In this article, you’ll learn about quilting time management. Rushing can cause quilters to work at sewing machines, sometimes in painful positions, for hours on end. That’s not great for your body and health! It can also cause stress when trying to meet deadlines. Pacing and managing your time proactively can help. Keep reading for four tips and tools for managing your time!
Having lived with chronic pain since my teens, I know pacing and time management skills are essential to staying well — especially as we do lots of repetitive tasks. That’s why time management and pacing strategies are a big part of my wellness coaching for quilters!
While you might whip up a simple baby quilt in an afternoon (Adventureland, shown above, is a great option), you might spend months or years working on an heirloom. For example, I once made an English paper-pieced quilt consisting of 2,752 one-inch hexies, hand-pieced and hand-bound with a facing. I estimate I spent about 1,500 hours on that quilt over the course of five years.
You can see how those hours (and the physical toll on our bodies) add up fast. But I’ve got you covered! Let’s look at the risks of poor pacing and time management and the benefits of developing good habits and skills. Then I’ll share all of my favorite strategies!
Risks of Poor Quilting Time Management
When we’re not managing our time well, we experience emotional upset. We might feel disappointed in our productivity, fail to finish gifts in time for special occasions, miss important work deadlines, or live in a perpetual state of feeling “behind.”
Poor pacing causes fatigue, pain and injury, which in turn minimizes the amount of time we spend on our craft – or even stops us from quilting. Some of us (I’m sheepishly raising my hand!) have ignored our body’s signals long enough that we need physical therapy, occupational therapy, or medication to get well. We might also make costly cutting mistakes, or even cut or burn ourselves while rushing.
Yikes! The risks are big. When we struggle we become self-critical, thinking “I’m not good at this” or “my body is so uncooperative.” These thoughts lead to a crumbling sense of confidence and creativity, and in the worst cases cause folks to quit quilting. Many of my coaching clients face this challenge when we begin our work.
Benefits of Good Quilting Time Management
When we’re managing our time well, we feel confident, productive, and creative. We compare ourselves to others less often, and we’re able to focus on the work.
Our bodies reward good pacing strategies by feeling rested, supported and capable. Even if we overdo it occasionally, we recover quickly from fatigue and soreness. When we honor our body’s needs, we create a positive feedback loop telling our conscious and subconscious minds that we’re worthy of care.
So…how do we change? By taking consistent action over time, starting with putting at least one new strategy into place today. Here are my favorite tips and tools!
Tip #1: Use Technology for Time Management
We can use timers to pace ourselves while we’re quilting, browsing online for patterns, or scrolling through Instagram for inspiration. I usually work in 20-minute increments with 2-minute breaks for about an hour, then take a one-hour break, then start the cycle again. By using these tools you’ll discover your best work cycle:
- BreakTime app for iOS and Mac is my favorite way to set pacing breaks.
- Forest is an app for iOS and Android devices and all browsers that encourages focus and productivity through growing a digital forest. And the best part is that Forest has teamed up with a tree-planting organization and planted nearly 1.5 million real trees!
- This Norpro manual kitchen timer might not be high-tech, but it’s a classic for a reason.
We can use other kinds of technology to support good time management, too:
- Setting up recurring calendar appointments that delineate quilting and break time. This ensures we’re intentional with crafting time instead of procrastinating or hoping we’ll “just find time” to quilt.
- Creating a music playlist that’s one hour long and committing to a break when the music ends.
Tip #2: Get Your Quilt Projects Organized and Stay Organized
I am a huge fan of a good organizational system. While getting organized can seem like a daunting task, once you’ve got a good system in your sewing space that works, you’ll love it. Getting and staying organized means less time feeling stressed about your projects, less time spent searching your sewing space for tools or fabric, and more time to sew and rest!
Here are some resources that can help you on your path to organization:
Tip #3: Use Quilting Skills and Tools to Your Advantage
Time-saving techniques and tools also cut down the time needed to quilt. For example, Suzy offers a no-waste flying geese tutorial to create four blocks at once. And her eight-at-a-time half square triangle tutorial makes quick work of HSTs.
This rotating cutting mat enables you to quickly rotate blocks during trimming. It also prevents you from laboriously needing to rotate each block or twerk your body to make the cuts
Simply practicing techniques we use regularly also boosts efficiency. If you want to become good at free-motion quilting, for example, make a bunch of mini quilt sandwiches and spend 15 minutes a day practicing.
Tip #4: Develop Strong Habits and Quilting Routines
By practicing a little bit every day, we create positive outcomes in our quilting. Here are just some ideas for good quilting habits and routines!
- Developing a good stretching routine (and doing a few during breaks) supports our physical health. Check out PBS Wisconsin’s Quick Fit with Cassy, which offers a variety of videos for quilters (including this guide to hip and low back stretches).
- Breaking work into a variety of tasks within a quilting session (instead of mono-tasking) reduces the chance of repetitive strain injury. For example: instead of cutting for three hours, spend one hour pressing, one hour cutting, and 30 minutes each on pinning and sewing.
- Paying attention to when you feel most creative and well-rested — and then quilting during those times — ensures you’ll feel your best and be less likely to make costly or dangerous mistakes. I gave up late-night quilting after a sleepy near-miss with a rotary cutter — eek!
- Reframing “success” to be less productivity-focused and more satisfaction-focused is essential. What you can accomplish in an hour will vary compared to another quilter. What you can accomplish from one day to the next will also vary. That’s okay! Reframing “success” is hands-down one of my favorite empowering time management and pacing strategies for quilters.
What Are Your Quilting Time Management Tips?
Now that you know my favorite strategies, which one will you try first? Jump in the comments and let us know!