When Pearl invited me to the church sewing circle, my brain scrambled quickly for ways to turn her down politely.
“I don’t really sew,” I tried. She assured me that it didn’t matter. Many of the members didn’t sew. I could help knot comforters, and they could teach me if I wanted to learn to hand-quilt.
“I don’t have anyone to watch my son.” That didn’t matter either. He could play while we worked, and I could tend to him as needed. The members all brought their kids when they were younger, too.
Out of excuses, I told her maybe, and went on my way.
I really didn’t think sewing circle was the place for me. There’s a pretty good chance that you think the same thing.
But one week, I found myself going a bit stir-crazy at home, and I looked at the calendar and saw that it was sewing circle day. Sure, why not? I thought to myself. At least it will get me out of the house.
Fast forward a few months, and I now count myself as a regular member.
It’s hard to describe sewing circle to an outsider. It’s not a club for people who like to sew, as I thought it would be. Half the ladies there don’t even sew. Sewing is a means to an end, rather than the end itself. These ladies do nothing for themselves. Everything they work on together is for someone else. Their comforters go to families in need. Their quilts go to the Mennonite Central Committee so they can be auctioned off, and the proceeds can be used to send the comforters overseas. It’s a mission and a ministry.
Sewing Circle is not just a social club for the older ladies in the church, although that element is present. While their hands are stitching and knotting, their mouths are talking, and their hearts are sharing. Once upon a time, they shared their parenting struggles, and gave loving advice to one another. As their families grew, their stories changed, but they continued to be there for one another. They held each other up as they became widows, prayed for each other as they received bad news from their doctors, comforted each other as they watched their friends go home to be with the Lord.
Our sewing circle is dying. Both literally and figuratively. Every year, there are fewer members and fewer finished projects. This is the 62nd year of the sewing circle at our church, and it may very well be the last. Our president has terminal cancer, and when the Lord takes her home, there is no one to take her place.
Maybe sewing circles are a thing of the past. Maybe their time has come and gone. Maybe today’s women just don’t have time to sit around making quilts. And if that’s all that was going on at sewing circle, maybe we should just end this chapter and close the book.
But sewing circle isn’t just a social club. It has a heart that beats with love for people in need, near and far. And if no one takes up the torch, that heart will stop beating.
I’m asking for a favor: Help me save the sewing circle. Come to a meeting. It doesn’t matter if you know how to sew. Sewing is just a means to an end, remember. And if you care about that end, we can work together on the means.
I don’t know what sewing circle will look like in 20 years. Maybe it will look exactly the same as it did 20 years ago, with ladies sitting around the quilting frames, chatting and sharing, while their children play together off in the corner. Or, maybe we won’t even be making quilts anymore. That would be okay, though. Because the quilts are nice, but the quilts aren’t the heart of the sewing circle. The people are.
The Sandy Hill Sewing Circle meets on the first Tuesday of every month in the Fellowship Hall. Come any time after 8:30, and stay as long as you can. We stop to discuss business and have brief devotional time around 11, and we break to eat lunch at some point after that. Bring a bagged lunch if you’d like to stay longer. If you need directions, they are available on the church website.