May 142013

Lolita Patterns | Tips for Efficient Sewing


My mom was a factory sewer.  I don’t remember how many dresses she would sew a day but she only got paid $2/dress so it had to be a lot of dresses.  Keep in mind this was the 80’s so wages were different and she only did a portion of the sewing.  Another person did the cutting, another person did the serging, another clipped thread, etc.  Regardless, she cranked out lots of dresses in a day.  In factory sewing they did things that minimized waste in terms of time and material.  The following are a few tricks that I picked up from factory sewing that I apply to home sewing.

No Pins

Lolita Patterns | Tips for Efficient Sewing

As I mentioned in my previous post on Dual Duty Tools my mom doesn’t own pins.  At the speed of which she sewed she didn’t have the time stop and take out pins.  Her machines can sew a yard in a split second, so pins would be very dangerous if her needle hit it.   She used clip marks to match up the pieces.  This can be done with home sewing patterns also if they have proper notches, which ours do.

Also with matching prints, pins work against you because of the uneven feeding to the top and bottom layer of fabrics with many home sewing machines.  I sewed this striped fabric as the machine feeds it.  Notice how at the top the stripes match perfectly.

Lolita Patterns | Tips for Efficient Sewing

Towards the bottom the stripes are off.

Lolita Patterns | Tips for Efficient Sewing

The bottom layer feeds faster than the top on my machine because the dog feed.  To get the stripes to match, I put a little tension on the bottom layer so that it’s a bit more forward/towards you.  When it gets to the needle it hits right on.

Lolita Patterns | Tips for Efficient Sewing

Lolita Patterns | Tips for Efficient Sewing

How much more the bottom layer needs to be forward depends on the fabric and the machine.  It takes a little testing to figure it out but it’s much faster than all that pinning, basting and unpicking.

Continuous Sewing

Not sure what the exact term is but I call this continuous sewing.  What I mean is that in factory sewing you end one seam and start another with the other previous pieces is still attached to the thread.

Lolita Patterns | Tips for Efficient Sewing

Here you’re getting a sneak peak of our upcoming pattern release.  In the pic, see how I’m ending one flounce and then starting another.  Many sewers stop at each piece, pull the piece off and cut the thread.  This wastes a lot of time and thread.  You can’t always do this in home sewing because you’re not sewing a lot of the same seam but there are still plenty of opportunities to utilize this tip.

Sewing corners

In sewing corners like collar points, cuffs, plackets etc crossing the seams instead of pivoting is more efficient and accurate.  Here is the pivot scenario.  You sew down one side.  You get slow down as you get to the turn.  You put your needle down, lift your pressure foot, rotate the piece.  If you’re past the pivot point you have to unpick a bit and start again.  If you’re not quite there, you sew another stitch, ½ stitch or whatever random amount you need.  Put your needle down, lift your pressure foot, rotate.  Rinse, repeat.  If you sew straight across and then sew the other way your corners are always in the right spot.

Lolita Patterns | Tips for Efficient Sewing


Sewing multiples

No one need to produce quantities like a factory, but there are times that sewing multiples make sense.   When I’m sewing pants I’ll sew the same pair in 2 different leg lengths at a time.  Like long pants and capris or shorts.  The cutting, thread color, machine settings and construction order are the same.  You can then use your continuous sewing and sew pockets, pockets, pockets, pockets then inseam, inseam.  You get the idea.  It’s not glamorous but it’s fast.


I hope you enjoyed the efficient sewing tips and get more done in less time.  Who couldn’t use some more time in their day?

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  15 Responses to “Tips for Efficient Sewing”

  1. I love the no pins one – I read about that on Gertie’s blog a while back, and now I only use pins if I need to ease in curves (I just find it easier for those areas). Saves so much time!

    The continuous stitching is also called chain stitching. And is oddly satisfying to do. :-)

    I’m going to try that corners technique next time I get a chance.

    Thanks for the tips! (And looking forward to your next pattern release!)

    • Hi Kat! Sounds like you have the no pins thing down. There’s a way to ease in curves with no pins also. You have to use the bias to your advantage. I’m looking forward to the next pattern release too. Sugar Plum is a gorgeous pattern but I’m biased.

  2. Wow! What a lovely post!
    I love your (mother’s) corner tip: never tried but I bet it will come soon my fav way to sew them :)
    …and: I can’t wait to see the new pattern :)


    • You’re so sweet MammaNene. I learned these tips sewing along side my mom during her factory sewing days but she would never claim to have invented them. Sewing through is very common practice in factory sewing. Did you see the pic of Amity in the new pattern? Doesn’t she look great in it?

  3. Fabulous post, Nhi! I love the collar point tip and will really use that one. Continuous sewing I use the heck out of when making quilts but don’t think of it for garments. Another lightbulb! Thanks!

    • Art Attack, I’m so glad these tips are helpful. Do you have any tips to share? You quilters are such efficient and precise sewers; I can learn a lot from you. I don’t quilt but Amity does. Her pieces always matches perfectly. And the wonderful instructions for the scallop hem on the Fuchsia pattern, she also took from her quilting bag of tricks.

  4. Love your tips! Very interesting stuff, keep it coming =)

  5. I don’t use pins all that much, and try to just match up the edges and go for it, but I have to say, seeing how well you can keep the stripes so well lined up means that there’s a lot of skill involved too. I’m sure you get a really good feel for how much pressure to use over many many many pieces!

    • You’re so right Ms. McCall, fabric handling is a skill built over time with lots of hands on practice. The industrial machines don’t feed unevenly like home machines, that helps a lot too.

  6. More great tips–could you please comment on how to sew without pins on knits or stretch wovens? Maybe as another post? :)
    Wouldn’t putting tension on the bottom layer stretch it out, if it was a stretch woven or knit?
    (I’m also taking Janet Pray’s Craftsy class where she demonstrates the technique, but it’s on a woven. The way she holds the fabric is a little different than yours, but has the same net effect–that there is tension on the bottom layer to keep the feed dogs from moving it through the machine so quickly).

    Love how you demoed it with stripes, to show how holding it really makes a big difference!

    • Kyle, with a stretch woven or a knit you have to use less tension. Much less. This tip is actually easier with stretch wovens and knits because you have more variability in the tension than on a woven. I’m definitely planning on writing more tips.

  7. Great tips! I was wondering if you need to back stitch when sewing corners? It doesn’t look like you did in the photo, but I wanted to ask to be sure. Thanks!

    • No, I don’t back stitch. There isn’t a lot of tension on the seams that would cause them to pull apart so back stitching isn’t necessary.

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