How Much Time Does a Standard Project Take?

I think many of us have this problem: We have a bit of time to sew. We sit down, and promise ourselves that we can just bang this project out in a few hours. "I'll be wearing it tomorrow," we say. Flash forward eight hours and it's two in the morning, we're hungry, tired, and that goddamn fit/hem/zipper is wonky and we've rushed through some things and it's nowhere near completed. *Sigh*

This time around, I decided to document just how long it takes to do one of my standard projects - my pants block based on the Colette Clovers. This is my fourth pair of these and my fifth pair of pants, so I figured it should be a project I could bang out in relatively short order. I estimated it would take about 5-6 hours, but just how long did it take? Read on to see...

Hour 0:
Got my pattern block, Colette instructions for both Clover and Juniper, my fabric, and sewing setup. Motivated and ready to go!

Hour 1:
After one hour, I've cut my pattern pieces along with a few modifications, and started sewing up the pockets. I can't believe it's taken a whole hour to do the cutting! I think I usually underestimate this step...

Hour 2: 
One more hour gone by and I've attached the pockets to the pants and done my fly front, complete with correcting a few mishaps (I always mess up the fly front in one way or another...). The pants don't look like they've come that far for two hours of work, but I feel on track.

Hour 3: 
The side seams and seat are all sewn up! Considering that I didn't flat fell any of the seams (just serged everything in one go), it's surprising that it took a whole 'nother hour to get this done.

**Break for dinner - luckily my man likes to cook, so all I had to do was unload the dishwasher and eat!**

Hour 4:
After dinner and another hour back at the machine, I have stitched on the waistband, hemmed, and fixed a few holes (I'm not convinced that pvc fabric was the best way to go, but damn is it nice and shiny). The fit is tight but good. I decide to leave off the back pockets and call it done!

So, the total sewing time from fabric to pants was four hours. Not bad! I think it might take 5 or more if I had flat felled any of the seams, but with just serging everything once it probably cut that extra hour out.

My little experiment also confirms what I already suspected - everything takes longer than you think! Even though I finished the project much faster than I thought, I was surprised that it took a whole hour to cut, and a whole hour to sew up the side seams. Add in serged and faux flat-felled seams that I usually do, and you're multiplying that hour by three!

Additionally, this timing only works for 'tried and true' patterns - the ones I've made up before and worked out all the kinks. For new patterns, I have to remember to budget in a lot more time so that I actually address fitting issues, trouble understanding the construction, and whatever else might pop up! Even in this project, I had to unpick some stitches, deal with a broken needle, and mend some holes, so that should get budgeted in to any project.

Do you ever time your projects? Do they take longer or shorter? I'd be interested in better documenting some of my other sewing adventures - it definitely kept me focused and on task!

Check out the finished pants here


  1. I've never timed my projects because I don't want to risk feeling totally inadequate about how insanely slow I am. Usually I tell myself I'm just careful and precise, but I'm afraid knowing the actual number will lead me to start comparing numbers... I just don't need that!

  2. I think on average, my projects take closer to 15 hours, mostly because i often do a muslin (i rarely use the same pattern twice) and also i use Burda magazine patterns, which adds at least one hour of tracing to the total count...I think i might also make more mistakes and I take a lot of time undoing what I,ve done wrong...under 5 hours for pants is pretty impressive! Thank you for documenting, i should do the same on my next project, if only just to figure out what takes most time in the process...

  3. Very interesting post! I´m always thinking of counting the time I use for sewing an item, but always forget. I think I might be taking about 15 hours or so. I don´t own a serger, so I try to french-seam or flat fell. Apart from that I always end up hand stitching a lot of things. So, yep, I´m a very slow seamstress, and that´s why I can´t finish all the sewing list in my head!

  4. Wow! I think 4 hours to make a pair of pants is AMAZING (regardless of if you've made them plenty of times already or not)!
    I over underestimate the amount of time I'll take. And you're very lucky you had dinner waiting and ready to be eaten, I usually get so focused on finishing a project that I forget to take meal and bathroom breaks!
    I hope you post more photos of the finished pants, would love to see them in all their shiny-ness :)

  5. great post! My projects tend to take longer than I expect, but I love how much faster it is to reuse patterns. I used to jump from one pattern to the next, always trying new things. (Maybe I just hadn't fallen in love with a pattern yet) But I'm now reaping the benefits of TNT patterns.

  6. Yay! I've been testing comments on your blog--enabling third party cookies under privacy preferences did the trick. I only wish they were edible cookies... :)

  7. I find I am a rather slow sewist. If I rush, I tend to make mistakes and then get frustrated. I have to say, I've never made the same pattern twice (yet), but when I do, I agree it will certainly go a lot faster.

  8. You quick little sewer you! I think I fall into some kind of sewing time warp most of the time. I feel like its been 5 minutes but its actually been three hours... weird...
    Can't wait to try those pants from your last post for my hubby too :-) thanks for sharing!

  9. I really only time myself if it's going to be fast. Otherwise I might never start a new project. :) Your pants look great!!

  10. I think I'll time my next project. That first paragraph is so me!

  11. Oh man... I only time my projects so I know how quickly I can crank something out for someone else if need be. I also make my own sewing patterns and I have most patterns (unless they're much more complicated) timed out to about 3 hours. Cutting and sewing any one garment I make will usually take about 8 hours but that's because I usually have many panels, slightly complicated seaming, and then inside lining and pockets for most things.

  12. That's smart to do, I'm a fast sewer but I think that my next big project is going to include a muslin.

  13. hmm, i like this idea 'cause i work in such small bursts that it's hard to estimate the time. i might try this some time.


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