The Free Motion Quilting Project: Finding Time to Quilt

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Finding Time to Quilt

Are you having trouble finding the time to get on your sewing machine this week?

After writing yesterday's post on fear I realized a big reason why I didn't quilt a lot last year was because it just didn't feel FUN to be on the machine. Every time I sat down all the different worries and indecision would stir up and I'd practically run out out of the room just to escape it all.

Working on this quilt along each week is certainly kicking my butt into gear and back into the studio on a daily basis, which is exactly what I'm wanting.

But how about you? Are you finding this easy and fun, or a dreaded torture session?

Part of the reason why it might feel like torture is because it either doesn't feel fun, or it feels like practicing free motion is taking time away from your other projects.

We all have busy schedules and lots of things to do, yet we're all quilters who need a certain amount of time working with fabric in order to be happy!

The trick is finding time to do it ALL: time to work on the projects you're really passionate about AND get a chance to practice some free motion work too.

So here's a list of 5 things you can do to have more time for quilting:

1. Stop cleaning so much - Will the world really end if there is dust on the TV stand? Will your house be reduced to cinders if the dishes don't get washed? Will your kids become delinquents if they have to wash their own laundry? No, no no!

I decided long ago that getting a quilt top together was far more important than if my house was clean and tidy. While it's no fun to live in a pigsty, a little dirt never hurt anyone. If it's a choice between 30 minutes to quilt or 30 minutes to vacuum the floor, pick quilting this time. Chances are the floor will just get dirty tomorrow anyway, so why bother cleaning it today?

2. Turn off the TV - Not everyone will agree with me on this one, but I find TV to be the biggest waste of brain power and time in our modern lives. Keep a journal this week and keep track of how many hours you watch TV. Think about how even half of those hours could have been spent if you'd been quilting instead of watching TV.

Turn it off for an entire week and take that time to quilt instead. Chances are you'll feel better and accomplish a lot with quilting at the same time.

3. Balance Responsibilities with your Spouse - I can't count the number of times I've met a quilter who's said something like "I don't have time to quilt in the evening because by the time I pull out my machine and get everything set up, it's time to make dinner."

I always want to ask - Why can't your husband cook? Why can't your kids take a night to learn how make a meal? Why do YOU always have to drop everything to feed your family?
Maybe it's because I'm from a different generation, but I would resent my husband if he expected me to put a meal on the table every night. We take turns and balance this responsibility and many others so we both have time for the hobbies we enjoy.

4. Create a Dedicated Quilting Space - If you have to pull out a machine from the closet, pull out your project from a bin, spread everything out on the table, plug in your machine, sit down, get comfortable - all in order to be able to take a single stitch - how likely are you to do this on a daily basis? Wouldn't it be easier to just be able to walk into a room and turn on a light and turn on your sewing machine?

A dedicated sewing space doesn't have to be huge. This is a photo of my sewing and quilting space in the apartment Josh and I lived in before buying our house:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
I had literally 4 feet of space to sew in. There wasn't any other option in our 500 square foot apartment - this was it! So instead of bemoaning my lack of space, I optimized it. I installed drawers in the tables, built shelving on the wall, searched for and found furniture that fit perfectly into the space.

Even though it was small, I loved that space because it was the first time in my life that I could walk up to my sewing machine, turn it on, and start sewing. I didn't have to pull it out of the closet or plug it in - it was always ready to go.

5. Have a Dedicated Prep Day - Just like with cooking, having a day to get the dull, necessary tasks out of the way is a big help for the rest of the week or month. Use this day to clean up your space, hang up and organize your fabric, pull out fabrics for your next quilt and get them prewashed and ready to go.

Also use this day to baste whatever quilt or practice sandwich you're playing with this week. You can save even more time by making several practice sandwiches at once. This way it's as easy as pulling out a practice sandwich and starting to quilt.

The less work involved GETTING to the task
means you'll spend more time DOING the task.

Whew! I guess there really is one more tip for finding more time to quilt - GET OFF THE COMPUTER! LOL!

It's high time I shut up and cleaned up my quilting space. See you tomorrow for Quilt Along #3!

Let's go quilt,



  1. Yes, you caught me at the end. It's "get off the computer" for me.

  2. AGREED!
    My husband does almost ALL our cooking!

    I also have a question about basting. Do you exclusively baste with pins only? Do you ever spray baste or, after pinning, thread baste? If so, when.


  3. Looks like you hit the nail on the head, first the fear factor, then the time factor . . . just excuses . . . but it also helps to have a friend to kick start you every now and then. Love reading your posts . . . I can so relate to what you say. Thanks again . . . I'm going to make some time to do this!!

  4. some wonderful posts! and i totally agree! drives me crazy when people say they don't have time for baking/scrapbooking/exercise/friends/quilting...and yet can't wait to discuss the latest episode of desperate bachelors in csi new york. if it means something to you...make the time! thanks for saying it in black and white! now the computer...that's a different story! lol! happy day, leah!

  5. Glad you got to mentioning the computer, Leah - my biggest time waster by far!

  6. I agree as well!! I'm lucky to have a husband who encourages me to find the time & space to quilt! :) Finishing up my sewing tonight for Quilt Along #2 - Once I finished the practice piece assigned, I jumped right in and started to practice on a quilt I made and tied and hung when we first moved into our house... Quilt's 10 years old and finally quilted - almost!!! I think by the end of the year all my older 'tied' quilts will have a new and exciting look! Leah, thanks for sharing your talents with us - the world is a 'Quiltier' place because of you! :)

  7. I agree with all but the TV! LOL Netflix is my best friend when I am working! I throw on Law ans Order and it plays while I sew. Now it is just background noise, but I love to have it going!!

  8. Thank you for the encouragement. I haven't quilted or sewn in quite awhile because I don't have a space set up. What an emotional roller coaster. Thanks for the kick in the pants to get a space set up (no matter how small) that is completely my own!

  9. Forget that one!!!

  10. I think you're bang on. I actually have the tv on while I quilt - listening to shows. My husband is totally 50/50 with getting stuff done b/c he knows he can't sit down until I can. Lately in the evenings after the kids are in bed I go quilt for about an hour and a 1/2 and he plays on his computer, and then we reconvene for a bit of dessert or something before bed. It's a good balance.
    In our old townhouse I bought a used sewing cabinet that I could tuck my machine into during the day, and it was a small crowded space, but it made it so much easier when I wanted to work on a project. You're right, when you need to pull everything out it's just easier not to. Thanks!

  11. Wow Leah I am staring to think you are reading my mind.....
    First the fear chat, and now the make time chat that is sooo me(usuall)

    Today however I am on holidays and it is killing me (well not really ) but I am dying to have a go at the FMQ but the machines at home.... Finally I have

  12. Such a PRACTICAL bunch of suggestions! Thank you! I'm going to note them in my journal for putting into practice pronto!!

  13. This is a great post - especially #1 and #2. Also have found breaking things into small chunks is helpful, especially if you have a dedicated space. Work for 15-30 mins, then leave it to come back to later.

    Now, if I could just figure out how to not have to take time to eat....

  14. My kids are grown and have kids, so we don't have to put food on the table nightly in the same way. However, when I get home from work, I change clothes, look at the mail, love the pug and say hi to my husband if he is working at home. Then I go to my sewing room and sew, cut, whatever, until I am tired. My husband fixes most dinners while he finishes work for the day. Bliss. I get lots finished this way. Thanks for your blog!

  15. These are all great tips - I agree with everything here. The get off the computer needs its own number, because that is my biggest time waster.

  16. I find I am on the comuter alot...but...I have learnt so much from so many on line. If not for the internet and watching you FMQ on your sewing machine I would have never attempted it...thank goodness for the internet! I do find if I quilt I try and take breaks and do quick house cleaning...throw a load of laundry in...or put the dishes in the dish washer. If I have to unload dish washer I do it in several breaks.

  17. Great advice Leah, esp #1 (I've been using that one for years!)

  18. I love reading your blog. I have picked up so many great tips for my free motion quilting. I have been so inspired, I started a blog too :) Oh, btw, I agree with the comments about the TV. I leave it on for background noise, mostly CNN or MSNBC until the stories start repeating then I put on some good crime documentaries. I wish I could do the quilt along, but I just don't have the extra time when I am home. I tend to use it all on whatever project I am working on. Thanks again!

  19. One of the best things that has happened to me is I broke my leg in 2001 and I couldn't cook, so the kids took it over. Different kids cooking now, but I rarely do the cooking. As a homeschooling family we learned long ago that with kids home 24/7 the house is never clean. There is a level of mess where I have to stop and clean but the standard is not too demanding. Thank you for this blog!

  20. And yes, a dedicated sewing space works wonders for what you can get done. We took in a 6 1/2 ft x 32 ft porch we never closet, cutting table, sewing machine desk, ironing board and design walls. And loads of natural light.

  21. When my teenage daughter wanted to have a few friends sleepover, I booked a local inexpensive hotel room for myself and had a whole night of sewing while watching TV with no interruptions or noise. I highly recommend a solo getaway night by taking off with your machine and checking into a hotel. I've done it twice since because I'm in the middle of a major house reno and I don't have my own sewing room....YET!!

  22. My housework has already been let go, hubby has volunteered to do the dishes now. My biggest problem is lots of physical pain on a permanent basis due to arthritis. Somedays as much as I want to, I just can't sew at the machine, but I do have my on sewing room and have my next projects all set out for when I can do feel little bit better and found a rolling cart at a yard sale that I have all my embroidery stuff on that I sit next to my couch so if my hands are up for it, I can do handwork while resting. I finished a major queen sized quilt right after Christmas and was hoping to get into some fun smaller projects this year and then promptly got tendonitis in my rt. elbow. I need to read about sewing to keep me inspired for my good days. Thanks for the post!


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