1. Grouping Activities (Batching)
Grouping activities is batching the activities that can be done at the same time. If you're working on a pair of pants and you have interfacing, fuse the interfacing all at once at the beginning instead of doing it when you arrive at that step. Time is lost when you're trying to find the tools you need to do that step every time.
2. Tools in Your Tool Kit
Pins are the slowest because you'll want to handle with care. You have to make sure the fabric's flat, adjust it here and there.
Clips are fast, and even faster are fabric weights. There are different situations where you can't use one or the other, but in general, if you can use weights instead of pins, do that because it'll make it faster. And there are other alternatives that you can use at home. I've seen people use plates upside down.
One set of tools that'll really boost your speed are rotary cutters and a cutting mat. You'll need to buy both the rotary cutter and the cutting mat together, otherwise, you'll damage your desk or get rough cut lines. The mat's also soft, so it won't dull the blade for the rotary cutter.
I have a 45mm, which seemed to be the most common size. I've seen 28mm and the 60mm options, but I opted for the mid-size thinking it'll handle most home projects and more.
For the cutting mat, I would say the larger the better, but think about where you'd be able to store it. I usually leave mine on my desk, and I use it as a desk mat too for my laptop, which works kind of nice if you live in tighter space. Mine specifically is 36 by 24 inches. This is one of the biggest differences that I could fill in my setup. The rotary cutter-cutting mat combo is quick compared to pinning fabric and then cutting with scissors.
3. Chainstitch Multiple Panels
One long, continuous stitch for multiple pieces. Line up your panels, drop the press foot, and continue sewing. If, when you're done, lift the press foot, pull it out to make space for the next piece. All these panels are going to be connected by one long thread, and then when you're done at the very, very end, cut all the loose threads to separate the panels.
4. Closeness of Equipment
It makes it super quick for me to go from sewing to serging and back. From my chair, I can rotate and reach both my sewing machine and serger/overlocker.
5. Pin or Clip Sparingly
The less you got to set up and take down, the more time you'll save. If you've seen any of my videos, you'll know my beef with pins. The number of times I've pricked myself... I prefer sewing clips every time. As a beginner, I'd suggest using many sewing clips because it'll help hold your seams together better for a straighter stitch.
If you're starting out, using more clips is going to give you better quality. You never want to sew faster and compromise quality, as quality matters the most, so take your time. But, if you can, use fewer clips and pins because it will save you some time.
This video covers all these same tips here: https://youtu.be/5jEDFFtWJ60
11 Tips to Sew Faster | Seams Too True EP 11
6. Pre-Wind Multiple Bobbins
The worst part about sewing is when you realize you ran out of thread about a hundred stitches ago. The second worst is just having to re-thread the machine mid-project. You'll lose some momentum there, so if you can and want to save time, pre-wind multiple bobbins with the same-colored thread beforehand. Extra bobbin sets are quite affordable. A pro tip when you're buying them: look up your machine and make sure you buy the correct bobbin type, as there are different shapes and sizes based on your machine. Do your due diligence and find a set that's compatible with your machine.
7. Limit Your Color Choice
You'll change threads less, and ultimately, the less you have to change your setup, the more time you'll save. Though I wouldn't let this throttle your creativity.
8. Speed Control
This next one doesn't apply to all machines, but some machines have a speed control setting. For example, the Singer Heavy Duty 9800C has a switch. But if you're a beginner, I'd recommend leaving it on the standard speed before you think about jumping ahead. It can get pretty wild at that faster speed.
9. Dedicated Sewing Days
Ideally with friends. Think about it: when you're studying at the library, you tend to study better or focus better when you're around other people studying. I'm trying to apply the same concept here, where just being around other people sewing makes you feel accountable to your own sewing work. Maybe you're more comfortable doing it by yourself, but also, if you have the option to sew with friends, it's a good option to try. And you can also sew together virtually as well.
10. Clean Space
There's nothing worse than trying to find a tool in a messy room. And everyone knows when you're sewing, it can get pretty messy - kind of like a tornado flew through the room. Help your future self and keep it tidy.
11. Plan Ahead
Staying two steps ahead of yourself is always going to help. When you think about what the next step is, think about the step after that. You can help prepare yourself, avoid mistakes, and find ways to make your craft a little more efficient.
The nice thing about all these tips is that they're fairly easy to implement, so you can apply almost all of them to any project. Especially if you have a long project, like How to Sew Cargo Pants for Beginners, it's a very long project, but it's super rewarding. And if you're able to make that longer project smoother, or maybe a little more efficient, that will definitely help you in the long run.