It’s the holidays and everyone is busy.
With so much to do, time is of the essence.
We all know how much time is involved with sewing so it’s easy to look for shortcuts.

Be careful with shortcuts! The only way to produce beautiful results is to think as one sews, working slowly through the procedures. In the end that is the only way to save time. Here in this post are ideas that save hours, both for industry and for you in the home.

Sweater and pant fabric
Check your closet for items that need partners that match. Making clothing to wear with clothing already owned speeds sewing.


Determine your color palette. 
Organizing your wardrobe with the four-piece go-anywhere outfit in your color palette reduces your sewing time and the amount of clothing you need. Organizing your sewing supplies and fabrics on your color palette saves space and speeds finding supplies.

Check your closet. Decide what works and what is still needed to complete sets.

If using a new pattern, make a muslin before cutting the fashion fabric. The garment can then be cut and sewn without any fittings.

Preparing the pattern

If you have clothing you made and that you like, use those patterns. To give a change in styling, make minor changes such as changing the collar, adding pleats, changing the lengths, and adding patch pockets and/or trim. Done all the time in industry, minor changes: such as solid or a print fabric, will produce a garment that looks entirely different.

Tracing patterns
Trace home sewing patterns, reducing the seam allowances as you do so.

If working with a new pattern, ALWAYS check the fit of the pattern before cutting the fashion fabric. If using home sewing patterns, reduce the pattern’s seam allowances to those used in industry. Otherwise you cut out the garment twice.

Cover of swatch book
A swatch book with the yardages of your favorite patterns on the front will enable you to quickly search through your stash, prevent you from buying what you already have, and ensure that what you buy will match with what you already have.


Organize your shopping. Make a list.

Determine the yardage BEFORE going shopping. This layout provides extra fabric that could be used to make a vest. Note that all patterns are laid the same direction and that the back skirt pattern’s center back seam is laid on the selvage.








Save money: Before shopping layout the patterns to determine the yardage needed. ALSO, check supplies. Don’t buy what you already have.


If your cutting table is too low, put it up on bed risers.

Lay the fabric out on the open. Examine for flaws. Check that the fabric is on grain. Determine which side of the fabric to use as the face (most fabrics have no right or wrong side) and the direction the patterns will be cut. These precautions prevent possible shading.

On the wrong side on the fabric mark the selvage with arrows pointing the direction the patterns are to be cut.

Lay the patterns over the fabric, check that the patterns are laid on grain. Cut one piece at a time. Cut right-to-left if right-handed, left-to-right if left handed. Snip all notches 1/8 inch deep. Stack the cut pieces up with their patterns.

Throw the fabric scraps from the cutting in a clean separate wastebasket to use when later testing the machine’s sewing.

As done in high-end, utilize the selvage. (See diagram above.) Lay straight-seams against the selvage to prevent the need to overcast straight seams.


Oil the machine every day that you sew. Run scrap fabric under the machine after oiling to prevent oil on your sewing.

Keep thread clippers (snips) and a stitch ripper on the sewing machine bed.

ALWAYS put machine feet back into in the same location when they aren’t being used.

Use a stitch length that is short enough to hold the seam, long enough to rip if needed.

Testing the machine’s settings by sewing fabric scraps left from cutting ensures that the garment will be sewn well.

Test the sewing machine’s settings by sewing scraps before beginning to sew the garment.

Check for broken needles. This is when the needle has a burr on its point. It gives a clunking sound as it sews.

Seams in high-end French clothing are frequently overcast with narrow zigzagging, as shown here. Zigzagging gives a higher-end finish than overcasting with a serger sewing machine. It’s faster, and costs less because it uses less thread.









Three pairs of black pants, cut and ready to be sewn. Grosgrain ribbon, shown on the right, will back the waistbands. The first pair of pants is solid black, the second pair has white vertical stripes, the third pair has narrow red vertical stripes.



Sew the same color garments at the same time

Prep the seam allowances. Zigzag with a small zigzag as done in France. This saves considerable thread, plus time threading an overlock (serger).

Chaining through, shown here, speeds sewing and saves thread. Sewing each of the three pants’ shields at once speeds the sewing as well.

When starting a new seam, sew over a scrap first to prevent thread tangles at the beginning of the seam.

Set zippers first. Here the pant’s center front zipper seam is first overcasting  with small zigzagging before sewing in the zipper. Laurel always refers to her instructions when setting zippers.










Set the zipper into the garment first, or as soon as possible

Setting zippers as soon as possible is easier because one is dealing at the machine with only the garment’s pieces to which the zipper is sewn. In the industry operators set 500 zippers a day without even pinning. They can do this because they are using professional sewing methods that work. These zipper setting procedures are in Laurel’s books. All that is needed, even for invisible zipper sets, is a narrow snap-on or standard zipper foot.

To prevent a twist in the garment, sew all vertical seams from the hem up. Sew notch-to-notch. Control the seam as you sew, to prevent the feed-dog taking the bottom ply through the machine faster than the top ply.

When sewing straight seams, use a straight-stitch foot to prevent jamming the fabric in the race. Keep the race free of dust.

Fix mistakes as you go.

Save handwork, hemming, etc, for when you are watching TV at night.

Don’t sew when tired. If something goes terribly wrong, stop, take a break, wait awhile. When you return with fresh eyes the problem may not be so bad. It may even innovate a new look or idea.

Hurry up! Santa’s coming!  – Laurel
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© Laurel Hoffmann, 2019.

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