Last week I was helping a friend with a wedding gown for the reaffirmation of her vows. The ceremony was this past weekend. We have been working collaboratively on the project for the past month.
I introduced my friend, Natalea, to sewing a little over two years ago. Because of her height and figure, making her own clothes saves her the money she would pay in major alteration fees. We spent six hours one Saturday going over the basics of measuring, alterations, and creating a test garment from muslin fabric. Her excitement was obvious. The next day, she purchased her first sewing machine. I was blown away by how quickly she took to sewing. Within a month, she had constructed her first pair of slacks and a jacket—using a plaid.
New sewers rarely tackle plaid fabric, so I was pretty impressed. Within six months she was sloping her own pattern to create is a designer-inspired gown she had seen online. The construction details required special needles and various other techniques (which we learned along the way). She never allowed what she didn’t know to get in the way of her vision of what she wanted to make and wear. The gown was a beautiful, and she looked stunning in it—she wore it for the Captain’s Ball on her first cruise. You will understand why I subsequently nicknamed her “The Fearless Seamstress,” a name under which she currently blogs.
As my friend planned and prepared for the reaffirmation of her marriage vows, I secretly prayed to God that He would allow us to find a pattern by one of the four major pattern companies. Surely there must be one which would capture the spirit of what she envisioned wearing! It never happened…. Her dream was to create the dress as inspired by yet another designer gown she had seen. Really…because I have never done that before!
You see… I had already been stretched to operate outside of my comfort zone with the first gown. That first collaboration nearly wrecked my psyche! This was too important an event. I begged her not to do it again. She had to buy a pattern (or better yet buy the dress). It was the only way we could ensure it would be done well! God, please let her find a pattern that looks like the dress… PLEASE! His answer to me was “no….” His answer to her was “yes!” So, in early February, a month before the ceremony, we took to creating a sloper to construct her dream gown.
In over 30 years of sewing, I could not remember ever having started a project with no commercial pattern. I have always used patterns––it is just what I do. However, over the course of the next few weeks, we drew diagrams, made notes, took measurements, cut, re-cut, constructed and deconstructed in order to achieve the desired results.
The process took five weeks. Natalea was unflappable throughout the experience. No amount of my “bad-luck-schlep-rock” mindset caused her to waver in any way.
I would say: “I don’t know how we are going to do this!”
She would say: “We’ll do great; it is going to be FABULOUS!”
I would say: “You know I don’t know what I’m doing right?!”
She would say: “I’m not worried about you; there is more in you than you know…. We’ve got this!”
I would say: “Uhh…you know it’s not too late by a dress or a pattern… aaarrrrgh!”
She would laugh…OUT LOUD!
Frankly, she had more faith in what was in me than I did. Most of my dialogue focused on what I didn’t think “I” was capable of. Most of her dialogue emphasized what she knew “we” could accomplish together. As the dress began taking shape, it became clear there was a grace and chemistry God had granted for our collaboration. She would guide the design and cut fabric while I figured out how to execute the details of the vision within her heart. My seasoned technique and experience connected with her youthful, fearless innovation––a gown was born.
She never panicked, she was never frustrated, and she calmly did whatever was necessary to help the dress come to life. I gradually learned to take my cue from her—if she wasn’t panicking, I didn’t need to panic either. As long as she was okay with our progress, I could be okay, too. In the end, it occurred to me that all that mattered to her was to wear a dress “we” had made. God had breathed on it through us. That was what she wanted. She wasn’t looking for perfection. She wasn’t even looking for something that everyone else would rave about. What she wanted was the experience of collaborating—doing community—with a friend on something that mattered to her.
As we drew close to completing the project, I began reflecting on what God was allowing us to accomplish. It was then I remembered, that as a child who grew up watching my mother sew, I created clothing for my own baby dolls and Barbie(™) dolls. I had no patterns back then––I dreamed it, cut it from scrap fabric, then, sewed it by hand. While I love the pattern companies and the great job they do creating designs for home sewers, perhaps my dependency on their structure and process has limited my own innovation and fearlessness. Having walked out this journey together, my friend and I now have plans to construct our own custom dress forms from duct tape later this spring (because…er…uhh every true sewist should have one 😉). Shortly thereafter, we plan to complete a pattern drafting course. After two experiences of “making it up as we go,” that class might be helpful…LOL.
As I sit here now, few days following what was a beautiful ceremony (she was STUNNING), there are a few observations I take away from the cutting room floor:
- No matter how much you think you know or how long you’ve been doing what you do, there is always room for you to grow.
- God’s “No” in one area of your life may be His “Yes…you can do it” in another.
- Throughout the course of our lives, God will often introduce us to people whose specific purpose is to remind us of who we are and how wonderfully we’ve been made.
- God frequently brings others alongside us to further develop the gifts, talents, and abilities He has placed within us—even when we think, “It can’t get much better than this.”
- Never allow what you don’t know to get in the way of the vision of where you could go…if you simply trust God’s leading
- When panic and fear attempt to grip you and seek to crush or displace your faith, look in God’s face. If He isn’t panicking, you shouldn’t panic either.
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. (Psalm 139:13-14, ESV)
How fearless will you be this week?