Let’s get some facts out there from the get go –
- The “quilting gene” that my mother and aunt have both been blessed with, skipped me – like skipped me by a mile.
- I know how to use a sewing machine, yet I do so infrequently and have no need to own one.
- I only frequent fabric shops when a child’s school project requires me to.
- I have exactly one small plastic storage box (cigar box size) of sewing paraphernalia – misc needles, stick pins, safety pins, fabric glue, pincushion, and a thingy to help me thread a needle.
So, from all of the above-stated facts, it should be apparent that I would have no reason to ever….EVER…spend any of my birthday money on anything sewing related.
Yet, that is exactly what I did!
You see, this past fall our daughter joined a quilting project with our local 4-H group, and we quickly realized that she would be needing a machine of her own to participate. At first, grandma was kind enough to offer up a vintage workhorse of a machine for our kiddo to use, yet unfortunately, it could not stand up to the aggressive seamstress that is our child! So here we were, in the middle of December with kiddo smack in the middle of her first quilt, without a machine. This is when I realized that I had an opportunity to make a gift of something that I just received a few months prior.
I took a very well hidden, and wonderfully crisp bill that I had been saving, down to the local sewing machine shop and exchanged it for a sewing machine. (Yeah, a certain special dad of mine slipped me some birthday cash) Now, I didn’t buy some fancy-schmancy, turbo-charged, computerized sewing robot – I bought a basic, no frills, gently used, Brother sewing machine that absolutely stands up to our speedy seamstress.
“Help others without any reason and give without the expectation of receiving anything in return.”
― Roy T. Bennett
So with that “new to her” machine, kiddo set out to finish her very first quilt top. She then took the quilt top to her project meeting and finished it.
By the middle of January, she had completed her very first quilt –
…she chose the fabric
…she selected the pattern placement
…she sewed the blocks in rows
…she sewed the rows into a finished top
…she chose a batting (yes zebra fleece worked its way into her zen quilt)
…she selected a backing
…and she and her 4-H quilting friends all sat around hand tying the quilt
As I look back at all that she learned through this process, I am reminded how a single gift made this all possible. A gift that was given out of love, was received with gratitude and then it continued giving. You see, this doesn’t end with kiddo and her new sewing machine. Nope, that special birthday money did so much more than just buy a sewing machine; it provided an opportunity for our daughter to bond with peers while quilting and it allowed her to reach out to local community members.
You see, before the quilting project came along, she really didn’t connect with her fellow 4-H’ers – yeah, she had fun last year with the poultry project, cooking project, and rabbit project, but those projects really didn’t give the kids a lot of time to socialize and bond. The quilting project is a perfect mix of learning, doing, and socializing – pretty much an old fashioned sewing circle or quilting bee. The girls spending hours at a time chatting, laughing, sharing stories, sewing and working together – truly bonding through a common interest and purpose.
I was doubly blessed when that initial gift found a way to provide experiences that money just can’t buy. But again, the giving and receiving didn’t stop there.
The 4-H quilting project is more than just a crafting project, it was structured to also include a community service component – as are many other 4-H projects. You can see from the 4-H pledge that community service is a huge part of 4-H.
The 4-H pledge:
I pledge my head to clearer thinking,
My heart to greater loyalty,
My hands to larger service,
and my health to better living,
for my club, my community, my country, and my world.
So, to bring the 4-H motto to life, and to make it more than just words on a page, the girls in this project truly pledged their hands to larger service; as every single quilt they made were headed to patients at the local community infusion center. Patients undergoing chemotherapy and other infusion treatments would be gifted a handmade quilt in hopes of warming their bodies and comforting their hearts. Knowing that the quilts they made were to be donated to the patients at the center really infused the whole project with love in a way that is hard to describe.
“You give but little when you give of your possessions.
It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.”
― Kahlil Gibran
This past week there was a break in the wet weather, and a couple of the girls got together to deliver the quilts to the infusion center. Armed with their cheerful smiles and armfuls of quilts, they entered the center and began offering quilts to those in the waiting room. From there they made their way to the patient care rooms, and with permission, they approached patients receiving treatment and offered up their handiwork. Watching these amazing young women engage with members of our community with compassion, and hearts filled with love, was an experience that will stay with me forever; I am sure the impact on the girls was equally as potent.
And, that birthday gift…that one crisp bill…is still continuing to give as our kiddo’s second quilt is now in the works.
Quilt on my child…quilt on.
Side Note: I was very fortunate that the lovely recipient of our daughter’s very first quilt offered me the opportunity to take her picture with the quilt. I am certain that kiddo will forever cherish that memento.