Whole Parenting Family

How I Make when I Make {sew, baby, sew}


People ask me about how I make time for sewing when my life sounds like a zombie zookeeper’s.

Okay, so I made that description up. But I do get asked it a lot. I make baby & tot leggings, bibs, burp cloths, skirts, blankets, and banners at Whole Parenting Goods. 

First, I wrote this about starting an etsy shop. Then I wrote this about what I’ve learned about being a “maker.”

But today I’m musing about the actual logistics of how I make the time in my life with no time to sew.


1) all work and no (sewing creative play) means I’m a dull girl.

Because I’m driven to make by my desire to continue to feed that creative part of me, I find the time no matter what. It’s not every day, but I’m always scheming something new, plotting something fun, or daydreaming about how I’m going to finish that seam, someday.

I know I need a break when I’m not interested in getting to my machine. Sometimes that means I need to take my precious few minutes of creative time and handle some fabric instead, look at my grandmother’s box of old patterns, or scroll pinterest. Changing it up can freshen me so that when I go back to churning through orders, I don’t get bleh-ey.

Something many mama artisans don’t talk about is that it can be a drag at times to finish the orders. Start them? Exciting. Finish the finishing touches? Tough. Especially if you are committed to staying a small shop, like me, and aren’t interested in taking on other artisans or workers.

2) nights & weekends & naps.

Before my oldest started homeschooling & nature school, I had more time during the day. The two youngest still nap and hopefully will for a while for all of our sakes. But my oldest used to take a Jim Weiss + lego or workbook quiet time that meant I could plough through things or finish projects that needed a fresh, day-time eye. Now I’m practicing violin with him, or doing lessons, or taking him to the nature center during those former-free moments. A wonderfully better way to spend my time! But less time for me to do my thing.

I crunch in an hour of work when my husband comes home from the train station. He jogs home so no need to pick him up with our one car. Instead, the kids have already eaten and are usually bathed, and he gets an hour or so to hang with them and read and play let’s-do-all-the-pillows-into-a-fort games while I work. Then we split up bedtime and sometimes post bedtime I work again.

Weekends I usually take the kiddos to their activities Saturday mornings while he watches and enjoys the ones who aren’t in those child-shuttling moments, but Saturday afternoons are either a time for me to do my stuff or us to all hang. I try to not work on Sundays until the afternoon or early evening just to carve out that time for God & family earlier in the day.


3) making the best use of my time.

I used to spend half my free time trying to figure out what to do during that free time. Now I’m a total list maker so I can hop & skip & jump right in. It so helps to prep for your creative time. Even down to what I want to listen to or watch on Netflix (Madame Secretary, Grand Hotel, Sherlock) as background noise. I hate that aimless frantic feeling! Lists, baby, lists.


4) cut up the projects into bite-sized chunks.

Because my work is primarily sewing, I can’t easily sew when the kids are up as they buzz in and out of my studio space and little monster tot still needs at least two adult eyes on him at all times. But I can cut patterns or order supplies when I’m in the  kitchen or front of the house. I parse out the work into doable chunks so I don’t have to be in my studio to do every aspect of the work.

I’ve been working on a big washcloth order for an embarrassingly long time. Instead of putting it off because I cannot sit down and do it all at once, I simply do 5 a day. It will take a while, and if I can do more, great, but just 5 at a time means it will get done.

If I have a big seasonal legging stack, I’ll print the labels for two orders in the evening and get the mailing & packaging ready, setting out which I want to sew the next day. Then, anytime I can sit at my machine, I do. It’s easier for me to get those two done than think I need an entire day to do everything because I’m never going to have an entire day.


5) ask for help & support.

The Zelie & Co group that has flash instagram sales on Tuesdays has been a wonderful group of ladies to bounce ideas off of and I’m part of a Catholic Craftypreneurs ladies one too where questions & feedback are great. And if I’m really behind, my mom and my sister are so generous with babysitting and my husband is great about taking the kids out to the Lodge or the train store or somewhere they can’t smell me out so I can get my creative work flow on. Usually listening to this (Shea & Jacqui, I really did think the singer was an African-American woman. N O P E).

And this little muleteer. I just can’t cut his hair . . . until he’s not my baby anymore! Slow wink. Nudge. Not there just yet.



  1. Heather on February 26, 2016 at 5:17 am

    Found your blog via Ginny at Small Things and am so glad I did! The first number on your list is my personal gauge for my mental health. If I have no desire to pick up my needles or haul out my machine, then I’m probably not living life with a full pocket of joy, know what I mean? It’s so easy to be overwhelmed. But if I’m really swimming along, then I create!

    • Natural Mama Nell on February 26, 2016 at 6:57 am

      I love Ginny so very much. She’s a true gem. Yes! Totally my mental health gauge. You say it better than I did!

  2. AnneMarie on February 26, 2016 at 2:56 pm

    I think this is great and so applicable to people with busy lives, even if they don’t run businesses or corral bunches of tiny humans! Lists are such a good way for me to stay on task and make sure that I accomplish what I need to get done. Literally everything has to go on my to do list-what books I’m reading, what blog posts I’m working on, what articles I’m writing, etc.

    • Natural Mama Nell on February 26, 2016 at 10:07 pm

      Lists totally make the world go round!

  3. Angie on February 26, 2016 at 4:54 pm

    Love these suggestions – I’m not into making or selling items but this can totally work with so many other projects as a SAHM. PS – I adore that you’re a one car family – that was us until my husband got a little scooter to get him to work 🙂

    • Natural Mama Nell on February 26, 2016 at 10:06 pm

      It’s so so true!