Question of the Day: Mojo

Merriam-Webster lists the definition of mojo as follows:

    Etymology: probably of African origin; akin to Fulani moco’o medicine man Date: 1926 : a magic spell, hex,  or charm; broadly : magical power <works his mojo on the tennis court>.

When sewists speak of mojo, I believe they mean something more specific like the will to sew, an inexorable pull into the sewing area, a compulsion to create something through the act of sewing.  I find that my sewing mojo waxes and wanes in indirect corelation to the difficulty of each project.  Funny how that happens, isn’t it?  I am working on the crazy skirt (as my teacher Thea calls the Knip Mode skirt).  By all rights, I should have been done with this baby already.  But I keep procrastinating.  Each step is excruciatingly slow and not because it takes long to do, but because it involves a lot of procrastinating. 

Much as I am wont to complain about pattern instructions and their inscrutable-ness, I still feel at sea without them.  I am such a play by the rule book girl (on most things, but not all).  I use recipes.  I follow directions (when I can understand them).  I like knowing the “proper” order.  Not having directions on how to construct this skirt is such a rudderless feeling to me and causes me to have slight panic attacks.  Ok, ok.  I’m not having panic attacks really, but it does make me procrastinate. 

So I’ve cut out my fashion fabric (LOVE IT!!!!) and of course made my requisite cutting error by forgetting the hem allowance on one of the pieces, but I am ignoring moving forward anyway.  I have yet to cut out the lining (will do that tonight) and need to decide how to interface for the button area.  Should I interface all the way down or for each button individually?  And since this is a wrap skirt, should I piece the waist band to match the skirt pattern pieces (i.e., one for the back, one for the wrap and one for the under wrap?  Or just make one long continuous waist band?

Going back to mojo though, as I mentioned earlier, I find that my mojo mysteriously disappears when I am working on an intimidating project or the difficulty meter heads north.  But something miraculous happened last night.  I was procrastinating as usual and it was 9:30pm before I actually started working on my skirt.  If I want to wear this skirt to the PR Weekend in Philly, I gots to get moving on it pronto!  So, I set up my navy thread, did some practice serging and stitching, and just started working.  (Because my fabric is ravelly, I serged all the sides of the cut pieces before I handled the fabric too much.)  I did one seam, and thought, let’s do another.  Next thing I knew, I had the fabric shell finished (except for hemming and the waistband of course).  I couldn’t believe it.  It was 1/3 constructed in a couple of hours.  I was just going to do my 30 minutes a day, but once I got into the groove, I didn’t want to stop.  It was amazing. 

So the question of the day is this: How does your mojo work for you?  Do you have to just do the work so that it magically appears?  Or do you have to wait for the mojo to appear to do the work?  Which comes first?  The chicken or the egg? 

When I originally set up my 30 minutes a day discipline, my secret hope was that it would jump start my mojo.  And I think it really works!!!  Now I just need to start earlier in the evening, so I have the whole evening to work.  This stupid procrastinating thing is cutting into my mojo time!

Leave your mojo talk in the comments section below please.


16 responses to “Question of the Day: Mojo

  1. I guess I would say there’s no general rule – sometimes I just start and the mojo appears and other times I have the mojo first. Usually during the week (or at night) I jump start the mojo by doing something. On weekend mornings, I wake up raring to go and full of mojo so I take advantage of it whenever possible. I actually hate when I have to do something in the morning on Saturday or Sunday as that is my most energetic time!

  2. I struggle with the sewing mojo at times, too. ESPECIALLY when it involves new sewing skillz that I haven’t tried yet. I get too “thoughtful” and not enough “do-full” b/c I’m too busy over thinking, agonizing and usually researching…

    The 30 minute sessions help with this, tho. You just do ONE thing and that leads to the NEXT thing and before you know it, you’ve got a new garment that you’re proud to wear AND you learned something new along the way. Happens ALL the time! Just keep going, but YES, start earlier. 🙂

  3. I’m a beginner sewer and have really just started to learn, unfortunately i have no outside tutor to help me learn faster. I’ve got PLENTY of mojo, eager to learn and always hungry for more, my problem is i want to learn everything and fast! Not understanding the instructions and “the proper way” frustrates the hell out of me.
    But oh well.. at least i’ve got an abundance of that mojo thing you mentioned…

    PS – LOVED your mother’s day scarf from previous post

  4. I don’t know, I generally have to force myself to do the boring projects that hold no interest to me (such as curtains). For those types of projects, mojo is irrelevant. However, the more difficult the project, the more fiercely it pulls me in. I may procrastinate starting on a project that intimidates me, (like jeans 😉 ) but once I start cutting it out, I feel compelled to finish it. Probably because I’m one of those super stubborn “I’m gonna show you!” type of people. 🙂

  5. For me, the amount of mojo I have usually corresponds to the amount of time I have available. When I have no time to sew, I crave it and dream of sewing for days at a time! (Which is how I feel these days).
    But when I have lots of time, that’s when I start to procrastinate or delay getting started. As if I’m thinking, I have all the time in the world so no need to rush. When I’m starved for sewing time, my mind is going “GO GO! Don’t waste this hour of quality time!”

  6. I tend to have a pretty good mojo, but that’s because as part of my school work I’m taking an audio course on music this year, so I spend 1.5 hours a day with headphones in. I need something to do with my hands, so I sew! I’m a bit worried about how my mojo will sag when I finish this course.


  7. My desire to sew is a wonderful thing to me. I have something inside that cries out “create”, although I don’t actually think that I am that creative. I really think that my desire to sew is ALWAYS there, but what happens is that things just start going wrong and I start making too many mistakes or misjudgments that lead to mistakes (wrong pattern, wrong fabric or even over thinking a project). These things almost always lead to disaster in the sewing cave. A big disaster in the sewing cave almost always results in me asking, “can I really sew”, or “do I just think that I can sew”. These times always leave me in a state of shock that thank goodness my sewing buddies are pretty good in pulling me out of. I think you get my message so I’ll end now before I write a book about this subject. (lol)

  8. My sewing mojo totally depends on my health. If my neck and back feel up to bending over the table on pattern work, then I can produce some amazing things. But sometimes it’s months before I feel up to sewing, neck- and back-wise.

    Note to younger enthusiasts – get ergonomic from the get-go. Your 55 year old self will welcome you!

    That said, the weather is looking up, and I’ve sewn 3! new variations on my summer tee, mostly because I feel much better when the weather is warm and dry.

  9. Sometimes I can’t wait to get into my sewing room. Other times I do exactly as you’ve described; I start by winding bobbins and test stitching then I sew one seam, then another, then another. Sometimes I put a current project aside and opt to sew up a simple knit top for instant gratification. That then re-inspires me to go back to the harder stuff.

  10. I haven’t sewn in weeks and and am petrified to start again (fear of failure). So I can relate to your mojo question. I think many of us wait for “inspiration” to hit before we can be motivated. But usually it works the other way around. We need to just “do” and eventually the motivation kicks in.

    Regarding not working with directions, here is something that can help: write your own. Consult your favorite sewing reference books, figure out a game plan, then write down the steps you need to follow to complete the garment. Print out your own directions and follow them.

  11. Yes, I do that “thinking it through” for ages thing aka procrastinating. It’s true it slows me down somewhat but it is also true that while I am musing the “solution” to what is holding me back DOES usually pop into my head. So at the end I get a garment that I can actually wear, rather than a few more metres of waddage. So even though I don’t sew as much as many bloggers, every day I am wearing something that I made. So procrastination works for me!.

    Also as time goes by I get more confident about each technique, and learn how to quickly choose the best way to do something out of a range of options, and therefore quicker, and I pick up speed tips from people’s blogs so overall, even with the procrastination (aka pondering/problem solving), I am actually getting quicker and better at what I am doing.

    In a former career I was a teacher, and it is known that nothing motivates a learner more than challenge plus success. Challenge without success is demoralizing, and success without challenge is boring (and also therefore demoralizing). On mojo, therefore, I think you’ve got it about right!

  12. My mojo has a mind of it’s own. It isn’t related to the difficulty of a project. Sometimes I just don’t want to sew for whatever reason. It always comes back of it’s own accord and I don’t force it.

    I share your opinion about pattern instructions. I’ve made the same style pants a million times, but I still need those directions in front of me.

  13. It varies – but most of all I need success. So if a particular item gets difficult – I will often do something quick and easy to keep me moving along – then tackle the next few hard steps – then something quick and easy – and so on. I pretty much always have 3 – 4 (or more) projects going at any one time. Sometimes my hard projects have taken a year to complete – but it still gets done – plus all the in between projects. You find what works for you and then enjoy. Don’t beat yourself up because that sucks out the joy of creating.

  14. I think mojo is a mysterious thing. Sometimes I am very enthusiastic about a project that is not too hard, and yet can’t motivate to work on it. Other times I go into a sewing frenzy. And sometimes I just put in my 30 minutes. I like it when the time flies, though (had a very successful project on Saturday).

  15. I can so identify with losing mojo when things get a little tough. I am working on a Burda shirt right now that I really like and really want to finish. But it has taken me about two weeks. For some reason the zipper is giving me fits and so the procrastination begins. I finally got it in enough to see that it will be really cute when I am finished so now my mojo is definitely back to finish this baby up.

  16. I identify with losing the mojo, but I have to say that it seems to have nothing to do with anything. I’ve figured out that I need about twenty minutes of sitting in my chair fiddling about with music or looking in my notions drawers or something before I start so the sooner I get to that bit the sooner I get. The trick is to get to the chair…

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