I’m not much of a seamstress, but I wish I was. I have other talents — you can put a crochet hook in my hand, and I’m a Yarn Ninja — but sewing doesn’t seem to come naturally to me.
I own a small sewing machine, but it is tucked into the far recesses of my craft room closet, hidden underneath half finished projects and bags of yarn. Once or twice a year, I pull it out and attempt to use it, usually on a simple pattern consisting of large rectangles, such as a baby blanket or burp rags. As soon as I try to get fancy with it – and by fancy, I mean something like adjusting the tension or changing the stitch length – well, then it ends with tangled thread and broken needles.
Because of this, I was intimidated when a quilting group formed at my church last year. Starting in January, and continuing through the winter months, they met once a week to sew handmade blankets to donate to Lutheran World Relief (LWR). LWR then delivers the blankets to people in crisis situations all over the world. The blankets are distributed to orphanages, care homes, and families in poverty. Other times they are given to survivors of natural disasters such as hurricanes or earthquakes. Often they serve not only as blankets, but as roofs or doors, or floor coverings.
It sounded exactly like the sort of project I would love to participate in, but I wasn’t sure if I should, because, well, I was concerned my presence would be a liability to the cause. I was assured, however, that sewing skills were not necessary. I wasn’t sure how that could be true, but I decided to take a chance and show up to help anyway.
I’m so happy I did!
It turned out there was plenty to do, even for a sewing challenged individual like me. Squares need to be cut, fabric needs to be ironed, and quilts tops need to be tied. That’s my specialty – tying knots. In fact, that is what most of the quilters end up doing, because every quilt square needs 10 –12 knots in it, and every quilt has dozens of squares, and every week we make three or four quilts — well, you get the picture.
Now, I realize this might not sound like a rollicking good time to you: a bunch of women sitting around a church basement tying knots. But it’s more than that – it’s a bunch of women sitting around a church basement tying knots while they build relationships. For the first time in my life I understand why the frontier women of ages past enjoyed getting together for “Sewing Bees.” When our quilting group comes together, we do more than sew; we talk about lives, and we share from own experiences. The more capable teach the novices new skills, passing their talents down to a new generation of women. We pray for each other, and with each other. The bare church basement is transformed, by both the brightly colored fabric patterns and the laughter of our group. Every week we grow in love for one another, and then we infuse that love into the quilts we are making to send out into the world, where ever an act of loving care is needed. It’s wonderful.
This year, I didn’t hesitate to join in when our quilting group started up again. We meet on Mondays, so I was able to take my ten year old daughter with me today. (School was closed today in observance of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday.) Although she asked to go, I could tell she was having second thoughts as we prepared to leave this morning.
“You mean I’ll just be tying knots for hours?” she asked with a bit of frown.
“Well, yes…and no,” I answered unhelpfully. “You’ll just have to see for yourself.”
Despite her last minute trepidation, when we arrived at the church she jumped right in. A quick learner, she was tying knots like a pro within minutes. The ebb and flow of friendly conversation washed around us, and the morning slipped away like quicksilver. Hours later, she looked up at me with a big grin on her face.
“I don’t know why tying knots is so much fun,” she said with a giggle, “but it is!”
She’s right. It really is.