Y’all, the calendar keeps throwing me every time I look at it- I feel like it was just Christmas, and yet school is out for summer already! Our June calendar is blissfully empty (except for all of the time we are spending at Schlitterbahn and our neighborhood pool). And we are SO excited to head to Colorado in July- all of my siblings and their kiddos are meeting us there, which equals COUSIN TIME and more cousin time.
One fun addition to this year’s family reunion is the pile of Cairo dresses I am toting along for my nieces (I gave them several options of patterns for handmade-Aunt-Keeks dresses and, after they saw pictures of Piper in her Cairo dress it was the unanimous request!).
*Note- the Cairo pattern is a Violette Field Threads pattern and can be found here.
As I sewed up nine of these dresses assembly-line-style (one for each niece and then a couple more to surprise Piper with in August for back-to-school), I figured out several ways to make batch sewing more efficient and all around easier on myself and thought I’d pass those along as party of the Melly Sews Sundress series (one of my favorites every year- be sure to head on over and check out all of this year’s sundress-y goodness!).
BATCH SEWING TIPS
1- ORGANIZE ORGANIZE ORGANIZE
If there’s one game changer in making this process faster, it’s starting off organized and staying organized. Make sure you have everything on hand and organize your supplies before you start, and then keep everything organized and even labeled as you sew. Even if you’re using different fabrics for each dress (like I was), it’s still so easy for ten little piles to morph into a tangled mess unless you stay organized at each step. The good news is that if you do keep things in order, EVERYTHING about this process is so much easier.
2- PREP UP YOUR AREA
Set up your ironing board, iron and mister. Get out your sewing supplies, all the notions you need, your pins, your nipping scissors, your pinking shears, your seam ripper- everything you will need for sewing all of these dresses. Also designate an area to keep your piles organized over night (I was sewing ten dresses, so I had ten piles). If your work space is organized and ready, it’ll make the actual sewing portion a breeze.
3- DO A PRACTICE RUN
This is not the time to fly by the seat of your pants, or figure out a pattern as you go. In fact, I’d suggest making the entire pattern once start to finish before you start your assembly line (take notes if you figure out ways you can make the pattern more efficient). During my practice run I noticed five or six things that I could do more efficiently (for example, switching the steps around so that I wasn’t changing out my foot as often, or lining the skirt with non-fray chiffon so that I could skip serging and hemming the lining). Five or six small changes times ten dresses is SO many minutes saved!
4- CUT EVERYTHING FIRST
Set aside a time just to cut out all of your pieces- it saves so much sewing time to have everything prepped before you even turn your machine on.
Bonus tip- it was easiest for me to cut all the ‘same’ pieces at the same time (aka- I cut all of the exterior skirt pieces and started the ten piles, then cut all of the lining skirt pieces, then all of the tabs, the all of the waistbands, then all of the bodices). Since many of the pieces for this dress are just dimensions (not tracing and cutting out pieces from a pattern), it was easiest to keep the key next to me, cut out all ten, and then move on to the next item.
5- COORDINATE THREAD
Instead of sewing in order of size (which makes sense in my head for some reason?), I sewed in order of thread. Out of my ten dresses, I used four different thread colors. To save time, I figured out before I started sewing which dresses could share coordinating thread, and lined them up in order so that I sewed three dresses with the first color of thread, three dresses with the second color of thread, two dresses with the third color and two dresses with the fourth color. If you’re using the same fabric for all of your pieces, this obviously won’t be an issue, but if you are using a bunch of different fabrics this is a huge time saver!
6- COMPLETE EACH STEP FOR ALL YOUR PIECES
This is the essence of batch sewing- completing an entire step on all the pieces before moving onto the next step. I love the rhythm this creates, and found myself getting so much faster at the actual sewing by dress number ten than on dress number one. My only exception to this rule follows-
7- SEW A BUNCH THEN PRESS A BUNCH
Since I was assembling a waistband, a bodice, long ties, and an exterior skirt, and since each of those pieces needed to be pressed between each step of sewing, I would sew the next step for each piece and then do a ton of pressing. My sewing looked something like this- sew ten long ties and set aside, sew together the exterior skirt pieces for all ten skirts and set aside, sew ten waistband pieces together and set aside, sew along the neckline of ten bodices and set aside. Then press and press and press. As you do this, keeping all of the pieces organized is KEY, but if you can keep all of your piles organized and separate, not hopping up and down from sewing machine to iron to sewing machine to iron is a huge time saver.
That’s it! I can’t wait to show you pictures of all of the sweet nieces in their flow-y summer-y dresses (Pi in hers will have to do for now)!
And don’t forget to check out the rest of the Sundress Series at Melly Sews!