Snow fell on Vanaprastha yesterday, covering the greenhouse windows in the dining room. Across the region, schools closed and many activities cancelled including last night’s writing group in Charlottesville and this morning’s Bible Study in Nellysford. Weather conditions precluded social interaction.
In our agrarian past, isolation was often the norm. It didn’t take ice or snow to keep rural people from seeing one another. Thus, men and women looked for opportunities to socialize during community activities such as barn raisings and dances, Sunday school picnics and quilting bees.
Last Saturday, about twenty women of Bethany Lutheran Church in Waynesboro gathered in the Fellowship Room to make quilts for Lutheran World Relief. At any given time, fabric for pinning covered four or five tables and two or three sewing machines did the finishing. A respectable twenty-five quilts was the count by the end of the day.
People in need will gain comfort and warmth by holding those quilts. And women like me benefit from making them. My grandmothers had talent with the needle, and both my sisters, too. But that gene skipped me. Other than minor repairs, sewing on buttons or a quick seam, I have no skill.
Unlike quilting bees of the past where expertise with the needle was a requisite, my hands are welcome. Others match the top and bottom sheets; I trim batting. Others align the three layers; I smooth and follow along with pins. Others thread needles and place ties; I tie knots. They chat about family and friends, sewing machines, fabric stores and craft projects; I collect stories.
Nineteenth century quilting bees lasted all day and ended with the arrival of the men for supper, singing and dancing – a Quilting Party as in this American primitive painting. Children frolicked, women gossiped, young people courted.
Quilting at church attracts few men and children. Second and fourth Saturdays from January through March, women show up between 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. We take turns bringing snacks for mid-morning break and desserts for sack lunch in the early afternoon. As women come and go, hand work, conversation and prayers continue throughout the day.
Today, electronic communications keep us in touch with one another. But there is nothing like a mission shared face-to-face. It stitches together a blessing as beautiful as snowfall across mountains, trees and fields.