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: A Stitch in Time  ( 7502 )
Rev. Elizabeth
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« : October 01, 2013, 08:28:37 AM »

It was called a shrug. Short.With one button at the neck.  Made of orlon, the fabric was now covered with small pill-like lumps of fiber; the metal ornaments had lost their color and  sheen.  It was ready to become a rag--and a fairly useless one at that.
“Mother,” I nagged, “why are you wearing that ratty old sweater?  I gave you a new one for Christmas, didn’t I?”
“Well,” she replied, not looking up from her sewing,”it’s just around the house. I’m saving the new one for good wear.”

We all have those things, I suppose.  Treasures.  Stuff handed down when attics were cleaned, houses emptied.  Vases, dishes, quilts, rifles, tools, clothes. We save them for  company; or for good wear; or we hope, for the yet unborn grandchildren who  will want and treasure them.  Now and then we unfold, unwrap, rediscover them and ponder them.
 Perhaps the sight and touch of them evokes a place, a person, an event. We keep them because they  call us back to a different time and place: a different sense of self.They pull us toward a person long gone; a holiday meal long forgotten; remembrances of things past.  We can’t part with them; let whoever cleans out the house after we are gone deal with it we say,putting the treasure back where it had been.

But there is that moment when that dreadful existential question arises: What’s the point?  Why keep those dishes in the cupboard, never using them; saving them for some unknown event.  Why keep the rifle carefully polished, locked away, never to see the light of day; why keep the quilt wrapped carefully in tissue paper, never covering a bed; warming someone on a chilly night,  just in case there might be someone some day who might want it.
I suppose this  quilt was one of those things.  For all our married years I had kept it at the bottom of something: a box; a cedar chest; a drawer. It travelled with us around the north country.  But, use it?  Never; it was a treasure. Made completely by hand, by my father in law’s mother--or was it his grandmother?  It doesn’t matter.  It is old.
The colors are faded to softness; the cotton is smooth and comforting to touch. And so I decided the answer to that  question is --there is no point.  Take it out, fix it up, use it. 

Practically falling into the cedar chest I pushed aside all the other treasures, pulled out the quilt, and spread it on the bed.  The edges were frayed; batting  was seeping  out between the  tired layers of fabric.  It appeared to be an easy fix: buy some bias tape, trim off the frayed and uneven edges, and sew the tape on, sealing the edges against further damage.

And so, equipped with sufficient bias tape and matching thread, I pinned the tape to the frayed edge and began the task of hand stitching the tape to the edges.  I could have used the machine I suppose,, but that  would have been an insult to that distant relative who  hand stitched the quilt so many years ago.

The careful  repetition of stitch after stitch became meditative; how quickly  my gestures fell into a rhythm; how carefully  I made sure each stitch was  spaced evenly; the stitching evoked memories.  How my aunt who was teaching me to sew a backstitch told me I was sewing backwards because I am left handed.  How my mother would tear worn sheets down the middle, and sew the sturdier, outer sides together, and then hem the worn edges.  And how, in those empty hours between her trip to the grocery store and preparations for supper she would sit and hem odd scraps of fabric, making table napkins. And always, her stitches were uniform, neat, precise.

In the living room of the old house in which I grew up,  was a mysterious closet with strange dim nooks and crannies.  In one dim corner was a deep box with fabric remnants.  Now, we would call them vintage and sell them; then, I just sorted through them looking for pieces large enough to hand stitch skirts from. I have to admit, though no curly locks, I could sew a fine seam--though it took hours.
Now  holding the soft faded  antique quilt, I was  again sewing, stitch by stitch, my hands falling into the same  careful rhythms that I used so long ago. Looking at the stitches made by that distant relative, I tried to match the size of my stitches to hers.
  I cannot sew on it but think about whoever it was eighty years ago, who cut out the pieces of fabric; lay them out; sewed them together. Every one of thousands of stitches done by a careful pushing of needle and thread in and out, in and out, rhythmically, evenly. 
The design consists of rings of white and small squares of white.  The center of each ring is divided into quadrants. Except for the 4 corners, where a different fabric is used, the same fabric is used throughout; white rings  surrounded by faded blue with red and white squiggles on it.  Surely, the patterned fabric came from bolt ends or remnants found in a Woolworths, perhaps on sale.  There is neither beauty nor charm about it; perhaps as I did, the seamstress dug through a box of remnants to find it.

Upon close examination, errors become apparent:, the corners of the four inner pieces in the center  of each white ring don’t quite match. It is impossible to tell if the odd fabric in each corner was part of an intentional design, or was used because she didn’t have enough of the other. 

  The ugly fabric is faded, its colors and design softened by time.  It is too thin to afford much warmth; but that no longer matters  None of that matters now. Like all the treasures we have tucked away at the bottom of drawers, in the back of closets, things we know are there but rarely use or even look at, the quilt is no longer just that. It is a book, a reflection,a  window, a mirror.  What matters now  is  only time and memory and story.
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« #1 : October 01, 2013, 03:35:36 PM »

Wonderful !!
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