No Time to Sew?

“I don’t have time…” We’ve all said it. Maybe that’s the point. We aren’t meant to fit it all in.

Every time we travel I ponder the pace of life. There used to be a time where people didn’t fill every moment with something. It was marked by times and seasons. Spring, summer and autumn were busier with planting, tending and harvesting. If you have tended a garden you know that after harvest, your garden life comes to a halt. Snow comes, and your time outside slows. In modern life, this may also be true as well. Travel, travel, travel in the warmer months, then slowing for the winter.

Our family has been looking for property in another state to have a permanently slower pace of life. We live near an airport (4th busiest in our state), and a major street. We’ve lived in this house for many years…it was much quieter when we moved in. Then we started traveling, and were bitten by the slower pace of life bug. You may be in the same boat, you also may really enjoy city life. Either way, there are principles of a slower pace that ought to be employees across the board.

One thing my husband and I have tried to convey to our teens is not having to fill each moment with something. Just this morning I was thinking about some of the better things that came from covid (I am not in anyway saying that the illness was a good thing): we INSTANTLY slowed down. Suddenly we had time on our hands. Our family implemented a daily walk; this was one of the best habits we’ve kept, and influences our property hunt. I have noticed that people suddenly have less time for the things that we did during covid time. It’s sort of like when you’re camping, and you don’t have every moment filled. I have noticed that because of the rest time, we experience rejuvenation. Then we return to our homes, and  the stress starts all over again. What if we actually built in a practice of slowing down. Put our phones down, and did something slower.

I’m a huge fan of English paper piecing because I’m naturally high strung, and it forces me to slow down, but you can do the same thing with Foundation paper piecing as well. If you have been around Fiona Sandwich for a while, you may notice that I don’t do videos as much as I used to. The biggest reason is sewing is my decompressing time. It’s part of my quiet time. Sometimes my kids come and talk with me, and we connect. My sewing time – either EPP or FPP is purposeful. The majority of my day is filled with focused brain time, and to have that time to….ahhhh….relax…slow down…breathe…reconnect with my thoughts…or connect with my family, is one of the most important things I can do in my life.

A few years ago, I removed social media from my phone. It was hard at first. What do I do with my time?!?! I started EPPing in the evenings. I have a light behind where I sit on the couch, so I can see what I’m stitching. A few years before that, I stopped using my computer after 7pm (I discovered I sleep better). Recently, I slipped back into a habit of using social media in the evenings. It became a ‘thief of joy’. Not so much the comparison of others’ highlight reel, but the pace of mindlessly scrolling. Then it dawned on me: I hadn’t been sewing anything in the evenings for quite a while. I crave quiet spaces (probably because of all the noise and hubbub), and I hadn’t built it into my day. We have to be so purposeful about slowing down in our incredibly fast paced life! My point with all this is, we DO have time to do the things that renew us…we have been distracted. It dawned on me some time ago, “I don’t need to know everything going on. I can’t control it, but I can control my time.” This little shift really helped me.

Here are some tips that I have found: I don’t do it all. I prioritize what is most important, then do things in batches. I would consider myself a batch sewer: I print out 12+ patterns and let them sit on my sewing table until I have time (there it is again) to pull fabrics. (As a side note: Allison has ALL my patterns printed, and put them in a binder, so when she has time or inspiration hits, the patterns are ready to go. This is SO SMART!!!) If you are just starting with my patterns, it might take you longer to pull fabrics, than if you have been making my illustrated blocks for some time. Generally at this step I will listen to a podcast or something. I have found that I prefer to not over think the colors I choose – when I do, I don’t care for the result as much. I typically pull fabrics for 4-5 blocks at a time…mostly because I get bored. TIP: if you are short on time, or this stresses you out, set a timer. Start with 15 minutes.

I stack the fabric, make notes on the pattern for what colors go where, then that stack may live on my sewing table for a bit.

Sew in incremental time. Start with 15 minutes. You may not feel very accomplished in the moment, but like interest, it compounds. You might look at a whole quilt and think, “400 blocks!? I need to make 400 blocks!?!?” (or however many you need for a quilt top), and never get started. But if you give yourself 15 min…or a half hour every day, or a few times a week, you will soon have blocks for a whole quilt.

I am also an out of sight, out of mind type person, so I use clear boxes to store what I’m currently working on. As an added bonus, if you have patterns printed out, and fabric selected, then you are ready for a trip!

Here are some more ideas:

When my kids were little, they wanted to play outside/ride bikes, and I wanted to sew. Sometimes all you need are a few out of the box ideas (and I absolutely did these): take your stuff outside and sew!! I cut fabric (rotary cutter and all) outside…prepped the blocks…English paper piecing is awesome because it’s portable!
– Take your sewing machine outside! Or get a treadle machine (they aren’t that hard to use, and there are a few that are lighter and more portable than the all cast iron ones). Set it up in your garage. Who cares what the neighbors think?!
– Convert a vintage/antique Singer to a handcrank machine. I am a huge fan of the Singer 99. It’s a similar size to the ever popular Featherweight…minus the hefty price tag. There are even aluminum 99’s or 99 clones, which make them lighter! You may need to get a spoked hand wheel if your new to you 99 doesn’t come with one, but then you’ll be able to sew outside anytime! (PS – a picture of a handcrank is in the image above)
– Leave your sewing machine set up. Then you can sew in 5 or 15 minute increments. It might not feel like much, but all that time adds up! This goes for EPP and FPP: SEW WHEN YOU CAN. I really like EPP because if I’m waiting somewhere, I can sew for a few minutes. It really does add up.
– Put your phone down. This was the biggest time suck for me. In fact, this summer, my son asked why I didn’t have a large garden when they were younger. Partly it was because they wanted to play at the park or needed my attention, but truly I wasted an incredible amount of time on social media. My days are far more fulfilled now with social media off my phone.
– Change your mindset. I also noticed that when I stopped telling myself I didn’t have time to ______, I began to have time! It’s not because I design patterns for a living that I have time…I homeschool my kids, scouts for both, travel, garden, etc (Do you know that I write 6 patterns per month!? That’s a LOT of time!)…I had to change my mindset. I tell myself that I have time to do the things I want to do.

I asked the gals in my Quilt Along group if they had tips; they had some fantastic suggestions:
Set aside 20 minutes every day at the same time, so it becomes your personal time for you to do something for your well-being. – Julia

Put your projects in baggies. Put the patterns and fabric in the baggies so when you a few minutes, you can sew. – Libby & Erin

Not always an option but I know if I can keep my machine set up somewhere for a while I can use the set up/ clean up time to squeeze in a little more quilting. – Sarah

I definitely got more done when it was at the far end of my 12′ table. Still room for family dinner and I could leave my stuff out. – Allison

If you have multiple people in your household, coordinate your hobby time. My husband and kids love playing video games, and their gaming area is adjacent to my sewing room. Even though we’re doing different things, we’re still all together, and I get built-in sewing time. – Nina

I usually sew at night after the kids have gone to bed, while dh and I watch TV together. We’re in the same room spending time together, but I also multitask by sewing or cross stitching (if I don’t have something to do I end up falling asleep 😴) – Ashley

What are some things that you can do to slow down, and experience the rejuvenation? Build it into your daily life! Let me know in the comments!

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