The time it takes to sew a project is largely the sum of the time it takes to complete each task. The time it takes to complete each task is primarily driven by body motion, so the more motions that are required, the more time it takes to complete a project. What all this means is that the key to decreasing the overall time to complete a project is to decrease the necessary motions.
There are actually many time and motion studies surrounding sewing because in manufacturing time is money. Time and motion influence the layout of the workroom, the order of operations, the structure of the production team, the cost of production and more. While the time you personally spend sewing may not equal money, time spent sewing one garment is certainly time you could spend on your next project!
Luckily, the easiest way to decrease body motion in sewing is to simply eliminate the use of pins!
Think about the activity of pinning. You pick up a pin, align the fabric edges, insert a pin and repeat for the length of each seam. Then, you have to remove the pins as you sew. You take a pin out of the fabric, put it into its dish (or drop it on the floor and have to pick it up!) and repeat for the length of each seam. Additionally, you slow or stop sewing as you remove each pin, further decreasing your sewing speed.
Admittedly, I was a pin user until a friend who does production sewing challenged me to go without (he never uses pins in the machine sewing process). I took the challenge and I was immediately able to make a bra 30% faster. Yes, I actually time these things! I was so impressed by the results that I have never gone back to using pins.
If you decide to take the no pin challenge, here are a few tips. First, it helps to have a knee lever to operate your machine presser foot. Industrial machines have this feature so machine operators can use their hands to get the fabric aligned for sewing. Many home sewing machines also have this feature. I don’t think I could have a pin free workroom without it! If your machine does not have this feature, try using only one pin, just to get the seam set for the machine, then remove it as soon as the presser foot is securing the fabric.
Second, see my tips on accurate cutting and marking. Following the practices outlined in those posts go a long way toward increasing your sewing speed.
Finally, I like to sew as many seams as possible in one go as shown above. Not only does that help with speed but it also makes starting the seam lines for some of the smaller bra pieces much easier since this practice effectively gives you a “leader” piece for your seam.
Do you have any tips for sewing without pins? Or tips for sewing faster? Please share in the comments!