Saturday, May 26, 2018

(Finding) Time to Get Crafty

I've had a few readers ask recently if I'd write about how to find time for crafty pursuits as a full-time mama. I posted about this late in 2013, but my circumstances have changed drastically since then -- we've added two children, moved twice, started "official" homeschooling, etc. So I think it's time for an update!

Just as I did a few years ago, I'll describe my current situation:
  • Four littles ages 7, 5, 3, and ten months
  • Homeschooling the older two children, which takes about 1-2 hours per day (though we're having a brief summer break right now!)
  • Living in a suburban area with plenty of available "extracurricular activities"

As I think about what has changed since I wrote my last post on this topic, several things come to mind. First of all, I think I spend less "dedicated" time sewing/crafting than I did a few years ago. This is not just due to added responsibilities, but also because sometimes my desire to sew waxes and wanes. So, here are a few thoughts:

Military: My husband's career as a Navy helicopter pilot involves frequent time away -- a week, a month, or (in the case of a deployment) six to seven months at a time. Even when he's home, it's not uncommon for him to have flights scheduled late at night. During these times, I'm often able to complete many projects because I have more time to myself in the evenings.

Friends: I feel like I have a wider social circle in Virginia, including a weekly Bible study that I attend. This is something that I welcome, and I'm happy to have a little less time for sewing if I'm enjoying fellowship with other mamas! I often struggled with loneliness in Florida (looking back, I should have overcome my introvert tendencies more, instead of waiting for others to make the first move), and that's one area that's been much easier here in Virginia.

Knitting: Since my last post, I've added knitting to my arsenal of crafting hobbies. I usually knit while I'm doing things that wouldn't be conducive to sewing (watching a movie, homeschooling, etc.), so it may not cut into my sewing time that much. It has certainly upped my productivity in a general crafting sense, because I'm now able to make use of much of the time that would otherwise be wasted. I like to keep at least one "mindless" project on my needles, something that's easy enough to multitask. 

Nature: If you've followed my blog for a while, you may have noticed that there are many more "nature" posts than there used to be (at least, it seems that way to me!). Virginia has been much more pleasant in terms of climate -- and there are many parks and gardens in our vicinity. Also, we've added six chickens and a seasonal garden. We spend more time outdoors, which equates to less time for sewing/crafting. But again, this is a trade-off I'm more than happy to make, because I always regretted how much the Florida heat kept us indoors.

Children/Education: More children require more care, even though the older kids are much more independent now than they were a few years ago. We do have a great back yard, though, so they are often able to amuse themselves for long periods of time. My baby still takes at least two naps a day (hurray!), but I've now added home schooling to the mix. My children are young enough that their school work is not very involved, but also young enough that they need a fair bit of direct supervision/involvement from me.

Technology: I have upgraded to a smart phone and even have a tablet (*gasp*), but overall I would say I spend less time "with" technology than I did in 2013 (not counting reading books on Kindle). I still don't do Facebook or Twitter, spend a few minutes on Instagram now and again, and carefully select which blogs I follow so that my feed is never too time-consuming. Usually there are one or two new posts for me to read every day, which takes a few minutes. I'm just as selective about Pinterest, so I only browse my personal feed -- even if I'm following another Pinner, I'm selective about which of their boards I follow to keep my feed pared down. This has allowed me to enjoy both blogs and Pinterest without them taking over my schedule (AKA, crafting time!). Though I do still end up down a rabbit hole of pinning all the fun projects, instead of actually doing them...

Just as I predicted in 2013, my life and my crafting habits have changed -- and they certainly will continue to do so throughout my life!

So what would my recommendation be for those looking to spend more time crafting? 

  • Prioritize.

It's the most important step, in my opinion, even though it may sound over-simplified and perhaps even rude ("Well, if you just prioritized, you'd have plenty of time to craft!"). It's not meant to be either of those, so hear me out!

Essentially, determine where sewing/crafting ranks in you life -- is it more important that your family? What about play dates? Or browsing Pinterest? Or posting on Facebook? Or taking a photography class? Or sleep? Or cleaning your house?

Hopefully it's obvious that I am not suggesting that it should be more or less important than any of those things! The point is that where any activity ranks will determine how much time it receives. Also, saying that "I will prioritize my family over crafting" is still a nebulous idea. Is postponing a diaper change for five minutes while I finish a step in my project elevating crafting above my family? I hope not, because I'm certain I've done that before!

But here's the thing -- if you've evaluated how you spend your time, and found that you really don't have time to sew because it's not high enough on your priority list right now, that's okay. Make your peace with it and wait until your priorities or your circumstances change. Sometimes I consciously choose reading over sewing, because I can't do both. Sometimes it's the other way around, and sometimes I just listen to an audiobook while I sew! Currently, I do not devote any time to writing outside of my blog, even though I've dreamed of being a published author since I was a child -- I still have the incomplete (and very unrealistic) drafts of novels I started when I was seven or eight. But writing is not a priority right now (maybe one day it will be!).

I often joke that sewing is cheaper than therapy. But it's really only partly a joke, because sewing is so therapeutic to me that I can't imagine giving it up voluntarily. Recently, as my skills have improved and I've been able to relax, I've found that the rhythmic repetition of knitting is even more cathartic! Creating is one of my passions, and that's why you see so much of it on my blog.

If sewing/crafting is something that is really important to you and you feel you don't have the time, look around to see where you can give up something else. Often I "don't have time to sew" because I've frittered away my day on this and that, or completed my tasks at a leisurely pace. Those are not necessarily conscious decisions, but they are decisions nonetheless. There are certainly ways to free up time -- the key is figuring out what you can or want to sacrifice for the sake of crafting.

  • Pick and Choose.
This is linked to prioritizing. If you have plenty of time (and money...) for crafting, you can probably follow your whims willy-nilly. However, if you have limited time for crafting you may want to focus only on the "best" projects, or projects that will advance your skills. If you're the meticulous type, you may be happy to take two months sewing a delicately pin-tucked batiste baby gown (complete with lace insertion). If you're more interested in quick, practical results, you may prefer to crank out four pairs of toddler leggings while the baby takes a nap.

You can pick and choose your crafts, too. I've pretty much limited myself to sewing and knitting, with some odds and ends for other types of crafts. I am about to add some crochet, because I want to teach my children a hand craft; fortunately the supplies overlap so much with knitting that all I'll have to do is a few crochet hooks to my "fiber" collection. But when it comes down to it, I'm a seamstress and knitter at heart, and I dedicate my valuable crafting time to those hobbies.

Within your chosen crafts, you can also choose projects that are the most enjoyable/useful to you and ignore the rest. Sometimes I put myself in a bind because I think "I could make that!"-- but I don't have time to make All The Things, so I'm either scrambling to put together an outfit (because I haven't made the top I need to match that skirt) or hoping my sunglasses don't get scratched because that-leather-sunglasses-case-I've-wanted-to-make-for-over-two-years-just-hasn't-happened-yet. The latter is in NO way a real-life example, by the way. *cough* Don't over-commit yourself (like I often do!). If you are new to a craft, remember that it will take more time at first, and you will probably make more mistakes. You may not be totally satisfied with the results, either. As your skills grow, your speed and accuracy will improve and you will probably be able to accomplish more in the same amount of time.

  • Place Yourself
And by that I mean, find a spot to pursue your crafts that works for you. With four young children underfoot, I would not be able to craft or sew and supervise if I had my sewing machine tucked away in a back room or a closet. While having my sewing machine in our family room presents some difficulties (why does sewing require so many sharp tools?!), I'd rather be careful about where I put my scissors and pincushion than not be able to sew altogether. My husband has been very tolerant of my crafty messes, though I'm trying to be better about taming the chaos. However, every situation is unique -- so the point is, find the best place for your lifestyle. Maybe you can only craft in peace and quiet, so it's better for you to have your things tucked away and only use them when you have time to yourself (if that's a thing -- I'm still not convinced... *wink*). Regardless, I would recommend making your supplies as accessible as possible. The more work required to get things out, the less likely you are to want to craft. Remember, you don't have to get out everything -- you don't need six skeins of spare yarn or every last sewing notion to work on your current project. Keep a stash of the essentials (for sewing this might be scissors, thread that matches your current project, and pins) that you can easily pull out when you're ready to work.

Also, a note on working with children around -- by all means, try to keep the crafty things out of reach (it's tricky when cutting out a large sewing project! I often save that for naptime/bedtime). But part of our family's overall parenting philosophy is that our children learn the word "No." I believe boundaries are important, and learning to respect someone else's space is a valuable life skill. So training my children not to interfere with my craft projects is just part of our larger parenting "strategy." And the less you have to worry about your child destroying something if they're out of sight, the more you'll be able to let them play independently while you're crafting -- dependent on their age, level of maturity, and all of that jazz.


I'm often embarrassed when people ask how I "do it all" because I do something that they don't (cloth diapering, sewing, homeschooling, baking bread, whatever it might be). The truth is, I don't "do it all," I do the things that are important to me. But that doesn't mean I'm always doing the best thing, or what I should be doing! Maybe I should have cleaned my bathroom instead of knitting a few extra rows... And the other truth is, I don't feel like a particularly productive person -- in fact, I struggle with feelings of inadequacy in this area. I suspect than many people, and especially stay-at-home moms, also struggle with this. It's difficult not to tie our identities to our output, especially in a society that values tangible productivity to a fault.

It doesn't help that the internet, while providing plenty of creative inspiration and instruction, has also given us unparalleled opportunities to compare ourselves to people far beyond the realm of our social circle. But it's an unfair comparison, because we get to see someone else's published successes without all (or many, or any) of their failures. No one's life is made up of perfect little Instagram scenes -- not all the time, anyway!

Hopefully that will be helpful to those of you who have wondered or asked! It's always a struggle to find balance in life's ever-changing seasons, but trying to stay conscious of how your time is spent (and evaluating what you want to prioritize versus what you are prioritizing) can go a long way toward finding the time to get crafty -- or being content to wait for a new season of life to roll around.

I'd love to hear your thoughts, and any tips you have for maximizing your crafty time!


  1. Thank you Shannon! I enjoyed this post -now I am not so embarrassed at my lingering projects!! I have not got children but I do work and sometimes I wonder where the time goes!! I have one personal rule which is I must complete a project before starting another. Works for me. My main issue is space and I only have a small table to work on so it gets challenging sometimes especially with a very curious and helpful cat sharing our home!
    My husband is very encouraging and treated me to some lovely liberty fabric which is my current project.
    You really must be very organised to achieve all you do x

    1. I'm so glad you found it helpful! I admire your commitment to completing one project at a time. So far I'm doing pretty well with knitting (my goal there is actually two at a time -- that way if one project is more challenging, the other can be my "mindless" project), but I'm not very good about that with sewing. It tends to create much more mess, plus the stress of unfinished projects. Something I should work on!

      Ooh, the Liberty fabric sounds wonderful! What a clever husband you have. :-)

      I wish I could that I'm very organized, but it's something I strive for. I think it would make my hobbies much more enjoyable and less frustrating!


  2. Good thoughts! It gave me some things to analyze about my situation. I don’t sew a whole lot anymore although I still manage a project every few months. I’m determined to crank out four variations on a knot-front maternity dress for myself here soon though, to get me through the summer! (Baby #5 is due in September.) :) That being said, maybe I should go work on cutting out pieces (my most procrastinate-able task)... ;)

  3. Laura,

    Lovely to hear from you -- especially your exciting September arrival! :-) Congratulations!

    Knot-front maternity dresses sound like a lovely summer staple. I *completely* agree that cutting out a project is the worst bit. There's something so final about cutting into fabric (scary), and it's not easy to spread out yards of fabric with little ones around (inconvenient). Those two things combined...

    Best wishes for your cutting and sewing, and especially the last few months of pregnancy!


  4. Thank you so much Shannon to take the time to share your thoughts: I know it was posted a few days ago but I wanted to wait to have the time to read it well, and I know I'll read it again. It will certainly help me to think about what I do during the day, the time I put to it and if it's worth it at the end. A lots of reflexions ahead! You made me laugh when you said that crafting is cheaper that therapy: it's so true! Hahaha!!!

    Again thank you so much and have a great day! :)

    from Quebec, Canada

    1. Anne-Julie,

      I must admit, I don't keep super-close tabs on what I spend on crafting... maybe therapy would be cheaper in the end! ;-) I'm so glad you found this post helpful. I was so hesitant to write it, because to do seemed like saying "Here are all the answers" when really, I'm just muddling along most (maybe all?) of the time. Thank you for taking the time to comment -- you've brightened my day!


  5. What a lovely post. I think I have been following your blog since you got engaged and my littles were only slightly older... and now I have teenagers with jobs and driving and boyfriends and picking out college. Time flies. I find the part about not doing it all, but doing all that is important to you to be a wise way of phrasing how we value time. Not to tie our identities to our output. This was something I needed to read today. :) Blessings to you and your family.

    1. Shannon,

      It's always lovely to hear from someone who's a long-time reader! It's crazy how time flies, isn't it? I often think about that when I'm reading a blog -- there a few I've followed for over a decade now, and it's remarkable to see how things change. I'm so glad you found the post helpful! As someone who "loves" to tie my identity to my output, I'm looking for a better perspective in that area, too. :-)



I'd love to hear your thoughts! Thank you so much for stopping by!