No Time to Sit at the Sewing Machine? Do This Instead

From Pat Sloan's Teach Me to Machine QuiltWhen we quilters are at our most organized, we carve out time to be at our sewing machine every day. But let’s face it—sometimes life gets in the way and our machine-sewing plans fall through.

Does that mean there’s zero time to devote to your creativity?

Martingale authors say no way!

We asked several authors what they do when sewing-machine time is out of reach. If you’re like us, you’ll have a few “A-ha!” moments reading their answers below.

Lissa Alexander

Author of Oh, Scrap! and editor of the “Moda All-Stars” series

“My sewing machine was recently in the shop for a good deep cleaning, so I was without a machine. I took the time to clean around my machine area, reorganize my sewing tools, and cut out a few projects. Then I propped my feet up and caught up on reading my quilt books and magazines!”

Surrounded quilt
Surrounded from
Oh, Scrap! (follow Lissa on Instagram: @modalissa)

Jan Patek

Author of Sleigh Bells and the upcoming book Tabletop Turnabouts (coming May 1)

“Since I do needle-turn appliqué, I have plenty of go-to tasks away from my machine. There’s lots of prep work to do before you can sew.

  1. Trace patterns onto freezer paper.
  2. Cut patterns out on the line.
  3. Cut the right-sized pieces of fabric for your project.
  4. Iron patterns onto fabric and trace around them (I use a Sewline marker).
  5. Cut patterns out, leaving a ¼" seam allowance.

See? There’s plenty to do before heading to my machine!”

Bunny Hop quilt
Bunny Hop from
Tabletop Turnabouts (follow Jan on Instagram: @jan_patek_quilts)

Susan Ache

Author of Start with Strips and Countdown to Christmas

“I get all my cutting done and sorted for chain piecing!”

Churned Around quilt
Churned Around from
Start with Strips (follow Susan on Instagram: @yardgrl60)

Pat Sloan

Author of Pat Sloan’s Celebrate the Seasons, the “Teach Me” series of books, and coauthor of The Splendid Sampler books with Jane Davidson

“If I’m doing appliqué, I take a project on the road with me to trace shapes. I’ve even used fusible fabric in my hotel room. A quilter has to do what a quilter has to do!”

Pat Sloan's tulip blocks
Pat’s tulip blocks from
Pat Sloan’s Celebrate the Seasons, remade in purples (follow Pat on Instagram: @quilterpatsloan)

Kim Diehl

Author of the “Simple” series (including her latest, Simple Whatnots) and coauthor of the Simple Friendships books with Jo Morton

“When I have little pockets of time, I get my appliqué blocks all prepped, laid out, and glue basted. I gather my basic sewing supplies (small thread snips, needle, thimble, and thread) into a small basket for use as a portable stitching station, and then sneak in little bits of sewing time anywhere in the house while I’m watching grandies (often) and TV (seldom). For appointments away from home when I anticipate waiting time, I drop my supplies into a snack-sized plastic bag and place it into a larger quart-sized zippered bag with my folded block. Being organized in this way means I can be productive whenever an opportunity presents itself.”

Kim Diehl applique
Kim sent us this photo of a gorgeous block in progress! (Follow Kim on Instagram:

When you’re strapped for time at your sewing machine, what kinds of prep work do you do until you and your machine meet again?

  • I rotary cut and prep pieces for machine sewing.
  • I always have a portable hand-sewing project at the ready.
  • I spend time with my sewing books and magazines.

Tell us your tips in the comments!

46 Comments (leave a comment)

Leave a comment

*Indicates required field