Thursday, March 17, 2011

A theology of sorts

While I was working on one of my recent quilts, I began thinking about a 'theology of quilting', so to speak, though that's not quite the right word for it.  But I thought I'd share this photographic version of it.  In the beginning there's a whole, unblemished piece of fabric that is the inspiration. By itself it is lovely.  And perhaps useful--as a tablecloth, for example.  But only in a limited way.

A pattern is chosen, and other fabrics are added, which will create the quilt. 

And then the cutting begins.  I love cutting the fabric.  It's satisfying because it means the work is beginning.  Even when I can't completely visualize how each piece will work to make the whole, I know these small squares, triangles, or whatever, have purpose.  Yes, that's it, there is purpose in these cuts.  And if the blade is sharp and the ruler straight, the fabric cuts clean and square.
Then the sewing begins.  In the quilt I made with this fabric, small squares were sewn to the corners of large ones, and these were the corners cut off.  These scraps of fabric will go in my scrap drawer, saved for a later day when I might need triangles just this size and color.  Though they do not currently have a purpose, they will not be wasted. 
However, this is trash.  Cut off, and thrown away, unnecessary for this or any other project. 
The square. A building block for a quilt (not ironed here, so it isn't laying flat, but you get the idea).  With three important instruments.  The machine, pins (which, actually, I almost never use in quilting) and a stitch ripper (which I definitely do use).  Think with me for a moment about these things, as well as the cutting tools from the earlier photos.  All have the property of piercing fabric one way or another.  To put together or tear apart it takes piercing.  Pain, if the fabric could speak.
The quilt is in strips now.  Squares have been lined up so that the seams are straight, and if the sewing is done correctly (exactly 1/4" seams), these corners will line up to create this pattern perfectly.
The borders have been added now. The quilt is a whole thing.  All the planning, cutting, sewing (and sometimes, stitch-ripping) have created this.  It is not the same as the whole piece of fabric it was in the beginning, but it is also beautiful.  And now has a purpose.  It will cover someone who needs covering, will comfort her when she's feeling sad and alone. 

This quilt reminded me very much of the young woman for whom I made it.  Her life has been ripped and torn and created from pieces so pierced you might think a person could not survive.  But she has.  And every stitch in her life, every small square that has gone into the quilt that makes up the person she has become, is stronger because it's stitched to the whole by thread governed by God's hands.  That's why I think this is such an apt analogy.  We so often look at the cut places and wonder how God will use it.  We look at what He's taken away and wonder what purpose He has for it.  But His hands are the ones controlling our cut places, and He definitely has a stash drawer for future projects with those things in our lives we think have been simply taken away from us.  God does not waste anything.

And is always, always in the business of making beautiful quilts of purpose from the  'fabric of our lives.'

And now, this gratuitous picture of Jamaica because she got her hair cut scalped this week. As with oh-so-many things in our lives (like my own hair!), we tend to let her go rather a long time between cuts, so this time we thought maybe we should just have her cut short all over, rather than giving her the traditional Springer cut, which I love--you know, long feathers on her legs and belly.  As I was vacillating about it, the groomer told E and me that about 85% of their Springer owners don't let their dogs have Springer cuts.  A crying shame, if you ask me.  And apparently, Jamaica feels the same way...or as we now call her, Naked Maica, because she's cut so short her chest and belly are pink.  And she sits across the room staring at me disgustedly, and I swear (if I swore, which I rarely don't, though more than when my kids where kids) she's saying, "How could you have done this to me?"  Yesterday, when she went outside, she began to sit on the grass, and immediately lifted her bum up, like, "Why is that so cold on my fur?"  Poor Naked Maica.  On the plus side, her beautiful markings are very easy to see. And she looks like the puppy she acts like, rather than the 4-year-old adult dog she's supposed to be.

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