A Shabby Chic Life

I found the quilt at the bottom of my quilt box. A hand-sewn memory from my childhood.

The quilt took shape one weekend when I spent the night with Mama Walker, my maternal grandmother. At first, she tried to teach me to play her guitar, but my six-year-old fingers couldn’t press the strings hard enough to form a note nor move fast enough to change chords. Not to mention I was tone-deaf and couldn’t tell a right note from a wrong one.

“You’ll make a better quilter,” she said, returning the guitar to its case. “C’mon. I’ll show you.”

For most of the morning, I cut 4×4″ squares from scraps of fabric piled next to her trestle sewing machine—a mix of florals, geometrics, stripes and calicos in a rainbow of colors. Placing the pattern she fashioned out of cardboard, I cut one square at a time. When a blister formed on my thumb from using Mama Walker’s adult-sized scissors, I doubled and tripled the material to multiply squares in a single cut.

“Now sew the blocks together,” she instructed. “Three to a row. Then three rows to make a nine-square block.” I plopped in the chair by her sewing machine and pumped the pedal. The machine whirred to life. Its needle rose and fell to the rhythm of my foot.

“Slow down. Steady pace,” Mama Walker cautioned when my foot speed increased and the needle ate fabric faster than I could match seams. By dinner time I had stacked enough squares at my feet to cover my twin bed. Mama Walker declared my part done. Over the next month and with hands gnarled by arthritis, she pieced my fabric blocks together, quilted the top, and finished the raw edges.

I fingered the now-worn quilt of my youth. Close up, I noticed non-squared squares and uneven stitches. I eyed telltale holes where I ripped out seams after discovering I sewed a right side to a wrong side of fabric. I spied traces of knotted thread where my erratic foot rhythm on the trestle tensed the spool of twine feeding the needle.

Yet, when I looked at the quilt from across the room, mistakes disappeared. A shabby chic topper remained, its beauty in its worn, vintage look. Its perfection in its not-so-perfectly assembled pattern. And I see Mama Walker again. Stitching together my squares. Making them into something useful. Like God. Stitching together fragments of my existence. Piecing together a shabby chic life out of the mismatched blocks and knotted threads of my being. Making it into something useful. As only He can do.

“The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.” (Gen 3:21, NIV)

©2011 Gloria Ashby. Feel free to forward this devotion in its entirety, including this copyright line. Leave comments, ask questions, read past devotions, or subscribe to receive these devotions daily in your e-mail.

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About Gloria Ashby

I'm a writer, speaker and teacher. I live with my husband in the DFW area, and close to our daughter and her family.
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