By Kay Etheredge
I started making fabric yo-yos over ten years ago. Yo-yos were made by women a hundred years ago as a way to use up scraps of fabric…a circle is cut from fabric and then gathered up to make an even smaller circle. The yo-yos are then joined together to make a quilt even though there is no actual quilting involved.
I had seen yo-yo quilts in antique stores and I loved touching the tiny circles and imagining the hands that took the time to make these …maybe women sitting around together gathering up the circles and making something not only useful but beautiful from scraps. In the movie Sleepless in Seattle there is one scene where there is a yo-yo tablecloth in the background and I decided to use the yo-yos to make myself a tablecloth. I chose fabrics with pinks in them to match the pink in my wedding china.
I made yo-yos at ballparks as our son Grant played high school baseball and my needle paused, mid-air, as I watched his foot move in the red dirt of pitcher’s mounds in out of the way towns. I made them as I passed the time while our daughter’s ballet company traveled and I served as a chaperone and waited in auditoriums and on grass and carpeted hallways while I breathed in the sight of how the sun made her ballet bun glow like coppery promise. I made them at my grandmother’s house as she traversed a torturous, five year journey with dementia, and I prayed as I stitched as she looked around wildly for some semblance of familiarity. My mother and grandmother were both seamstresses so I told my grandmother I wanted to put some of her fabrics in my quilt. She couldn’t quite grasp what I meant even in the early stages of her disease, so my mom went and got some fabric for me from my grandmother’s cabinet. It was pale pink with tiny white butterflies. When my mother passed away I chose some of her own fabrics to make yo-yos for my quilt. It began to take on a sentimental feel and I felt more and more convinced that it should be a baby quilt instead of a tablecloth. I told our daughter Emily, our first born, that the pink yo-yo quilt would be for her daughter, even though Emily wasn’t even married at the time.
Her first child was a son, Tobias, but she is expecting a baby girl this summer. I went several days ago and pulled the yo-yos out of a drawer. Over ten years of sewing them in many different places and phases of life, I had accrued 2 gallon Zip Loc bags full of circles. I had no idea how many yo-yos it takes to put together a quilt but I knew it was a lot. I began to lay the small circles out on the bed on top of a baby quilt to get an idea of how many I had. I laid them out, side by side, and filled up row after row. Soon the first gallon bag was empty. My heart sank as I realized I might not have enough. I continued to place them on the bed, and as I neared the bottom of the second bag there was a small section of the design that had a big gap. There were 16 fabric circles in the bag that had not been gathered up, so I sat down and spent the rest of the afternoon gathering them. As I went back to place them on the gap in the design, I was amazed to realize that I had exactly enough! Not one too many and not one too few. Exactly enough!
And just that morning I had prayed, agonizing over a big decision that I wanted God’s clear and sure perspective on, and I thought I had peace and then a wave of anxiety flattened me and I cried, “Lord, please show me!” And hadn’t I just read also that same morning a quote by Elisabeth Elliott that said, “The devil has made it his business to monopolize on three elements: noise, hurry, and crowds. He will not allow quietness”.
So it was that quietness I sought and fought for as I sat and finished the last 16 fabric yo-yos. Pushing my screens aside, I sewed and stilled and sat in total quietness and my pile of tiny remnants of thread grew larger. And then there was the perfect number of yo-yos.
The men here at Brother Bryan Mission are often called with a sweeping arm, “Mission Men”. I have even used that title myself I’m sad to say. Each man here is unique. They each come with their own stories, their own special circumstances, their own scars. They are treated as scraps that many times the world has tossed aside and called worthless. God takes the scraps of our lives and He lets no hurt, no scar, no difficulty go to waste. He gathers remnants and He lovingly arranges in a pattern of beauty all that we will hold out to Him as an offering.
Those fabric yo-yos will be a covering for our new granddaughter, Lord willing, with pieces of fabric from her great-grandmother’s and great-great grandmother’s fabric collections., sewn with tremendous love by her grandmother throughout a decade of life that flew by like a fast-ball crossing home plate. I hope I get to tell her about the God who went before me and surrounded me and counted out carefully pieces of fabric for a quilt I didn’t even know I was going to make, for a granddaughter I didn’t even know I would have, and how there was not one too many and not one too few, and how He knew that on this day I would seek an answer before I even knew a question would be on my lips and He showed me through tiny fabric circles just how wise and mighty He is, and how completely He can be trusted.
And how there are men we know who have been mightily and profoundly saved by the God who takes the faded scraps of our lives and hearts and fits them into patterns and designs that only He could imagine and He becomes our covering and He is always enough. He is simply and completely enough.