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Tuesday
Mar102009

So You Can Sew?

I have no first hand experience with running the universe, but I can relate. Having taught sewing to children for decades I see the pitfalls in helping kids feel successful without lopping off fingertips or wearing a handmade skirt that peels off in the first strong gust. I want children to make their own choices, really I do, but sometimes, well they make the wrong choices.

Like putting a plaid scarlet border on a doll quilt made of tiny pink floral prints. Or sewing a seam that begins at a scant quarter inch but migrates to a full inch on a quilt block slated to hold hands with another four inch block. Or a bean bag whose gaping stitches allow more things through than the Mexican border patrol.

Some of the mistakes are predictable. I have seen a room full of children whose pillowcases have the wrong sides sewn together, no matter how many times you chant "right sides together" like a cereal commercial you know by heart.

One of my subtle tactics is to rave about a student's sewing- in truth I am glad she braved the sewing machine and pushed the foot pedal- but when she leaves the class I rip out the Lombard Street seams and redo them. She won't notice. In her eyes they were straight to begin with. Occasionally I let out a sigh when I have beefed up the pinning and handed it to the eager seamstress, sure that the gathers will remain even and fluffy, and had her bring it back to me with a ruffle that has broccoli bunches instead.

Once a little boy made a spy costume that in his mind was ready for a front page ad, and was headed for the bathroom to take off his regular clothes underneath. I stalled, scrambling for an explanation of why it would not be good to wear the costume alone, without mentioning indecent exposure as grounds for expulsion in this school.

I say that I have no experience with personal direction on a grandiose scale, but I pay attention. Teaching 7 year olds how to sandwich a quilt is a precursor to understanding how God leads the human race. Really.

I know the intricacies of the dilemma of how much freedom to offer without risking permanent damage. God wants to let us make choices about who to date as if we are capable of such things.

But He is there with a spiritual seam ripper to help rescue us from relationships gone awry. He defends our freedom to make choices, knowing full well that we may match ourselves with someone as inappropriately as a scarlet plaid and pink floral. I can picture Him trying to steer us toward the peach calico, but not pushing so hard as to be obvious. Some marital matches end up being obvious, but it works anyway, like two brothers who marry two sisters. They were going to the same parties anyway.

Or the story I heard of a man who arrived late to his aunt's funeral, thrusting himself in the front pew next to a distraught woman he had never met before. After a few minutes he whispered to the annoyed and weeping lady "Why does the minister kept referring to the deceased as Margaret?" and she hissed back that it was because her mother's name was Margaret. He realized that he was in the wrong church and at the wrong funeral. His shoulders began to shake. He tried to muffle his laughter, but it spilled over into the bereaved woman until she too could not contain it, and faked crying harder to disguise it. After the service they introduced themselves over a cup of coffee and, well a year later they came to the church for a different reason.

Some problems with mate selection are predictable. Like teenage girls who hike up their skirts when they leave the house, thinking this is a novel and remarkably reliable way to identify prospective partners. It will attract partners, but only the kind that fall apart in the first strong wind.

As adults we try to pin together social structures that prevent teenagers from making too much contact, too fast. But they have a way of pulling out the pins and bunching it up anyway. The culture of arranged marriages starts to look appealing, but then the old theme of letting people feel as if they have free choice crops up and we are left with imperfections to deal with.

I suspect that the real reason God arranged things so that people close their eyes every night, is so that He has time to redo wobbly seams without us knowing.