Sew-jo mojo…

Keeping it.  Finding it.  Losing it.  Jump-starting it.

These books are part of it but I’ll get to those in a few.

Happy Friday!

If you’ve sewn, made quilts or engaged in any creative, artistic pursuit for many years, you’ve probably felt it.  Your sewing mojo isn’t there.  “Mojo” being defined as a magic charm, talisman, or spell.  I think of it as being an energy and excitement for doing the work.  (Except it’s not really work when you’ve got your sewjo-mojo.)

The reason this is on my mind today is that it’s something everybody feels at some point, whether you’re doing it as a business or not.  You want to make something but you either can’t figure out where to start, or your heart just isn’t in it. I know I have felt it, and still do at times.  There isn’t just one reason why it happens, and there isn’t any one cure-all fix for it.  But there are things that can help – things I’ve tried and that have worked for me.

First – don’t force it.  Whether it’s a specific project or just “sewing” in general, if you’re not having fun and enjoying it, take a break.  It’s that simple.

Try making something different – a different craft, a different kind of project, something outside your comfort zone.  Anything creative will do – especially if it gets you back into a “learning mode”.  Did you know that research shows that most of us are more engaged and excited about something when we’re learning?  (Except for high school… I’m sure that’s an exception.)

That’s where books come in for me – and classes.  But especially books.

These are two of my favorites – the Quilter’s Yearbook from Lucky Spool and The Little Spark by Carrie Bloomston.  Both are workbooks – tasks, prompts or “sparks” that are designed to make you think, get you out of your comfort zone and teach you that being creative isn’t something you’re born with.  It’s something you develop and nurture.

Both identify and encourage the need to play – to have fun with what you’re doing.

Few people do that better than Amy Ellis – Moda Designer, modern quilter and okay, one of the most creatively energetic people I’ve ever met.  Nine weeks ago, Amy posted this to Instagram.

“Late last year I started to think of how I could challenge myself in my creativity, and really open myself up to being more creative this year.  I decided to challenge myself with improv quilting, so starting today, I am diving in with 100 days of improv compositions.  My parameters are these black and white solids, along with anything from my scrap bin as I am inspired to pull from it.”

Amy is on Day 66 of her Improv Challenge.  To see more of Amy’s blocks and inspiration – amyscreativeside – and #100daysofquiltimprov

An easy way to try something new is to take a class or find a book on a subject that interests you, scares you or challenges you.  Whether you get the book at your favorite quilt shop or the library, these are some of the books that have caught my attention lately.

Stitched Shibori by Jane Callender.  While I have seen Shibori in the past, I’ve learned more about it in the past year after seeing Debbie Maddy’s beautiful Shibori and Shibori II collections.  It is a resource book and an instruction book, more importantly, it was very inspirational as it gave me an even greater appreciation for the work and skill that goes into creating a shibori design.

Anything by Yoko Saito.  While I don’t think I’ll ever make a taupe quilt, Yoko Saito’s work aways inspires me because she masterfully mixes simplicity with complexity – her blocks are tiny, have lots of pieces and yet never look busy or fussy.

While Yoko Saito’s books were originally published in Japanese, Stitch Publications has translated those books into English, and published new books as well.  This Traditional Block Patterns is a favorite.

Embellish Me by Laurie Wishburn.

Do you want to learn a new technique?  This is the book for you!  Laurie includes interviews with artists and experts, and there is enough instruction and information to introduce you to a new technique.  I am particularly interested in trying some of the dyeing and printing techniques.

Another suggestion often made for getting your sewjo-mojo back is to just “make something” – a quick fix, something fun and fast that you won’t overthink.

When it comes to fast, fun and seriously good projects, nobody does it better than Terry Atkinson.  Her new book Simple, Fun & Quickly Done is filled with clever ideas for quick, bright projects.  And as always, Terry’s instructions are the best.  (I’ve got this book just to learn to make those rosettes!)

The other two books in my stack are quite different – The Skirt Emporium by Madame ZsaZsa and No Scrap Left Behind by Amanda Jean Nyberg.  With the cover saying “Sew 25 fun and fabulous designs for all sizes and ages, with ideas for many more”, temperatures already in the 90s and a sample room full of pretty cotton fabrics, Madame ZsaZsa has me thinking I need a skirt or two for summer.  Maybe something from Tuppence or Midnight Garden?

No Scrap Left Behind?  It’s fun.  It’s play.  And the quilts are gorgeous.  I also love Amanda’s approach to making it fun and not over-thinking the process.

The last suggestion for sparking your creativity is about your “space”.  Your sewing room or studio.  If you’ve lost your sewjo… clean up your room.  Organize it.  Clean out those things you’ll never use – donate them to your guild or a charity sewing group.  I’ve always found that cleaning up – and clearing out – energizes me because I find things I’d forgotten about.  It can also get a little overwhelming when you can’t find what you want or need – tools, fabric or the floor.

So I hope you’ve got your sewjo-mojo this weekend.  I’ll be getting blocks made for the two – three? – sew-alongs I’ve joined.  That’s another great way to play and spark your creativity, if you still need ideas.

Happy Friday!

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17 thoughts on “Sew-jo mojo…

  1. You have done your home work and wrote a very informative post. I appreciate your efforts and am inspired to apply a few.

  2. Cleaning up and clearing out always sets me up for success. I’m not a neat person at all but when the clutter accumulates it acts like a weight on creativity. This was a great reminder!

  3. you always have such great ideas that I’ve started keeping a notebook beside the computer when I read your entries – 2 new Olfa cutters and a couple of books are on the list today! You are absolutely right about a clean space to work. I recently took everything but the furniture out of my work room and clean up – I already have 2 projects going and set it up so they can be put away neatly (and easily) if I need to do something else. It’s made so much difference!

  4. I agree with all of these suggestions. I just donated some old scraps, and repainted and reorganized my sewing room. I made several Noodlehead “open wide” pouches and practiced some new techniques with the 241 tote while I was in between quilts. Now I’m ready to start on the next big project.

  5. Thank you. I needed a little spark. Great book reviews, even see a couple I better get for my library!

  6. Several years ago I found myself in a quilting funk. I used the time for exploring genealogy. A new, fancy fan-dangled sewing machine brought me back to the world I’d loved since 1978. I’ve taken a handful of fun, new-to-me techniques since then. I’ve met wonderful ladies at Olde World and Tatum Ranch. My one regret is that during my “off-season” I didn’t meet you there!

  7. I am trying the “just say No” as I got caught up signing and starting too many block of the day, week, month and too many messages coming in from “every quilter out there” wanting me to start MORE. I got overwhelmed when I couldn’t keep up and had to concentrate on “working full time, family full time,…and I lost all mojo. I am “cleaning out” emails, unsubscribing, deleting my documents, and it feels really good to start” seeing my work space and time for me to just relax with quilting.

  8. Thanks for this post! I misplace my sew mojo sometimes never really lose it but I also realised that when I don’t sew for a day or two I have more energy to start again. Wish you a wonderful weekend!

  9. I think I’m coming out of my 3 week funk – maybe. I did a face plant and wracked up my right hip/leg and shoulder. Nothing super serious, sprains, strains and bruises. When It didn’t heal as quickly as I expected I went back to M.D. and he called for more X-rays. I apparently bounced a lot of arthritis loose in hip and knee joints. I now have n-saids added to my medicine list and I feel much better. But quilting. I’ve walked into my sewing room and picked up something. Made a note about measurments or to sort through fabric/make a choice. Then turned around and walked out. I did make my challenge block of the week for NQA sew along but it took all week to turn out one block. Yesterday, I went into the den and picked up the stack of Splendid Sampler iron on applique block kits I had made and started to trace. Three block kits are now ready to “iron on” and be assembled. I’ve been working on the UFO challenge and of course I’m now behind on the March UFO… IF (the biggest 2 letter word in the English language), IF I can keep going today, I will be doing some catching up – finish the current Challenge block and go back to work on that UFO #12. We’ll see.

  10. I am inspired to clean my sewing room AND(yes, a very big and) start sewing & quilting, again and I thank you, Carrie!

  11. Cleaning in the sewing room works for me, last week in fact as I was cleaning, I came across a piece of decorator fabric, which then turned into a finished zippered bag. Cleaning is a happy distraction, and certainly leads me into creativity.

  12. I am sewing for me this year. I have had so many “have to” sewing things in the last couple of years that I began to avoid even walking into my sewing room. I am being MUCH pickier about what I do now (like choosing not to participate in guild projects and not feeling obligated to make a quilt for every new baby at work). I have finished a few things that I had to put aside and am in the process of choosing a new big quilt project just because I want to!

  13. I just wanted to say that I’m new to quilting. I’ve made a couple lap quilts so far. I recently bought 3 Moda charm packs, the 5 inch squares and I love them! Such nice fabric!! I hope to try a jelly roll one day! Lots of fun with your fabrics!! Thanks Moda!!

  14. Just wanted to let you know Carrie that I just bought your book “Farmhouse Favorites” and love every pattern in it! I see where I will be making lots of new quilts and this is the best book ever….Thanks for a wonderful and enjoyable sewing tool. This will be right up there on top of my “best” books ever.
    Thanks, Gail

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