After thinking about it for several months, I finally got a sewing machine on Thursday.
When I first brought up the idea to Derek a few weeks ago, he asked what I’d do with a sewing machine. “Um…sew things?” I then listed off a few projects I had in mind (shortening the sleeves on a couple of my work shirts, making some shorts for the summer, etc.). But I guess there’s more to it than just a list of potential projects.
Shortly before we moved, I came across a site called wardrobe refashion that challenges people to refrain from buying new clothes for a certain length of time, instead making their own clothes or altering used clothes (whether from the thrift store or your own closet). I’ve been reading a lot about this idea since then and really want to try it. Admittedly, some of the appeal is in the amazingly beautiful and creative clothes that some of these women make. But I’m drawn to the values behind this process as well.
For one, I like how thrifty it is. It makes use of free or very inexpensive clothes. But at the same time, there seems to be a richness about it. It’s far removed from a spirit of poverty that simply gets by with whatever is cheap. These women make lovely clothes that fit their bodies and personalities. It feels like a joyful embracing of having limited resources. Some woman have even taken it a step further and sell some of the things they make to help support their families.
In a lot of ways, these women remind me of the hard-working Proverbs 31 woman, who creatively and compassionately cares for her family and those in need.
I’m also drawn to the idea of taking something old and cast-off and making it new again. It reminds me of how God takes our messy brokenness and redeems and restores us. It’s the same reason why I’m attracted to renovated old houses, refurbished furniture, recycled art, and anything else that mirrors the spiritual process of restoration.
I love the creativeness of it as well. I admire those who can look at something and see potential for something else very different in it. Some of the before and after pictures I’ve seen amaze me.
And I like the idea being part of the process. In our industrial, commercialized culture, we miss out on the process behind most of the things we use and consume. We have virtually no connection to the process of producing the food we eat until we take it off the grocery store shelves. We have just as little connection with the process of making the clothes we wear, furniture we sit on, etc. Most of the things we use on a day to day basis are manufactured in a factory somewhere, many of them overseas. We have little knowledge of the process – or ethics – behind them. I feel like things like going to farmers markets, growing a garden, restoring houses, and making some of our clothes helps move us towards restoring that appreciation of the process and with that a greater appreciation for what we have.
So on Thursday, after several weeks of searching for a machine, I finally got one – appropriately through Kansas City Freecycle (a yahoo group where people can post items they’re looking for or items they want to give away – all for free).
It’s a Fleetwood machine, all metal, made in Japan in the late sixties, and mounted in a wooden cabinet. It came with a box of thread and bobbins and another box with six or seven spare feet. It needs a new bobbin cover and possibly a tune up (the tension is off, though I plan to try to adjust it myself first before I take it in – the internet has a wealth of information on how to do this, so I thought it would be worth a try), but it still runs and is in great shape. In short, it’s exactly the kind of machine I was looking for.
But the best part is the story of how I got it.
I posted a request for a working sewing machine on freecycle after trekking to North Kansas City to check out a machine that, in the end, didn’t even work. Almost immediately, a woman responded offering me one that she no longer used. I asked her a few questions about it and it soon it became clear that God had set this up. The woman wrote:
“I’d thought of selling this. Just this morning I felt the Lord tell me to let go of certain things freely. Then I opened my email and your request from “the lord’s housekeeper” was right at the top. Kinda seems like a no-brainer to me.”
When I went to her house, she showed me how the sewing machine worked and told me a little bit about it. She had received it from her parents when she was in eighth grade (nearly 45 years ago) and used to make clothes and household things for her family for many years. She hadn’t used it in seven or eight years, though, and periodically thought of selling it, but every time the Lord stopped her. When she read my e-mail, she said she felt like God told her, “This is what you’ve been saving it for.” She said she hoped it blessed me and my family as much as it had blessed them.
Before I left, I asked if I could pray for her, just to bless her. She said yes and then started crying. Apparently she’s unemployed right now and is going through a rough time. So we prayed together, blessing and interceding for each other. Then we just sat and talked for nearly an hour about faith and church, God’s word and community, and a hunger for the deeper things of God. Eventually her sister joined us as well.
It was beautiful. My time there was so infused with the presence of God and I was overwhelmed with the rightness of it, with an awareness that this is how it’s supposed to be. We’re meant to trust in God to provide and His Spirit to lead us, even in these little things. We’re meant to open our hands and freely give away what we no longer need. As the body of Christ we’re meant to care for and bless one another. As we’re blessed, we’re meant to pass on that blessing to others. Somehow this little quest for a sewing machine confirmed all that in an remarkable way for me.
And now I’m dreaming of what I can do with this sewing machine, of how it can bless my family and hopefully others as well.