Making Curtains and… Global Issues?

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I grab the orange and white checkerboard gingham from the Fabricland bag and I lay it out in front of me.

It’s beautiful.

Just what the medical clinic in Dominican asked for.

I had searched the store high and low for exactly what they said they wanted.

There must be a reason why it had to be orange and white – this must match perfectly with the decor they already have.

It had to be a fabric that could wash easily as well, and the cotton/polyester gingham met that requirement perfectly.

And I had to make sure there was enough fabric for 4 curtains altogether.

I had to double up the width they’d given me to allow for ruffle and gathering of the curtain, and I had to make sure I had the height they requested as well.

The lady at Fabricland helped me measure out how much fabric to buy, and she converted inches to metres for me. She can do this no problem, this is her specialty, and she’s good at what she does. Friendly too.  She gave me a free bag and a ticket to fill out for a draw, and off I went – equipped and encouraged for the task ahead.

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I get home and lay the fabric out on the floor.

I look at it for a few moments – picturing what it will become.

Then I gather the tools necessary for the task at hand:

  • Scissors (Wiltshire Stay-Sharp scissors for accuracy and ease of cutting)
  • A hand-drawn template (have you noticed I always need to write things down?)
  • Pink measuring tape (I still use the one my mum gave me 12 years ago)
  • Sewing machine (I blow off the dust – it’s been a while – too long)
  • White Gutterman thread (the good stuff – left over from my bridal veil-making days)
  • My dining table

I measure once, and then again – trying to take into account hems and pockets for curtain rods, etc.

I start to cut the beautiful fabric. I take such care. I want to get this right.  I only bought enough fabric to make one big mistake or a couple of small ones. I’ll find out later which I ended up making… but it’s good to know I’m expecting to make mistakes… means the perfectionist in me is getting quieter (at least sometimes).

I gather my first piece and walk over to the dining table. I sit down in front of the machine and it feels like home. There are just some things I know I was meant to do.

Who would have known, Karen, sister of mine, when you asked me if I could make bridal veils for your store? Who would have known that with one question you could awaken a dormant skill in me?  And an unexpected skill at that, since I was kicked off the sewing machines in Grade 7 Home Economics class! You see, I was breaking too many needles, so they had me hand-stitch a bunny pillow instead. Now years later, your one question has led to hundreds of veils (and each one prayed over), and curtains for my house, and blankets for our kiddies, and this latest project… curtains for a medical clinic in Dominican… ha, funny how things work out, isn’t it?

But as I start to sew, I know it’s been a while.

Too long.

I can’t even get one stitch done properly.

What is going on?

The threading isn’t right, didn’t feel right as I was guiding the white Gutterman through the machine…

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I have to cut the thread and start again… and again… and again.

I actually start to pray,

God help me remember how to sew! Help me remember how to thread this machine properly so I can get this job done!

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And all at once it comes back to me, and I start to make progress with the colourful fabric in front of me.

Seriously, it’s like sunshine on my lap.

Makes me feel warm and refreshed.

Tiny hems on the sides of the curtains, small hem for the bottom, 2″ pocket at the top for the rod to slip through.

Oops.

I discover that my measurements for the first two curtains were off – I didn’t calculate enough fabric for the hems and pockets – a small mistake that will lead to using up that extra fabric.  But at least I can give them these large pieces to use as they wish for another project.

So I start from scratch – again.

It’s amazing how some skills can drift away so easily if they’re not practiced now and then.

I measure at least three times, and cut more curtain pieces out of the beautiful fabric, and sit down once again at my Phaff.

This time the sewing comes much easier, and I am starting to make some headway – finally – after more than an hour of work!

Then my bobbin empties.

It’s OK – a minor glitch. Only take a minute to get that filled up again.

I take the bobbin out and… now how do I thread THAT?

Oh my, another mind-stumper.

I pray first this time, then pull the white Gutterman thread through the top of the bobbin, set it on the special spinner, adjust the side knob of the sewing machine, and… nothing.

Oh right – readjust the bobbin on the spinner so it catches on the thing that makes it spin (not sure of mumbo-jumbo for that one), and then we’re in business.

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Putting the bobbin back into the machine  is not a problem for me since I had to learn this the hard way… many times over… when I first started sewing.

Once you learn something the hard way, it’s amazing how it can stick, isn’t it?

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Bobbin back in, fabric all measured correctly and cut, curtains are starting to take shape. I’ll have to refill the bobbin one more time before I’m finished, but it’s smooth sailing the second time around. Rethreading the needle isn’t hard anymore either. It is all coming back to me. Like riding a bike.

One thing, though – I DID end up breaking a needle!! And all of a sudden I was back in Grade 7 and feeling like I should quit because I was no good at this sewing thing. But you know what? Then I remembered all the amazing things I HAVE sewn over the years, and I knew that I could get this job done. So I grabbed another needle (because I even know what size of needles are for what sewing projects, thank you very much, and I just happened to have a few extra needles on hand), and I lined it up in the machine, and I was rolling one more time. Alright!

As I sew I think about all these things…

  • I wanted to buy a different fabric that I thought might look nicer than the orange/white checkerboard, or that was cheaper, or that might ruffle a little nicer as curtains… but in the end, I found just what they had asked for.  They told me what they wanted, and I bought it.  Turns out it was 40% off and I even had enough material to make a mistake or two and still get the job done.  Sometimes we may think we know better than others what it is they really need. Sometimes we just need to listen and fulfill their requests as they ask. Sometimes doing any more or less can hinder.
  • There are SO MANY people in the world who are better seamstresses than me and maybe I should have asked one of them to make the curtains instead. It’s not all up to me, but I can get the job done if needed. If we all work together, the load would be lighter. If we all use our gifts and passions in unity, we could make beautiful things together.
  • Sometimes our gifts and passions aren’t obvious until we step out of our comfort zones and try something new – something that we may just be amazing at, and something that can fill a niche or a need in the world.
  • Helping others is not always easy, and I can get out of practice. Just like sewing, and threading needles and bobbins on sewing machines. Reaching out can really feel like a stretch to start with – just like sewing wedding veils was a stretch for someone whose only experience with a sewing machine had been to get kicked off of one in Grade 7 Home Economics.
  • Old fears and discouragements may pop up to hinder any progress we may be making, and when that happens it really helps to remember truth and speak words of life and hope into our lives (or call someone who can do this for us when it seems too hard to do it ourselves).
  • Sometimes what we have to give or the ways we reach out to others can seem so small and insignificant, but it all means something wonderful in the kingdom of God.
  • Getting on a plane to visit a neighbour across the globe is no more important that walking across the street to visit a neighbour.  It just looks alot different. And God puts in some hearts to get on planes and in other hearts to never leave their home town. We are all so gloriously unique.

I have no idea what kind of difference these orange and white checkerboard gingham curtains will make in the grand scheme of global issues. Or any of the other jobs I’ll be doing in Dominican soon.  I don’t know how God will use my seemingly meager efforts to help in feeding the poor, clothing the naked, treating the sick, caring for the oppressed, or telling others about Jesus.

But I have to trust – that it all means SOMETHING. That I’m on the right track at least. That I’m doing what He’s asked me to do, for today. And tomorrow when I wake up and reaching out looks alot different than it did today, because every day can look so different from the last, I have to trust that He’ll help me to say yes to that as well.

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