How do you find time for patchwork?

I am the world’s best procrastinator, always moaning that I don’t have time to stitch,  so I just had to find out how Judy found time to make the “Animal”  print quilt on such short notice. 

I knew she used a system  to give herself  “permission”  to spend time on her patchwork hobby everyday but had never thought a great deal about it until today, when I asked her to explain how it worked.

Judy said:  “I call it the “Cleaning-Sewing Combo“.  I divide my time into two parts – one half hour for sewing and the next half hour for housework, or any other chore that needs to be done. The sewing half hour is always from 1/4 to the hour until 1/4 past the hour and the household half hour is from 1/4 past the hour to 1/4 to the hour”

I asked why she had chosen to split the hour in this way and she replied:

” I am usually working in the one place when I am sewing so I can listen to the news on the radio, on the hour. It helps to keep me informed and up to date with world events.”

We agreed that a half hour spent sewing did not sound like very much time but Judy went on to say:

“This works if you have your projects organised. I sort everthing I need to make the quilt (jumper or embroidery) into it’s own bag and I mean everything … scissors, pin cushion, needles, quick unpick as well as the pattern and fabrics.”

Judy's collection of fabrics & tools sorted into a "fat quarter" bag, ready and waiting for her to start work

I asked how many projects she had sorted in this way:

“Well, I work on 7 projects each week, one for each day. At the start of the day I pull out the project bag for that day and do what ever needs to be done to progress the work … cut pieces, stitch pieces together, press seams, trim blocks etc. It is amazing how much you can get done when you don’t have to waste time searching for tools”

Not every project is machine piecing. Even the hand quilting ones have their own storage container

I was curious as to whether she spent the whole day in this routine:

“Only until the housework tasks that were allocated to that day are complete. As soon as the chores are dealt with the rest of the day is mine for stitching. It simply imposes a routine that means that everything gets dealt with over the week. I sort the household cleaning utensils into a portable basket, in the same way as my patchwork tools.  I don’t want to waste time looking for the the cleaners and cloths, the faster I finish the household chores the more time I have to sew!”

Wow! So how many quilts have you finished since you started using this system?

Judy responded: “An untold number, it can take me several years to finish one quilt but at the same time I may have made, and given away, a whole lot of other quilts. In 1988 I started keeping a record of the projects, just the start & finish dates, and it is interesting to look back through the book at my sewing history

When I had small children,  I would get to the end of the day and feel as if I had done nothing all day even though I knew I had been busy. The record book was a way for me to visually see that I was getting my sewing projects finished.”

A page from Judy's record book. Still a few projects waiting to be finished from 2006 but lots of quilt stamp rewards for the finished projects

Judy finished our interview with this comment:

“Half an hour may not seem like very much time, but even if you only get one block pieced, or one leaf appliqued, you are one step closer to finishing your quilt than you were 30 minutes before”

Now she has got me thinking about how I can organise my sewing projects and I am wondering if other people have a well tested method for getting their projects finished.

I would love to hear how you find time for patchwork.

3 Responses

  1. Thanks for the great idea Robyn. I am going to dedicate a half hour block every few days for cutting and sorting block units. I should have an entire quilt top cut out in no time!

  2. I likeJudy’s ideas – and especially the jounal. I do a similar “time share” system and find I get so much more done each day. I cut all the quilt pieces and have them sorted into blocks or units and keep them all ready on my sewing table ( or in larger, thin sandwiches containers ) – that way whenever I do sit down to sew its already all together and sorted so the sewing time is very focused and purposeful. It may sound like fussy pre-organising but it is surprising just how many 5 and/or 10 minute slots can be easily used when everything is all ready and waiting.

  3. I like Judy’s Idea a lot. I think I need to take a leaf out of her book 🙂 At the moment there never seems enough time to sew. Mind you I know that I spend too much time on the computer!

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