Master Technician

23rd Psalm Quilt by Frances Speers. Photo by Charity Banks.

By Kristen Banks

While there are many things in life that I’m not very good at, or make absolutely no sense to me at all, sewing has always been the thing that I excelled at and has made perfect sense to me.

I’m a less than average dancer, an abysmal bowler, and I once got a T-shirt for being the worst shot of the day with a .22 rifle. (In my defense this might have had something to do with the fact that I really needed glasses, a problem that has since been remedied.) But I was born to hold a needle and thread.

I’ve been fascinated with sewing for as long as I can remember, and I’ve always known what to do with the tools without anyone ever telling me how they were supposed to be used. It’s not something I can explain, it’s something I feel with every fiber of my being. Now I’m not saying I’m the best at my craft, by any means, but simply that it’s something that really comes naturally to me when many other things do not.

I got my first real grown up sewing machine around the age of 11. Before that my options were a child’s machine that I could only use under direct adult supervision, or a variety of hand me down needles and thread for hand sewing, which I had won the battle to use freely and without supervision many years before. So, naturally on most days I chose the hand sewing, and I had amassed a collection of various shapes and sizes of handmade doll clothes to show off my practiced sewing skills.

Things changed quite unexpectedly for me when my great grandmother had to go live in a nursing home. I was never very close to her, and can’t say that I knew her very well at all, but my Mom explained that it was important that we visit her often to let her know that we hadn’t forgotten her and that we cared. I remember being fidgety as I sat on the edge of her hospital style bed and tried to make small talk as my Mom would encourage me to talk about school and things that I was interested in. This would have mostly included sewing and basketball at the time.

I knew she had been a really good seamstress, and I thought this shared love might be something we had in common. She never said much or even smiled that often. The most you would get out of her was a quiet grunt in agreement now and then, or a curt answer to a direct question. To be honest, I wasn’t sure if she even liked me at all until one day after many of these same trips, and doubtless same conversations, she finally piped up.

She told my mom that I was to have her sewing machine, and who she should talk to about getting it. And she did so without any kind of emotional elaboration or explanation at all. We left surprised, puzzled, and grateful as we went to pick it up. And just like that I was the proud owner of a nearly new Singer sewing machine with a pressed wood sewing table, with a drop leaf on the side, and a single drawer filled with several spools of grape colored purple polyester Coats and Clark all-purpose thread.

I remember getting the whole set up situated under the window in my bedroom where I’d have good light to sew by. I knew how it basically worked, but I’d never used a machine unsupervised before. I really didn’t know where to begin.

What if I couldn’t figure out how to use it? What if my thread jammed, needle broke, or worse what if I broke the whole thing altogether? I had heard my Mom, Aunts, and Grandmother complain about tensions not being set properly and poor stitches. I didn’t know anything about that kind of stuff. This new exciting experience I had been eager for was starting to feel pretty scary and overwhelming.

My Mom, feeling that I was old enough, encouraged me to read my manual and “play around” with it. She told me to start learning my machine and to make it my own, and of course she’d be there to help me with the things I didn’t know or couldn’t figure out. So, with the confidence that she was willing and available to help me when I got in over my head, I did.

In fact, I did more than play around with it. I not only mastered all the basic stitches but also the fancy ones as well, as it was more than a basic model. I did run into obstacles at times, but each stumbling block proved to be a valuable learning experience.

I remember the first time I broke a needle, a tiny piece of the shaft ricocheted off hitting me in the face and stinging my cheek. I’m sure my eyes were as big as Ralphie’s from A Christmas Story as I realized how easily I could have put my eye out. I was a lot more careful about sewing over pins after that, like I had been told to be in the first place.

I also began to take things apart to see how they worked. I only took apart as much as I could remember to put back at one time, being careful to keep track of all of the tiny screws and where they went. I was soon able to navigate thread jams, replace parts, correct tension problems, and make adjustments as needed. I was starting to feel like a true technician!

My great grandmother will never know what kind of door she opened for me with her generous gift, and although she was a woman of few words and even fewer outward displays of emotion, I fully understood that she had showed me great favor by choosing me to be the recipient of her prized sewing machine. Because of her gift I was able to learn that machine forward and backward, and at an early age I gained the confidence to explore and experiment and ultimately learn all kinds of new things.

I was working on a machine with an unknown problem just this afternoon. I know to most people this would seem like a scary impossible task. But before I could even think about what I was doing I had it disassembled, diagnosed, and fixed, just like that. I laughed to myself thinking about how intimidating and scary machines had seemed to me in the beginning, and how far my skills and confidence had come over the years.

I thought about how nice it is when you’re scared or in a jam that you can take your problems to someone who is confident, not scared, and has the answers that you don’t. God is like that.

We can come to Him with the things that are jammed up, messed up, and broken and He is never scared or intimidated by them. And He is always well able to handle those things that seem too scary and overwhelming for us. He’s there to help us along in the places we are deficient, until we can better understand and become more confident. And unlike me, He has ALL the answers.

Although there are many things I’ve come to understand, with time, experience, and maturity, there are still countless things that I have no answers for. But what a comfort to know, that for those things, I have full and immediate access to the Master Builder and Technician Himself. And He is never too busy for me, and there is no question too trivial for Him to take the time to address. And just like His word promises, He will ALWAYS give me the answers to my questions, in His time.

People wonder why I can be so confident sometimes, in the face of a problem or obstacle. This is why. It is not my abilities that I am confident in, it’s His. And it’s His willingness and good pleasure to see me through.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” James 1:5

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  1. Carrie GANNON says:

    Very well said Kristen

  2. Carol hart says:

    Very good and you have always loved sewing and do great at it

  3. Kristen says:

    Thank you Grandma

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