When I first started seriously quilting, I had more available time to sew than I do now. One of the best things I did with that extra time was read through Bonnie K. Hunter's website, http://quiltville.blogspot.com/ Bonnie has been quilting far longer than I, and she has some incredibly valuable information on her blog. I learned from her to pre-cut my scraps, use leaders/enders, make use of my scraps, string piece; she's literally influenced my quilting in dozens of ways. Now that I've been quilting a while, I've learned which of her techniques work for me, and which don't.
I've seen women in my online groups rant about cutting for Bonnie's Scrap User System, then never using those pre-cut scraps. I, however, do use my pre-cut scraps all the time. I think the difference is, whenever I am going to start a new quilt, I think about if any of my pre-cut sizes will work for that quilt. If they will, I go to those first, before I ever look at yardage in stash. Sometimes I have gone ahead and pulled stash, then used none of it because I had enough pre-cuts. Now I just go straight to pre-cuts, and use as much of that as I can before touching stash yardage. By changing the way I pull fabric for a quilt, it changed how many scraps I use.
Another thing Bonnie got me doing was using Leader/Enders while piecing. I don't see the point in making random four patches or nine patches for a "someday" quilt, but I do see every reason to work on a second quilt at the same time. I am usually working on multiple quilts at once while piecing, and I love it that the secondary quilt is often done before the primary quilt. It feels like I got a quilt top done without ever working on it.
Some of Bonnie's ideas don't work well for me, at least as she uses them. For example, the way she assembles a quilt top, she calls Webbing the Top. I do not like assembling quilts this way, BUT I do use this same technique for assembling blocks. The reason I don't like assembling quilt tops this way is that you are dealing with most of the quilt, a lot of the assembly process. I find it hard to manage. What works for me is assembling horizontal rows, which I normally do as leaders/enders. All odd numbered rows get the seams pressed to the right, all odd numbered rows get pressed to the left. I then start sewing the rows to each other in pairs row 1 to row 2, row 3 to row 4, and so on. Once that is done I sew the pairs together 1/2 to 3/4, 5/6 to 7/8, etc... Only the center seam has me wrangling the whole quilt top. I've heard other women say they hated the way I assemble quilt tops, because they don't like dealing with the long strips of blocks. It works fine for me, and if you don't like that, try assembling in quarters or something. There are so many ways to do things, don't stick with something that isn't working for you.
I took some pics this morning while I was sewing, so I could show you how I web a block, based on Bonnie's method of webbing a top.
^Here is a 25 patch, laid out ready to sew. I'm going to refer to the horizontal rows by number, 1-5 from top to bottom. The columns will be a-e going left to right.
^Here I've sewn 1a to 1b, 2a to 2b, 3a to 3b, 4a to 4b, and 5a to 5b. I don't want to cut this chain, so I need a leader/ender.
^Here I'm using a block from a quilt for one of my grandsons as my leader/ender. Now I can snip off the chain from my original block, and add the c column to them.
^Here I am adding the last of the d column, see how I only have the e column left from my original lay out?
^Now all the rows are done, and I've turned it 90 degrees. I am not cutting the chaining threads. I finger press the first, third, and fifth rows seams up, the second and fourth rows down.
Flip the fifth column over the fourth and sew that seam. Since I finger pressed the seams in opposite directions, they nest nicely together. I sew a leader/ender in between each seam on my main block.
^This is right after sewing that last seam. The fourth and fifth columns are sewn together.
Now it's time to flip the pair of columns over so I can se the next seam. You keep on with this, until the block is complete.
^These are the two leader/ender blocks I completed while working on the one 25 patch.
^Here is my completed 25 patch.
One of the biggest helps to getting a lot done, is picking a good starting place, NOT a good stopping place. Right after I finish this 25 patch is a fine stopping place, but where does that leave me to start next time I sit at the sewing machine? I have nothing ready to follow the leader/ender under my needle.
Now, if I take an extra couple minutes and lay out another 25 patch? That is an excellent starting place! I can sit down and start sewing immediately, so if I only have 15 minutes to sew next time, I can actually see something come together, instead of just laying out a block and feeling like I got nothing accomplished.
A good starting place depends on what I'm doing, but it is basically making sure when I get to the sewing room, I can immediately sew something. I may have to make sure I press my units before I stop, or do some sub-cutting if I'm strip piecing. Whatever I have to do to make it so that I can sit and sew immediately next time, is what I need to do to have a good starting place.
Some other time savers? If I have one of those rare days I can sew most of the day, I try to put dinner in the crock pot in the morning. If I don't have to stop and make dinner, and the family gets fed, it's all good. Sometimes I even put the bread machine on the timer and we get warm bread plus whatever I put in the crock pot.
I tend to cut out multiple quilts at once. I like to make a few quilts to donate every year, and with time at a premium, that's hard to do. If I know I have more than enough fabric to make whatever quilt I want to make, I cut extra blocks from the same fabrics, and however many extra blocks I get go into donation quilts. I just cut out quilts for all three of my grandsons, and they will be my leader/enders while I work on the quilt made of 25 patches. I find it most time saving to do things assembly line style, cut several quilts, piece them all, quilt them all. Some people can't work that way, and that's fine too. These are some of the ways I get more done. There are some great tips out there, find the ones that work for you!