7 Ways You Can Find More Time To Sew

Pincushion watch

For me one of the biggest barriers to sewing has always been finding the time. In my mind I need to have 2-3 hours of continuous, uninterrupted time that I can carve out before even sitting down at my machine.  But by using simple strategies I have found that I can actually get some work on a sewing project whenever I have as little as half and hour to spare.

With a husband, three kids, and a dog I realize that I sometimes do more daydreaming about sewing than actual sewing. But when I use the tips below I can turn sewing into something "done'  not just something I dream about doing.

 Tip #1 Set My Intention to Sew: It may be in the back of my mind that when I get home my reward will be to sit down at the sewing machine and sew for a while. That is totally different from setting an intention to sew. When I say to myself  "Today, Im gonna sew for one hour from 7-8pm."  I tend to take myself a bit more seriously than when the thought is just a vague idea in my head.  I find too, that when I say it out loud, or even write it down as a goal for myself, everything seems to conspire to bring it about.   Try it and see if it works for you.

Vintage woman at sewing machine

Tip #2 Make Sewing A Priority:  This tip is a sister to the one above.  I don't need to tell you that as mothers, wives, entrepreneurs and/or employees we don't consistently set ourselves, or what we want to do, as a priority in our lives.  Most of the time I used to feel like if I got myself home from work, got everybody fed, got the dog walked and spent a few minutes watching my husband watch TV, that I had a pretty successful day.  But that really is only part of the story.

The real story is that I fell in love with sewing when I was five years old and  watched my grandmother on her old Singer treadle machine.   Seven vintage sewing machines,  4 large bins of fabric and two dress forms later, its time to make this passion a priority. And no one is going to give me permission to do this for myself but me.

Tip #3: Organize, Organize,  Organize The Project:  When I get ready to start a sewing project it helps me to break it down into manageable steps.  If Im organized I find that I can pick up a project from where I left off whenever I have  some spare time in my day.  I think of a sewing project as having 3 steps, with many sub-steps inside. The three steps are:

  • Prep or pre-sewing
  • Sewing
  • the Wrap-Up
Image of woman cutting fabric

These are all of the tasks I do before I actually sit down at the sewing machine.  And while sewing at the machine is the actual best part for me, if I have all of my sewing supplies organized I can get a lot of pleasure out of the prep phase, too.  Prepping is when you:

  • Select the fabric from your stash
  • Press the wrinkles out of your fabric
  • Cut out the pattern
  • Pin the pattern to the fabric
  • Cut out the fabric
  • Transfer the markings from the pattern to the fabric

If you think about it, each of these can often be completed in an hour or less.  And they each can have their own fun factor, if you look at it that way.  Completing a step that helps you make progress in your larger project is very fulfilling and satisfies the "spending some time on me" need that we all have.

Sewing at a machine

This step needs no explanation!  Fun, Fun, Fun!

Sewing Notions
This step comes after most of your sewing project is complete and there are just a few little odds and ends left to do.  Odds and ends might make these tasks sound unimportant, but really this is the step where some of the decisions you make will effect the quality of the overall statement that your project makes. Some of the parts of the wrap-up step are:
  • Button selection 
  • Buttonhole crafting
  • Hemming
  • Final Press
Each of the wrap-up steps could use their own  post related to time-saving, but like the tasks in the prep step, they can each be broken down into smaller tasks that allow you to complete them in an hour or less.
Thats it for now I will cover the last four steps in my next post.

The Simple Beauty of Ironing


Kansas is flat.  So level, that when I looked out my grandmother’s kitchen window I could see my elementary school, Parkdale, like it was right next door.   Monday was washday at my grandmother’s.  I remember scalding hot water, Octagon soap, bluing and a manual wringer that could crush a finger to bits if you were unlucky enough to get a hand in the way.

I helped my grandma put the still steaming laundry on the line after they were wrung out to near-dry.  The tea towels and handkerchiefs were mine to hang. Drying time was 7 minutes tops for those items in the hot Kansas summer sun. The irises, lilacs and roses danced on the fabric of my grandmother’s shirtwaist dresses, gently sweeping the grass as they hung on the line.  The dresses piled in the clothes basket when dry carried the same sweet smell of grass, and wind and summer.

Tuesday was for ironing, and it would take up the entire day. My grandmother set up the ironing board in the dining room. She threw the windows wide open and turned on our one large fan full blast.  She started the ironing with the household items; the tablecloths the napkins and sheets.  She’d move on from there to my grandfather’s dress shirts and his handkerchiefs.

As the afternoon began to wind down she would spend the last part of the day on her flowered dresses, lovingly and expertly pressing every pleat straight and every collar until it was standing at attention as if it had a mind of its own.

My grandmother’s dresses wore well and some were decades old by the time I was born.  But the flowers were still bright, the hems still straight, the buttons still tight.

Now, everything is so chaotic. Too many things to handle at once. Grandma never rushed. As I grow older, I want the luxury of returning to a time when life is a slower and steadier.  I learned the lesson you taught me grandma, there’s a time and place for everything. And I will always do my best to get it right the first time.




From Suede Jacket to Funky Tote Bag

I am continuing my commitment to working  with recycled fabric and recycled leather. I am trying to work with suede, which I originally thought would be an unforginving material to work with, but it has proven to be more forgiving than regular leather.

I started out to create a tote bag.  I have been working to improve my craft by working with the wonderful team of Richard and Linda Manigault at HMDH Academy .  There are amazing designers and have a school for serious handbag students.

I started with this nicely worn suede jacket which I bought from a thrift store.

Using my seam ripper I disassembled the jacket, following the seam lines.

Then I created a pattern.


Since there were elements on the front of the jacket that I wanted to maintain, like the pockets,  I copied the main pattern piece onto clear plastic so that I could get the placement I wanted on the jacket front.

I folded my see-through pattern in half and laid it out on the part of the jacket front that I wanted to be the front of the tote bag.

 The front of the jacket was not long enough to make the tote front so I ended up sewing the sleeve to the bottom of the bag.  Unlike leather, suede has a nap so you have to be sure to assemble your pieces so that the nap all runs in the same direction.

I cut out the right front of the tote and then I turned the see-through pattern over and cut out the left side of the bag.

Here are the front pieces. I was able to mainain the pockets

I sewed the front together and then went back and topstitched to reinforce that front seam.

There was some puffing out of the suede in the front.  I used some light seam and interfacing to work that out of the front of my tote.

Then I sewed up the bottom. Bag bottoms used to be difficult for me to get right but there are so many helpful videos on Youtube that have helped me out with that.

I added an Ankara lining with an inside zipper pocket.

Here is the finished bag!

I’m happy with it.

Here is the BEFORE and AFTER!


From Suede Jacket to Funky Pillow

I have been rolling around in my mind, the idea of doing a pillow for my best friend, for a while.  I thought it would be fun to do something a little different before launching into the spring bag making frenzy.  My BF and I have very different tastes so I wanted to come up with something that I thought she would like.  When we were in World Market one day she told me that she wanted a red pillow.  So I knew that color would provide the basis for the pillow I would craft.

She’s big on quality and is quite fond of the earth, so I knew she would appreciate my desire to create something that was made from high-quality recycled material.

I chose this vibrant red suede jacket.

Red Suede Jacket

Many hours of labor later this funky pillow was born!

Red suede Pillow - After

Read the Stitch Story here.

Highland Park – “Arts in the Park” Arts Festival

Sunday was a wonderful sunny day in central NJ. Maggie and I got out there early and set up.   Most of what was on display were the wonderful infinity scarves and “scoodies” that Maggie has spent the last month creating.


I only had one thing to display – the “I Love Paris” skirt.   I put it on a dress form, with a denim jacket and a cami, and figured I’d take orders from anyone who was interested in one just like it.


I was pleasantly surprised at the interest it generated!!

Here are some more pictures of Maggie’s beautiful items.


img_0735 img_0737

She also makes gorgeous mosaic tables!




From Old Leather Coat to Trendy Leather Tote

I followed Don Morin’s “Making Leather Bags” course on Craftsy and created this fabulous leather bag.  This coat’s Stitch Story starts way before I met it at a local thrift store and gave it a new life. The coat had a decidedly 80’s style.

One of the most challenging aspects of making this bag was constructing the rouleaux handles.  In order to construct the handles it takes 2 strips of leather about 30 inches long, two small  pieces of leather to be used as tabs to cover the ends of the handles, and cording for the inside of the handles.

The cording is placed inside of the leather strips, which is folded over the cording and then stitched on the outside.


Slits are made in the tabs, the rouleaux handles are placed on the body of the bag, through the slits and the tabs are then sewn down.



This is done before the two sides of the bag are sewn together.   The result is a beautiful custom handle on a one-of-a-kind bag.


The result is a beautiful custom handle on a one-of-a-kind bag!

Got an old coat you’d like to see re-tooled into a stylish trendy tote?


The I Love Paris Skirt

I fell in love with this fabric when shopping in the Fabric District in NY a few weeks ago.  I am reminded of cafes, long afternoons at sidewalk cafes with friends, Girls Night Out and summer fun.

This gently pleated skirt is made with the Paris-inspired fabric surrounded by black scuba/neoprene at the top which gives the waistband plenty of stretch and a wide border of cheery, cherry-red twill which adds plenty of body to the skirt.

Skirt with Paris Theme

Perfect for fall with a Gap Jean Jacket!


It looks GOOD at the Deepak Chopra Center at the upscale ABC Carpet and Home in NY.


Would like like one in your size?  Check out the etsy link soon!


Willy Otey Kay – Couture Dress Designer on Exhibit in North Carolina

“You have to like what you do, no matter what it is, to make a success of it.”    —Willie Otey Kay

Willie Otey Kay was a North Carolina native who walked the color line in expert fashion to live her Stitch Story. For more than 60 years Mrs. Kay created debutante gowns, wedding dresses and fancy ball gowns for North Carolina’s elite.  She was sought after by both black and white patrons and was careful to split her time 50-50 between the two communities.

She and her sisters created breath-taking one-of-a-kind dresses. An exhibit of works is on view now at the North Carolina Museum of History