Monday, March 16, 2009

Close enough

Beve bought me a new sewing machine for Christmas.  The previous one--which I bought the year E was born--is a Singer, and served me well for many years.  I made scads of dresses for the girls.  Doll clothes and baby clothes, and Halloween costumes.  Curtains, valences, and baby quilts, quillows, aprons, tea cozies, vests. For a machine that had only 5 stitches, it did the job for me for many years.  Matching Christmas dresses, co-ordinating Easter outfits (including, one year, ties for Beve and J), yep, I was a pretty capable seamstress back then.  Back when we actually built a room on back of our garage just for me to sew in.  I had a plethora of fabric in those days, filling the cupboards that lined one side of the room.
That poor old Singer, though, bit the dust finally.  It had been limping along for the last several years, sometimes working, sometimes--inexplicably--not.  The last time I took it in to get repaired, the repairman said it had outlasted itself.  Not old enough to be vintage, the parts for this 24 year old machine are simply not being made any longer.  

But this new machine, a Pfaff, is a wonder.  Computerized, 65 different stitches, the ability to write the alphabet, embroider flowers--it's pretty stinkin' fancy for a simple seamstress like me.  But because I've been a little at loose ends of late, I decided to pull out some of my fabric, and make a quilt.  I've long wanted to become a quilter.  I admire the craftsmanship in really well-made quilts, admire the patience it takes to create them.  I grew up with quilts on my bed.  Not fancy ones, just the ordinary cotton quilts made by my Kansas grandmother and her mom and grandma.  Barely thicker than sheets, some of those quilts were--Sailboat patterned, the pioneer bonnet, double wedding ring, and simple squares, all of them white backgrounded with a variety of fabrics making up the squares.  These women made quilts because they had fabric to use up--from clothing their hands had also made.  They made them because they had to cover the beds with something, after all.  I doubt my grandmother thought of herself as an artist, never thought they'd be worth what antique quilts sell for today, but she was handy with a needle and thread, and blankets were either expensive or impossible to find out on the Kansas prairie.

So I decided to make a quilt.  I've needed a project that I could finish.  I doubt I could hand-sew one, as my great-grands did, but with this fancy new machine (though mostly all you need for a quilt is a straight stitch!), I thought I'd give it a try.

And this is what I've learned:  it will take time to become a really good quilter, and even at that, I don't know if I have it in me.  It takes a minute attention to details--from the exact cutting to the precise sewing (1/4" straight seams).  I'm not a detail person.  I tend to move at "close enough." Close enough isn't close enough when it comes to quilting.  Corners can't almost meet, but must be lined up perfectly so the pattern is right.  I'm too quick--in my thinking and in my work--and that doesn't work either (at least not as a novice).  I'm almost finished with the quilt top now, and it's going to be okay, but it's not a showpiece.  It wouldn't win any blue ribbons at the county fair.

And I should be saying that worries me.  Unfortunately, it doesn't quite.  I just don't care enough.  It looks good, as long as you don't look closely, and that's close enough for me.  Sorry to say.

It makes me wonder how much I'm like this in the rest of my life.  How often I let 'close enough' rule the day, when, with a little more patience and a little more attention to detail, I could turn out something better--something righteous, one might say. Might become better myself--become righteous or holy.   It's easy to say that such qualities in a person are simply character traits--you're either born with the ability to work carefully, or you're not.  And I'm not.  But I think that attitude has let me off the hook too many times in my life.  Rather than slowing down, finishing well what I start, paying attention to something precisely, I've sped on my way.  But God, I know, pays attention to the details. He intends rightousness--perfection for all of us.  And in order for me to become what He intends me to be, I'd better slow down and move more precisely.  For Him, 'close enough' still comes up short.  That's the whole point.  Even those pharisees who tried to obey to the last jot and tittle weren't quite close enough. It took God Himself to draw us past our 'close enough,' to 'saved by grace.'  And because He did this, because this very day, that saving by grace is at work at me, I am compelled to press more slowly, more steadily, until I am Him completely.  Not just close enough, but all the way to Holiness.

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