I used to have the luxury of being able to spend all weekend sewing if I felt like it. At the moment, time is in short supply and (apart from Wednesday nights) I have to snatch a few minutes during nap time to craft or sew late in the evenings. So, I have to make the most of any crafting time I have.
Do you have the same issue?
When you’ve managed to carve out some time for yourself to work on your favourite projects or indulge in your hobby, you want to maximise your crafting time and minimise fussing time.
I know, hobbies are about relaxing, taking things easy, enjoying your time and the process. But there is a difference between relaxing and mucking around because you can’t find what you need. Between feeling like you’ve accomplished something and feeling like you didn’t get into your project as much as you wanted. The tips below are for making the most of your crafting time.
Keeping track of your projects
Got lots of projects on the go? Keep seeing patterns for things that you would love to make? Too many things to do, not enough time?
One of the best ways to keep track of your project or projects is to keep a project journal.
A project journal is:
- A place to keep track of the things you want to do in the future.
- A place to jot down ideas, paste inspiring pictures, make sketches.
- A place to note down where you are up to in your current project and what you need to do next (this is particularly useful if you have several projects on the go at once or you have a lot of time between craft sessions).
- A place to journal your thoughts about your work.
- A place to explore design.
- A place to note down interesting techniques and how tos.
The best kind of project journal is a cheap scrapbook or notebook with unlined pages where you can write, draw and glue. Keep it somewhere accessible with your favourite writing materials. Give each project it’s own page or more if you need it and title and date the page for future reference.
If you prefer to work on the computer (or you have a lot of online projects), an electronic journal can either be a substitute for or compliment your paper journal. I’ve tried a few note taking applications (Evernote is the most popular free option), but I still find Microsoft’s OneNote the best and use it everyday for a variety of purposes.
Using your project journal to keep track of your project
There are two ways a project journal helps maximise craft time. The first is that at the end of your craft session, you can note down where you’re up to in your project and what you need to do next so that when you next get a crafting moment, you can check your journal and then dive right in.
I first came across this way of using a journal not from a crafter, but from a novel writer. If your hobbies tend to the more cerebral and less tactile, like writing, then a project book can be very useful to keep track of ideas.
The other way your project journal can maximise craft time is by allowing you to immerse yourself in your project at non-crafting moments, keeping the passion alive, so to speak. Maybe you can sketch patterns or jot down ideas on your commute to work. Or take notes about design while you’re cooking dinner. Or plan your crafting time while you’re waiting for your child’s nap time.
Maybe you can capture that illusive idea before you forget it.
I’ve read about keeping a creative journal for years and never gave it a go. I now find it a really useful tool to have. And there is an unexpected bonus: I find that I’m more creative now, even though I have less time, because I have a space to explore ideas, to write them down before I forget them and to just give value to those ideas that I might have otherwise not given credence to, and let them grow.
Organising your tools to maximise project time
Because time is short, I want to spend as much time as I have crafting and as little time as possible finding my tools, setting up and clearing away at the end. My solution is to store everything I need to get crafting in a large box. All I need to do is grab the box, plug in the sewing machine and away I go.
Our greengrocer gives us the option of packing our fruit and veg in boxes rather than plastic bags. As well as reducing plastic, taking home boxes means we have plenty to use around the house. Of course, you can use store bought containers with lids, but the beauty of veg boxes is that they are free, they aren’t plastic and they’re recycled (and recyclable). Of course, if you have a spare room or space where you don’t have to pack away your stuff when craft time is over, then the box isn’t needed.
The tools in my box include:
- Sewing machine
- Foot and power cord
- Extension cord
- Cutting mat
- Scissors and rotary cutter
- Spare needles
- Un-picker, extra feet, pencil etc
- Pen and paper
- Small lunchbox with hand sewing needles and thread etc
When you only have an hour to sew, you don’t want to be searching for your pins or an extension cord. In the time it takes to steep my tea, I can be all set up and ready to sew and I can have it all packed away in a couple of minutes with the dining table cleared and everything out of reach of the little fella. The box can be quickly stashed away on a shelf in the cupboard.
This same idea can work whatever your project is, although some hobbies might need a bigger box. Scrapbooking? Put all your tools together in a box. Writing a novel? Again have all the tools you need together and ready to go.
If your hobby has many small tools and parts, you may want to further organise them into small containers or compartment containers (like a fishing tackle box) to save you rummaging around looking for what you need. Use labels on your containers. If time is short, you want to be as organised as possible to maximise your project time and minimise set up and pack up time.
Organising your materials to maximise project time
Of course, as well as your tools, you need to have the materials you’re working on, your pattern, templates, and any project specific tools ready to go too. If you only work on one project at once, then keep your materials in the box with your tools.
If, on the other hand, you have several projects on the go like I do, a project bag in which to keep your materials comes in handy. Of course, an old plastic grocery bag works well, but tomorrow I will share a tutorial on how I make my project bags.
The idea is that you want to be able to grab your materials easily (along with your tools) when your crafting session starts and then store them away quickly and neatly when your crafting session is over, minimising fussing time.
I like the idea of a project bag because I can hang each bag on a coat hanger in the cupboard. Each project is neatly away and out of the reach of small hands while I’m not working on it.
Don’t forget to organise your materials within your project bag for maximum efficiency. In regards to patchwork that might mean putting each sized piece for your blocks in a separate, smaller bags. Or you may want to sort and store scrapbooking paper and embellishments in separate zip-lock bags, or whatever materials are relevant to your hobbies.
Organising your flow to maximise project time
When I quilt, particularly if I’m starting a new project, I like to make an entire block or two to see how it’s going to look. It’s exciting to watch your project unfold rather than waiting until the end to see how it’s going to look. However, when time is short, it is more efficient to batch your tasks.
As far as patchwork goes, the different tasks that go into making a quilt top include:
- prewashing and ironing fabric
- making the pattern
- cutting your fabric
- more sewing and more pressing etc
Rather than trying to do everything at once, each of these processes can be done during different craft sessions (and some at other times). When it comes to piecing a block, for instance, I don’t get the ironing board out every craft session to press my seams, I do all the sewing that I can and press the seams whenever I have the board out to iron our clothes. And then I might make the most of TV time by doing a heap of pinning so that I have pieces ready to go.
To organise your flow, think about all the tasks you need to do to complete a project and plan your craft time around each task.
But what if you’re up to cutting your fabric and you don’t feel like cutting? That’s where having more than one project on the go is a good thing. You can choose which project to work on based on what you feel like doing (it is your fun time, after all).
Tomorrow I have a tutorial to share on how to make your own project bags with removable labels, for easy project organisation and storage.
What are your tips for making the most of your craft time?
Melissa Goodwin is a writer and the creator of Frugal and Thriving who has a passion for living frugally and encouraging people to thrive on any budget. The blog is nine years old and is almost like her eldest baby. Prior to being a blogger and mum (but not a mummy blogger), she worked as an accountant doing other people’s budgets, books and tax.