Fabric in the Master’s Hands
The silky fabric slipped through my fingers as I again tried to match the two edges together. “Don’t run off now!” I said as I lowered the pressure foot and continued the seam. Sewing this punjabi (pun-JAH-bee) outfit for my aunt wasn’t turning out as easy as it had looked. “This fabric has a mind of its own,” I told my mother as she came to watch over my shoulder. “It likes to slip away from me any chance it can get! What kind of fabric do you suppose it is?” The gauzy black material seemed to bounce out of my hands as I tried to make a double fold along the edge and pin it. “Maybe it’s nylon,” Mom suggested, holding one edge so I could continue my pinning. “You sure got yourself a challenge with this project.” I couldn’t help but agree.
Though I’ve sewn for many years and had become familiar with the techniques and skills needed to make a garment, I hadn’t had much experience in fabrics beyond the basic types. Cotton and poly-cotton blends had become common: calico, plaid, broadcloth, and to some extent, seersucker, corduroy, and denim. I had learned that you couldn’t treat them all the same way. Some needed thicker needles and bigger stitches. Others had to be cut out carefully to be sure the pattern matched or the pile was right. Perhaps one of my biggest recent challenges had been sewing a burgundy moleskin vest last fall, where the pile in the fabric made it necessary to make sure I didn’t cut or sew the pieces “upside down” or the light would reflect differently. But this slippery nylon fabric was a totally new experience. It wouldn’t even stay put on the cutting board.
I hadn’t really thought of fabric having a personality before. But here I was, talking about a piece of cloth as if it were a child I was trying to control. “It does have some good points, too,” I told myself as I endeavored to make the slippery fabric obey my bidding. At least the bouncy folds had calmed down under the warmth of the iron. I wasn’t too afraid of making mistakes, because I found that thread pulled out easily from the silky fabric. And it did flow so nicely when put on. If I could get it in the right shape first, that is.
As I battled on, a new train of thought entered my mind. What kind of fabric am I in yielding to the Master’s hands? Was I trying to slip out of His grasp, or was I submitting to His purpose in my life? It was a sobering thought.
In my meditations I saw a vision of the Master Tailor, working to make us “human cloth” into worthwhile lives. In His hand He seemed to hold a list of all the places of usefulness to be filled in this wide world: patient teachers, faithful mothers, humble servants, courageous warriors. His eye lingered over the fabrics that had been submitted to His use and He seemed to weigh their strengths and weaknesses. “Thy will be done—Thy purpose fulfilled in me,” they each had said. But would they respond to His touch in compliance and trust?
His hand reached for a piece of denim, young and strong. For appearance it was certainly plain—what great potential could He have in mind for such ordinary cloth? The cutting was simple and seemed hardly creative, but the Master was satisfied. The needle that was next produced might make those of finer stuff tremble, but the denim took it gladly. Before long a life hung ready, a durable vessel that was able to bear the heaviest of loads.
Next He took several yards of simple broadcloth, wrinkled from being at the end of a bolt—perhaps the baby of the family. Out came the scalding steam that hit the pet peeves and old grudges squarely and the weight of the iron seemed to “enter into the soul.” But the fabric came forth smooth and ready for use. The Master smiled. This one could be trusted to wear well. His shears were sure in the cutting and the fabric was soon being fitted for the useful life of a mother. Any ill will that might come with the cares of the home would be removed with the occasional passing of the iron.
A piece of brightly-printed seersucker had been waiting for many a long week, wondering why others of duller hue were sewn and sent on their missions first. It was a warm spring day when it was finally spread onto the cutting board. Its bouncy ripples were made to comply to an old pattern, cut, and pierced with many a pin. “To hold you still,” said the Master, when complaint was made. Then came the basting and fitting and pinning again. “Why does He take so long? I thought I was an easy fabric to sew,” it grumbled impatiently, as the Hand once again gently pressed out the creases and sought to mold it to the form of His choosing—a garment that would “meekly hold the true position”* against the crushing weights and strains in a busy life of service.
A silky shine gleamed from the cloth the Master took next. The rosy fabric held a beauty that called for admiration and display, but in the firm touch of His hand she was stretched and pinned with unusual severity. The snipping of shears cut ruthlessly and the sewing needle seemed finer and sharper than any other. The pins were never far away. Yet under the sure hand of the Master a form of gentle elegance appeared and the fabric now shone with a higher purpose. In the sickroom she would dwell, a garment of comfort for the afflicted.
I don’t have time to tell of the others: the thick, friendly felt to which all the strings of life clung; or the white Coupe de Ville that melted smooth under the iron with a tenderness that delighted the Master’s heart. And are there not a multitude of others with their own quirks and unique needs, all known to the Master’s eye? Whether we are stable or easily unravel, stiff or delicate, able to stretch to meet a life of continual strain or remaining constant in places of high demand, His purposes surpass our understanding. Will we be but yielding fabric in the Master’s hands?