One Foot

One Foot

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Working the Scrap Basket

I am an avid quilter and produce many small projects a year.  I love to read and the books read and unread line up across the wall.  I always seem to have something to do and a place to go, but when a cold winter day comes along, my body senses that this is a time to take a break.  Perhaps it is a left over genetic trait related to hibernation, for I yearn for a task that will rest my body and brain and relieve me of self-imposed demands.
           It is on such a winter day that I do what generations of farm women have done  – they “work the scrap basket.”  Doesn’t every woman have a scrap basket?  This is the disorganized heap of fabric created from sewing projects or disassembly of donated clothing with the idea that “someday” one will organize it all and make an heirloom quilt or a rag rug. 
            I imagine I am typical of others who let that scrap basket get to near overwhelming size, but this winter I have tackled it for the third time in my sewing history.  One year I had worked with batiks for gift quilts and the remaining miscellaneous scraps were too valuable to toss.  That pile became a lovely square-in-a-square quilt.  Another year I had basic cottons that became a tessellated pineapple quilt. This year, I am attempting a strip quilt and am determined that I will keep making pieces for that quilt until the scrap basket is empty.  I am beginning to wonder if that will be in my lifetime, and I am certain that the quilt size will exceed king-size.
               Why would a modern woman, perfectly capable of buying fabric endlessly, mess with scraps of fabric?  The answer for me is that working the scrap basket calms me.  There is something pleasing and quiet about the near mindless task of touching the fabric, fitting it into a simple pattern, and seeing scrappy beauty come about.   I can play with the pieces for hours.
          I might also admit that when I play with my scraps, I don’t watch television.  I might have some quiet music on the stereo, but I play without the environment pounding on me.  It is similar to taking a good long walk in the woods – you walk for a while; you think, you sing, and before you know it, you’ve come up with something creative.  So it is with my scraps.  My mind is seemingly grateful that there are no quilting rules to follow.  There are no color specifications.  The pattern is simply mindless once selected.  And actually, I don’t even care if there is a “finished” quilt resulting. 
           I am convinced we ought to work a lot more scraps in our lives than we do.  I know others who find their scraps in the garden.  Others find their scraps in puzzles, car repair, painting, fishing, etc.  For a few hours, we enjoy simplicity, not complexity. 
          My grandmothers worked their scraps because they lived on isolated farms, but now Grandma is more apt to be at the senior center playing bridge (or pool).  Whatever the lifestyle, we need a few quiet and peaceful moments in a day.  My mind is one that needs to do a little resting and healing and benefits from those moments.
           On days when I don’t feel like working the scrap basket, there is always the possibility of writing a little rambling piece like this.  I can always end it with…..”now, where was I going with this?” 
           Just like the process of sewing those scraps together into a whole, one just never knows.  It’s the process that brings peace.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Gifting is an Act of Grace

          I enjoy pets and find personable cats to be good company in my home.  The very habit of rising in the morning to their pleas for food, resting beside them in a favorite chair, or talking with them as we work are all within a contented and ordinary day.
          That is not to say that my cats have no annoying habits.  My Siamese, although sweet in disposition, annoys me no end by nagging for food.  I always feed a small bowl of wet food in the morning and her dry food bowl always has a portion in it.  But she apparently perceives this as a half empty bowl, which is unacceptable to her.  So she meows incessantly, rubs my legs repeatedly, nibbles my ankles and pleads.  Of course this puts cat hair all over my lower half clothing and irritates me so I fill her bowl to stop it.  I am compliant for sure.
          I’ve learned that this behavior has nothing to do with hunger.  It has to do with the act of giving to her and this I believe is my lesson this season. Gifting is not an obligation to be fulfilled.  It is an act of grace.
          While we are taught to believe that it is better to give than receive, there is a  message delivered with receiving.  Someone thought of you, loved you enough to take the time to find some small token or gift and gave it to you.  Or perhaps a person did something thoughtful for you.  This too is a gift.  And when this happens, you feel as if you belong to them; you connect with them in this huge world. When you are not thought of in some small way, you feel disconnected and at least slightly alienated.
          The value of the exchange falls equally to the giver and receiver, for both must learn to know and care for each other. You are blessed both as a giver AND a receiver.
           Too often we stretch too far for the big gifts in life, when the small treasure would do well.  It is far too easy, even with the people we live with, not to voice recognition of the acts we appreciate or fail to validate responses.  Gosh, if we could only purr it would be easier.  Love, and the act of giving and receiving it, is given to us by the grace of God, and without it we waste away, or “like flowers, whither...”
          This year I will try to do a better job of validating my relationships and showing my love of others.  The result would be better relationships for sure, and lead to a deeper appreciation of those I love.  Loving one another is our earthly challenge.  God surely knew his people would grow only through relationships.
          This morning as my cat and I went through our routine, I grimaced as she rubbed her face against my ankles.  Just as an experiment, I reached into the bag and laid a single cat food nugget in front of her.  She ate it daintily and looked up to me with loving eyes.  I knelt to give her a good rub and her purr rumbled toward me.  “Thanks for the lesson,” I thought, and reached for the fur grabber.