Quick-sew notions bag

I had occasion to whip up a little project this afternoon.

For the past while I’ve been keeping my crochet hooks and whatnot in a plastic Ziploc baggie — or rather, in several successive baggies, since they inevitably either get pierced through or decide to split up the seam (I blame the tapestry needles). It was past time for something sturdier and more permanent, and so I went diving on my much-neglected fabric stash.

It has been a long time since I’ve sewn anything, really. Part of that is not wanting to start anything new while still under the weight of several half-finished projects — but most of it is because my sewing machine is broken, and I can’t decide whether or not to get it fixed. It’s an older machine, second-hand, and if its mechanical issue gets sorted out I think there is still a lot of life in it. But what I get stuck is on the fact that having it seen to and repaired would cost about the same, or perhaps more, than simply acquiring a new machine. On the one hand, it seems extremely wasteful to buy something new when the old one could be repaired. On the other hand, it seems silly to repair the old when a new would cost the same and have all the advantages of newness. And so I perpetually dither, and neither replace nor repair my machine, and my fabric whiles away its time in storage.

But then there are days like today where I suddenly remember that, duh, I know how to hand-sew.

The whole thing took perhaps half an hour, start to finish, including choosing and ironing the fabric. I didn’t work off a pattern — it’s just a drawstring bag — but your basic process is to find a piece of fabric about twice the width of what you’d like your bag to measure and fold it in half, pinning the right sides together. Sew down the long edge, starting about an inch from the top, and one short edge. Fold down your un-sewn short edge to make a little tunnel for your string, and sew along its edge to seal it, being careful not to sew your bag closed! Use a safety pin or similar to push your string/cord/whatever (I used braided yarn) through that tunnel. TIe it off and then turn the entire thing right-side-out. You’re done.

It’s very satisfying to work something up so quickly, especially when one has larger projects on the go (and go, and go…). And this will do me much better for carting my things around than a plastic bag. So here’s to hand sewing!

Crochet and Grace

At the last meeting of the prayer shawl ministry at our church, we had a discussion about the way that the shawls/blankets/etc. that we make are distributed. Right now they go through the pastoral care team — so if there is a need, people can request something, either on their own behalf or for someone else. The pastoral team then knows of the need and can pray, follow up as appropriate, etc., and the crocheted or knitted item in question goes to someone who needs it. The question arose as to whether this was the best way to serve people who may, for example, feel uncomfortable going to the pastoral team. Should we just have a stack of blankets and shawls at the back of the church for people to take?

We decided not to go that route, in part because knowing people’s needs so that we can pray for them is an integral part of the ministry. But we also felt that if the blankets were simply out there for the taking, people would just — well, take them. We do want them to go to people, of course — that’s the whole point! But unless you do some sort of handicraft yourself, you probably don’t realise how much time and effort goes into making them. We want them to be given away with intentionality. And in one sense, we give them away because they are too valuable to sell.

Take the half-completed baby blanket pictured above, for example. Let’s imagine that I decided to sell it on Etsy instead of adding it to the donation stash. The pattern I’m using estimated that it would take 10-20 hours to make this project, depending on experience and speed. I haven’t really been keeping track, but I think that it will probably end up being about a twelve-hour project for me. Minimum wage where I live is $9.25/hr, which means that if I’m accounting for my time I’d have to charge $111. Add on my materials cost and it’s $116 just to break even. And of course, let’s not forget that I’d need to take catalogue-quality photos, spend time managing my Etsy store’s SEO so that people could find it, take it to the post office, and the like. So let’s round it up to $125 for a very modest profit after everything is accounted for.

Nobody’s going to buy my baby blankets for $125. Not when there are similar blankets on Etsy going for $25-40. Not when you can get perfectly lovely and serviceable blankets at Walmart or Target or Amazon for $15. I could never sell this blanket for what it’s actually worth. So the only thing to do is give it away.

God’s grace is like that.

If there were to be a price put on God’s favour, none of us could pay that bill. If there was a way to work to earn his love, we could work ourselves to death and still not have worked enough. The free gifts he offers us — his unmerited grace and favour, forgiveness and salvation, redemption and true flourishing — are valuable beyond measure. There is no way that he could “sell” those things for what they’re worth. So the only thing to do is give them away.

But unlike our basket of blankets and shawls, his grace is, so to speak, at the back of the church for anyone to take. There’s no vetting process. There’s no restriction. There is, amazingly, only gift.

That’s grace!