Skip to content

Stitching it all together takes more than talent

Taking scraps and creating beauty.
shelley column pic
It's all about heart

I don't sew. In high school I took Home Ec. Classes only because they were mandatory, not because I wanted to. The cooking and design units were fine, but when it came time to sew I dragged my feet.

In grade 10 we made stuffed animals. That was pretty cool. We got to order kits containing patterns, material and stuffing and then hand-stitched projects together. I made a little grey elephant, and a blue and white baseball bat. The bat was okay because of the larger size of the pieces, but the elephant was more complicated, requiring sewing little ears, trunk and legs separately and then attaching those to the rest of the body. I proudly handed in my finished projects knowing they weren't perfect, but they were done.

A few days later our stuffies were returned along with the teacher's evaluation. I was told about the unevenness of some of the stitches and one of the elephant's ears sitting a bit too high, but what also stood out to me was being told the bat was understuffed while the elephant was overstuffed. Go figure. At least the sewing unit was over.

Another year we had to make a pair of pants and a shirt. Seriously? I don't know who was more relieved when that came to an end—me or the teacher? Though I must say that while I never ever wore the shirt, the pants were actually not horrible.

There is a group of women I know who get together to sew and what they accomplish amazes me for a couple of reasons: the materials they work with, along with why they do it.

There is a rich tradition going back decades in churches of sewing quilts to send to those in need. These dedicated individuals aside several days each year and devote hours upon hours to making beautiful, warm and much needed coverings for people locally and around the world.

I don't participate, but I like to wander into their space and check out what they are doing. What fascinates me is that they don't have big bolts of fabric in dozens of colors to roll out. They are working with larger and smaller pieces, most of it donated. It's material a non-sewer like me would erroneously consider scraps. But in their hands those bits are positioned, coordinated, sewn together and turned into very pretty blankets. They see the function and beauty in what others might discard. They are the ultimate recyclers.

Then comes the 'why'. These women, who are involved in many other things and had other places they could have been, chose to spend their time sewing for others. At one point they took a bit of a coffee break and asked me to join. That is when I got to listen to their expressions of appreciation in being able to work on these projects. They are thankful to have the opportunity to sew for people they don't know and will never meet.

Where others might complain about hours of standing, sore backs, stiff fingers and tiresome work of sorting through pieces of textile to find what works to create a finished project, they express gratitude at just being able to do it.

My house has multiple blankets on each of the beds, blankets tucked away in a trunk, and ones stacked on the top shelf of a closet. I was startled by that reality when I was with a group distributing blankets in a migrant work camp. My heart ached when we walked past a mother wrapping her baby in a tattered covering but we didn't give her one of our new blankets because as the outreach coordinator said, "She at least has something to wrap her baby in." He was foreshadowing for us how many families we would be meeting that had none at all. That was one camp. In one country.

It is a labor of love for the people currently doing this work that has seen countless women and men sort, sew, pack and haul to keep the process going. Thousands of lives have been impacted by the piecing together of fabric in such practical and beautiful ways; the recipient's lives to be sure, but these women showed me the impact it is having on them, too. They also taught me that more important than the skill of the sewer is the heart guiding the hands. That's my outlook.


push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks