24 April 2011

Sewing Productivity Project: Reporting back

I've kept track of my sewing productivity over the last 15 days for the Sewing Productivity Project and can now reveal the results. They're not great. But it has been a learning process!

How many hours per day do you sew?

As you'll see from the chart below, I had quite a long drought period of no sewing whatsoever for 12 days, sandwiched between spurts of intensive stitching. I was away at a wedding last weekend and the weekday evenings were spent either seeing friends, being zombified with a cold, or both. The time spent sewing averages out as 48 minutes per day, which doesn't seem that low, but I'd really like to maintain a bit more consistency in my productivity.

What are you spending/wasting the rest of your free time doing?

The majority of my free time is spent on social engagements (seeing friends and family, Skyping my boyfriend, hanging out with my new flatmate...). This is probably how it should be, but the misanthrope / complete saddo in me sometimes wishes I could spend more time sewing! I'm not too shocked by the amount of time I spend doing other things. I should maybe cut down the time I spend reading blogs, but you guys are just too inspiring! I'd basically like to do more of everything - more sewing, more exercise, more films, more work... without having to sleep any less. Is that possible?

When you do sew, how do you feel before, during and afterwards?

Bursts of stitching have been preceded by days of excitement, dreaming and generally wanging on about how I can't wait to have time to sew. During sewing, I felt pleasure from creating something with my hands, a sense of calm from getting into the zone and satisfaction at seeing something come together. Afterwards I felt physically achey from bending over my sewing table, a sense of achievement and an urge to do more more more!

What factors are you aware of that impact upon when you make time to sew?

- I generally feel physically tired after work (not that I work on a building site or anything), so by the time I've cooked and eaten dinner, getting down to sewing can be quite difficult. I find it much more appealing to start sewing at the weekend.

- Having lots of things to do, with pressing deadlines, makes me feel guilty about spending time sewing. I made an agreement with myself in advance to block out Day 15 for sewing and hid my 'to do' list, which made me focus and get down to business.

- Sewing with other people helps. Day 1 was Craft Club, dedicated sewing time with a social element. It feels more of a thing and you feel motivated to complete a project (however small) by the time everyone has to go home.

- This is controversial, but if a UFO really isn't appealing, leave it and start something that you're excited about making. My trousers have been sitting on my table half finished for a month and the smart dark grey fabric just isn't doing it for me with the summer weather, so I'm giving them a rest and making Simplicity 7341 instead.

- While I do spend a bit too much time reading blogs when I could be sewing, seeing what other people are making is great motivation for me to get going.

What are you learning about sewing productivity from this process? What tips can you share?

1. Decide what you're going to make in advance, so the thinking time doesn't eat into your precious sewing time. I could have got a lot more done on Day 1 if I hadn't been faffing about choosing between different projects.

2. Make sure you have all the materials you're going to need, gathering them up when you're out and about in the previous week. There's nothing more frustrating than sitting down to sew and realising you don't have any matching thread in your stash.

3. The optimal chunk of time to spend sewing is probably 3 hours (with tea and stretching breaks). Shorter bursts mean having to review the instructions and spend some time getting back into it. Longer bursts cause back ache!

4. Having a tidy sewing space - and preferably a tidy house - is a must for me. I like to be able to see where everything is and have space to lay out the instructions and the project pieces.

5. Don't feel guilty about blocking time out in your diary for sewing and saying no to social engagements if necessary. I find it really important to have time alone to do something creative, and I'm not a great person to be around if I haven't got that out of my system!

6. Having abandoned your friends, you can listen to the radio while sewing to make it seem like you do have a social life after all. I love Adam and Joe and Jarvis Cocker's Sunday Service and am not ashamed to say I often feel like they're in my sitting room with me, I just can't see them when my eyes are glued to the machine. Okay, so I am a little bit ashamed.


There are quite a few people joining in with the Sewing Productivity Project and I've been enjoying reading the results already in:

Leah gave a detailed report on her findings
Karen wins ten points for her snazzy pie charts
Gina has discovered what makes her sew productively
Seeks is writing detailed daily updates
Amy has set herself some rules for her sewing
Clare has noted some influences on her productivity
Julie has analysed 13 days of sewing

Thanks to everyone who is taking part. Next week I'll compile an uber list of productivity tips, so please leave your tips in the comments below, and if you're writing posts about this please leave a link too. Let's go!

[Soundtrack: 'Handle With Care' by Traveling Wilburys]


  1. I'm loving reading everyone's results! :) I spend far too much time reading blogs, but it helps my sewing in the long run! I learn a lot from other bloggers, and reading about other peoples projects makes me want to get on with my own. So I suppose it's good that we spend so much tine reading blogs!
    Ashley x

  2. I love this project. I should have done it! And I think it's remarkable that you have made fancy charts and graphs - despite the many other things you do. :-)

  3. Oh I'm so glad someone in the sewing-blogging community is doing this. I really liked how you give insight on breaking down how your time is spent. I know myself I spend way too much time on my laptop, sometimes not even on blogs, just playing video games....And I really like that you mentioned that you spend a lot of time with family and friends - basically showing us that even sewists hae social lifes! Sewing can be such a solitary task that I often wonder if other bloggers who accomplish SO much sewing have time to spend with friends? And if they do have tons of friends, what are their tips for squeezing in the massive amounts of sewing they do?

  4. I love Jarvis (used to have a serious crush on him) and am going to see him this summer, yet weirdly I've never listened to his radio sessions. I'm the same - if I don't have a certain number of hours to myself, I become a very unhappy person. Though I think you have a better social life than me!

  5. I really appreciate this post. For the last year I have tracked my time with my sewing/knitting/quilting/etc projects. I plan to post my conclusions soon and an organizational template that I use. I think your experience is fairly typical, but there are some who are so productive and balanced with lives much busier than mine and I would love to have their mojo!

  6. Hi Tilly,

    Disaster my computer has died, along with all my productivity data so i can't contribute anything now! :o(

    I am planning to write a post using the notes I wrote about how to improve my productivity. No pretty graphs or charts though

  7. Great tips, Tilly! I'm not really a radio-listener, but I think I'm going to have to give those shows a go (love Adam & Joe on TV) - it's a shame Russell Howard isn't still on the radio, he had a really good show.

    And I'm definitely with you on probably spending the right amount of time socialising and yet still wanting to do more sewing - go go saddo mysanthropes!!!! We need some sort of time control contraption - more hours in the day but you still get a good sleep.

    Thanks for organising this (and for linking to me) - I'm really enjoying seeing other people's posts and I'm definitely learning a bit about myself!

  8. Hi Tilly, I've put my analysis post post up now


    Law x

  9. Hi Tilly, I hadn't been going to join in with this, but I am finding the posts both comforting and inspiring so maybe I will pull my finger out! It's so nice to hear that other people find it hard to get the motivation to sew too - makes me feel like less of a loser! So thanks, great idea.


  10. Thanks Tilly for starting this project; it was helpful for me on a multitude of levels. I really liked the insights about the social aspects of crafting and sewing that we often forget. I love that you have a craft club that you are part of, and hope to have similar gatherings on a regular basis soon. I love sewing, but really want company sometimes. Thanks for the push in that direction!

  11. Hey Tilly, great idea doing this research! Like others, a lot of my time is spent reading blogs about sewing... A dilemma, because although I love reading them and learn a lot, I could also spend this time sewing. I try to keep my blogs to a minimum, only follow those who really inspire me, but it's hard! There are so many wonderful seamstresses... Maybe allowing myself only one hour a day of blog reading could work? Anyway, thanks for for doing this!

  12. I have enjoyed taking part. My results can be found on my blog charlottesewfsrsewgood.blogspot.com along with a link. I hope this is ok Tilly, I find computers hard work! Thankyou, and look forward to the final results!

  13. Dear Tilly,
    This week I've been using your out-of-this world tutorial on sewing scallops. It is excellent and has helped me tremendously with a 1949 vintage pattern scalloped neckline from McCall 7900. I just want to say thanks.


  14. Joni - I'm so glad! I've looked up that pattern and it's gorgeous.

  15. Hi Tilly

    I just wanted to say thanks for recommending these two radio shows - I've finally had a chance to listen to them and I loved them (gotta be honest, it's been a few years since I've paid attention to old mate Jarvis).


  16. dear tilly,

    this project is such a great idea, because it is a good opportunity for me to reflect on my sewing habits, and about time too!

    i did a little summary of self reflection on my blog. i think a lot of your tips are really useful for me to keep in mind.

    happy sewing and keep blogging!



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