example, I needed to reorganize some elements of my studio. That took about two hours, including oiling one of the sergers. I marked it down and at the end of the week I add up how much time I spend doing My things. Some weeks it is more than I thought, some less. This method is far from scientific, but it does help me see trends in my behavior that I would not have noticed otherwise.

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  24. My frustration comes from having a long list of projects I would like to work on and don't manage too. I think that in a way I am too demanding with myself: working full-time, commuting to work, meals, chores, blogging, reading do that away those three hours I have before going to bed. I admire those ladies who have kids on top of that and still manage to sew.

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  25. What a great blog post! Gertie did one detailing how she spends her time to answer reader's questions of "How do you fit it all in?!?!"

    For me I have a hard time because I have two jobs and work 6 days a week. I also mentor a little girl on my day off and I have classes at night. Good thing my classes are in sewing or I'd never get anything done. For someone my age, I also don't live with my parents anymore so that means housework! Lots of it. :( And I spend too much time on the internet, so I suspect my solutions involves locking down my laptop once in a while.

    I'd really like to see what you find out from your research. Hehehehe.

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  26. 2 things, Tilly...
    1) Saw this on the Burda site & thought of you: Gingham Picnic Dress

    2) I am lucky to be on a compressed schedule so I only work 9 days every 2 weeks. I've just started, but plan to use that day to spend at least a few hrs sewing. I also like to try to do things Henry Ford-style. So I cut out 2 patterns last weekend, since it's such a hassle to get the kitchen table cleared off, bring the cutting board upstairs, the pins, fabric, scissors downstairs, etc. Now I can work on them little by little.

    I tend to do everything this way. I'll get the iron & ironing board out every 3 weeks or so, and have a big ironing spree (I may time that to fit in with these sewing projects). Sewing on buttons, same thing--get a stack together (it may take 2-3 months), then do it all when I'm watching West Wing w/ my husband.

    I also try to listen to podcasts while I'm sewing or cooking--otherwise they begin stacking up, too.

    We don't have a TV, but do lots of reading (and we both spend way too much time online). And trying to get to the gym, too! I'm a bit worried how we'll fit it in & have time to cook & eat well, too.

    Not sure this is helpful, but I'l be curious as to your research findings!

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  27. Oh, yes, the graph! Too clever by half!

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  28. I have three smallish kids and home-school, my hubs works long hours, no family in town etc etc. Classic "no time!" scenario. I want to be a good mom, and I want to sew! Logistics can be hard. Part of it is just doing it, like Rachel said... but when you honestly and truly have life stuff going on that limits time, it can be hard. We've decided, as a family, that time off for me is important, so we are going to pay a girl to come in and watch my older two girls while the baby naps, one day a week for 2 hrs. That will be my guaranteed sewing time. No guilt about the house, or the kids, or anything. Just time to sew (during the day, while my brain is still working ;) ) It's such a comfort to know that even if things get crazy, or if I find that in being a good mom, I run out of time to sew, that's ok. I have that time to look forward to.

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  29. Such a great plan! But I already know that I won't be able to follow up...I've noticed lately that Sunday mornings work best for me, and mornings in general. Too bad, because there's to few of them in the week when I'm not at work! Good luck with your project!

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  30. I love your illustration, very cute! And I did this kind of time tracking project at the office the first two weeks of January 2011. It was definitely helpful to see what my "time sucks" were. And it helped show me what I should let go of to make room for higher priorities. Outside of the office, sewing has to compete with my family, volunteering and other interests. I don't think it competes with blogging as if I wasn't making stuff, I'd have nothing to blog about. Anyway, I just squeeze sewing in anywhere I can. Even if just means that I cut out something or unpick something in a 30-minute time window, then sew the next day. Or sew part of something. Doing things in chunks is sometimes frustrating (I want to FINISH and see my work!) but it does mean I get through things. I'll be following with post with interest.

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  31. Great idea! Esp. the part about finding out how different activites affect the sewing-experience. I might join in...

    I've thought about sewing time and what affects it (both quantity and quality) a lot this winter, and I've discovered a huge part for me is sunlight. Darkness = low creativity. Bad when living close to the artic circle... I'm lucky that I have a job with irregualar hours, so I can have afternoons or entire days off. That time is designated sewing time =) But when I work a lot, not much sewing gets done, sadly.

    Let me know if you want help! I could do a diary for 2 weeks, it might be fun =)

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  32. i WISH i had more time to sew!! i mean, i really do have tons of time - although i have a full-time job, i am fortunate to live relatively close to work (no hour-long commutes for me!) and i don't have a family/kids, so all my spare time is devoted to me me me :) of course, a lot of that time gets sucked up by friends, more so now than ever, especially since the weather has gotten so nice here! then there is the standard 'grown up' stuff to worry about - fitting in exercising, cleaning, cooking, etc etc.

    my problem is that when i am ready to sew, i will get into a "zone" and sew for 4-5 hours at time. i can't just slip into my sewing room and work on a zipper for 15 minutes. gotta do the whole thing start to finish!

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  33. Golly, I hear ya about sewing productivity (or lack thereof!). I think my biggest time-sucker is the interwebs (no surprise here). Lately I've been trying to whittle that down, though it's hard when what I do is blog/other internet/computer based projects. Lately for me I've been trying to close the laptop in the evenings and give myself permission to do something creative. Be it sewing or some other handcraft. I've been getting a lot of little things done the past week, and it's been great!

    I also am pretty strict about staying offline during the weekends. We tend to have pretty laid-back weekends anyway, so spending most of Saturday or Sunday sewing isn't that unusual for me. I pretty much spent all of the previous Saturday refashioning a dress and then a good chunk of Sunday making a hat. It's nice to be able to kind of close myself off from things and just sew!

    I also have tried to start making little goals for myself and break my sewing up into small sections. For instance, one evening I'll probably trace and resize a vintage pattern, and cut out the final pieces. The next evening I'll cut out everything (material, lining, facings, etc.) and gather things up and stick them in a bag. Then I'll start to tackle the steps in little bits and pieces. If I look at the small steps and not the big picture, I'm more apt to make the time to sew, instead of getting sucked into other things (like the interwebs).

    Anyway, I'd love to see what your self-research turns up! And if you do start a little community project, I'd love to hear more and possibly join in (time permitting, of course!).

    ♥ Casey

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  34. I like the sound of this research - very interesting :)

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  35. I would also like to make more time for sewing. I try to sew when I get home from work, but there are other chores to be done, so I usually spend an hour or so every couple of days. My productivity is really limited, especially since I'm still learning and have yet to make a wearable garment.

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  36. I try to solve this problem for years now. Mostly I know where my time goes, but sometimes I think others things are as important as sewing. But if I spend too much time online or watching TV I regret it later. Maybe I should find a way to motivate myself to sew. And I should use also short times and not always say I make it, when I have more time.
    Looking forward to your research. I am sure I will get some ideas from others experiments.

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  37. Tilly, I sew a lot. Everyday, I am in my sewing room for 30 minutes to about 4 hours. I think that you are feeling what we all feel when a hobby is more than a hobby, it's becomes a way of life. I don't know how you make a living but somewhere a long the line this is what you are wired for. My hope for you is that you will find more time to do what you are meant to do. I would like to join you with the pie charts, good idea!

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  38. I think that the greatest tool to productive sewing is tried and true patterns. Like the beignet for you. It takes so much work working out the fit and deciphering the instructions the first time you make something (and the second time if you wait too long and don't take good enough notes)

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