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30-Minutes with Workroom Tech / Episode 35: WAM Group and Efficiency in the Workroom

In episode 35 of The Sew Much More Podast: 30-Minutes with Workroom Tech, Ceil DiGuglielmo and Susan Woodcock share insights from the new Workroom and Accountability Mentoring Group, and assign the next study topic. Last month, the WAM group was challenged to use time studies in combination with an hourly rate, to better understand pricing. (Episode 33 of the podcast, air date February 12, 2020). Over the past month, the group has been comparing time studies and discussing pricing. Read below to learn what we learned, and the next study topic.

Time Study Take-Away's

1) Everything takes longer than you think – don’t be surprised!

2) Breaking out the “parts” of the job helps you to understand that sewing and fabrication is only one part of the job... it takes a lot of time to get ready to sew. Things like inspecting fabric and planning cuts is more time consuming that you might think.

3) Prevent “paralysis by analysis” by pre-planning as much as you can before the job starts. For example: keep a record of the cut lengths and how many cuts you will need from when you quoted the job, instead of rethinking that again. Another idea shared was to set a time limit for making decisions about which motif to use or pattern placement.

4) When comparing time studies, everyone shared something in common. The group learned that it takes on average one minute a yard to inspect fabrics. Now we know to add 20 minutes to a project to inspect 20 yards of fabric.

5) Practice makes a difference! It takes less time to make a second pillow, or drapery panel or cushion than the first.

6) Setting a timer forces you to focus. Group member turned off distractions like social media notifications, and informed their families that no interruptions are allowed during a time study.

7) Time studies help you to recognize inefficiency and time wasters.

8) Writing lists and marking off tasks helps to focus on accomplishments and keeps you feeling positive.

9) The Time Timer tool allows you to visually see and work in set blocks of time.

The next assignment for the WAM group: improving efficiency.

What are simple steps you can take in the workroom to knock minutes off the job, and streamline processes?

1) Wearing a tool belt. (See Susan's tool belt in the photo below)

2) Efficient workroom layout.

3) Having everything you need for the job ready (just like a cooking show where the chef has all the ingredients ready to go).

4) Marking and labeling (from receiving fabrics, to marking tops or bottoms of cuts).

5) Having the right tools for the job.

6) Learning new methods for efficiency like sewing and applying welt in one step.

7) Practicing processes so that repetitive tasks become easy – you don’t have to think, you just do!

8) Creating an environment that helps you be more productive whether that’s rock n’ roll music, or silence, organization and neatness, or making-a-mess-for-success then you clean up all at once.


Susan Woodcock encourages you to remember that it’s not all about faster, faster and faster. Part of the appeal of a custom business is the extra time and care that can be given to the product. It’s not mass produced.

I don't always want to make something faster to make it more profitable. I want to quote a price with a full understanding that the planning, drafting, cutting, engineering, sewing and finishing is time consuming. This work is often challenging in unexpected ways. I make mistakes. Even when it all goes smoothly, custom work is detailed and takes a great amount of time. I love what I do but I love making a living at it, too. I will charge like I am slow and be proud that my work takes so much time...... because it's worth it.

You can listen to this episode of the podcast here:

Resources Mentioned in the Podcast

Fly on the Wall Series, Pinch Pleated Panels with Zona Tiller

Recorded webinar, Up To S.P.E.E.D. with Jeanelle Dech

Recorded webinar, Sewing Multiples with Jeanelle Dech

Recorded webinar, Best of Workroom Secrets with Cathy Tucker

Recorded webinar series, Workroom Policies and Procedures with Jill Robson

Hands-on training, Essential Workroom Skills and Efficiency with Ann K. Johnson, in April 22-25, 2020 at Workroom Tech.

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