Keeping it. Finding it. Losing it. Jump-starting it.
These books are part of it but I’ll get to those in a few.
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.”
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.