Friday, March 27, 2015

A Stitch in Time

A long time ago, there was a lovely young woman who was engaged to be married.  She was bright and talented, often entertaining her friends and family with performances on the piano or organ.  She excelled at school and earned high honors for her time there.  She dressed nicely and was quite pretty.  Her intended, though not well known to her family, was said to be fun and charming.  She was about as in love as any woman could be, and happily spent her time planning for their upcoming married life.  

Her trousseau became well-stocked as she purchased a set of white china and kitchen sundries for her new home.  Her mother busily crocheted colorful edgings on white cotton pillowcases.  A favorite sister-in-law, married to her eldest brother, began cutting fabric to construct a quilt for the new couple.

She took dozens of fabrics in muted pastels and deeper reds and blacks and began cutting them into small pieces.  Each scrap had to have an exact shape to fit into the particular pattern she had in mind.  When all the pieces were cut, her scissors no doubt slightly dulled and her hands sore, it was time to lay them out and begin assembly.  The small patterns in ginghams, stripes, florals, plaids, and even polka dots were arranged with a simple yellow background, giving the quilt a cheerful countenance.

How many hours were spent in making tiny stitches with needle and thread, I can only imagine.  Every stitch was hand-sewn, pulling the edges of the fabric together with well-wishes for the couple's happiness.  Sometimes the pieces fit together as they ought, and sometimes they did not.  Some pattern lines flowed smoothly, others did not match up exactly, and some of the shapes are slightly distorted.  

At long last, the days and likely weeks of piecing were done.  The quilt front was finished and beautiful.  Next it was time to do the quilting.  She sandwiched a fluffy batting between the finished frontpiece and a plain yellow backing, pinning the edges together carefully.  

Now the stitches followed the lines of the pieces.  They outlined and distinguished the pattern.  Instead of so many individual little pieces, the larger shapes of the circles came out.  Between each ring, a four-petaled flower was stitched.  Each line of stitching had to be as pretty on the back as on the front, and I'm sure many threads were picked out and pulled out when puckers or flaws were found.

When that tedious work was finally done, a binding was sewn around the edges and the quilt was laid aside to be gift wrapped and presented at the wedding.  So many hours.  So much work.  And at the end, a piece of living art, breathing with the love and skill and creativity of its maker.

And so it is with us.  Each little piece is a snippet of our lives.  Our colors range from happy to sad and discouraged to triumphant.  The patterns and textures vary as we grow and learn, and as others enter and pass out of our circles.  Each scrap is held together with stitches, so small as to be nearly invisible - habitual, unimportant, routine, perhaps dull.  But with every snip of the scissors, every little choice of a fabric, every pass of the needle, we sew together our lives.  

In the end, I think we will be surprised at what an amazing whole our crazy lives become.  The mishmash of colors, the un-straight lines of our experiences, the places where our plans did not meet our expectations, and the plainness of our backgrounds can all come together in a beautiful pattern.  The rings of our breathing encircle us and connect us with others near to our hearts, all quilted together in love.  Beautiful.

Thank you, Aunt Shirley, for the lesson and the love.

Double Wedding Ring Quilt, made by Aunt Shirley for my mother's wedding.  ca. 1964

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