Photo of Antique Bow Tie Quilt
Quilt Theology

A Binding that Lasts

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

When I wrote those last few blog posts on quilt binding, my goal was to help you make binding that lasts. The beauty of your quilt should stand the test of time. But my mind kept meandering to that word “bind.”  It’s sort of an old fashioned word, don’t you think? Unless you’re around print shops much (and I am in my day job) where you talk about binding booklets and magazines, it’s just not in the everyday vernacular.  Typically someone will say ‘tie’, ‘knot’ or use a sewing word such as ‘stitch’ instead of saying “bind.” As a child, there was only one place where I remember hearing the word very often, and that was in church, where lots of mysterious words were used!

For a long time I didn’t know what the word even meant. But whenever I heard it in a scripture or song, I would ponder it and try to figure it out. It just made no sense to me. One day, I finally asked. I can’t remember if it was my mother or father, but I was told that it meant to tie something together very securely so it wouldn’t get loose.

Now, when you explain something to a child, funny things happen in their brain. They don’t always get the same mental picture you intended. So the next time our congregation sang “Bind Us Together” I broke out into the worst case of church giggles EVER. Even with my mother glaring at me, I could not escape the thought of all the members around me tied together in ropes, and God was this cowboy having fun with his lasso! I am pretty sure that was not the image the hymn writer envisioned.

Now that quilting is so much a part of my life, I feel a certain connection to the word.

Hearing it in church or reading it in scripture no longer causes me to snicker. Instead of seeing church members tied up in ropes, a sweeter image comes to mind, memories of stitches lovingly placed in strips of fabric. My time spent binding quilts has deepened my understanding of what it means to bind something.

I tell everyone who will listen that it’s the “love component” of quilting that draws me to the craft.  While I love the color, the endless design possibilities, and the feel of the fiber, it’s the thought of the love that goes into each stitch that has me addicted. “Love is worth a thousand stitches” isn’t just a clever tagline to me. It sums up everything I believe about how I should live my life. The people in this world are worth every tiny stitch we can make for them, no matter the time or trouble involved to do it.

I was always taught that God is love, but admittedly I sometimes have a hard time getting my head around that.

And that He would love me.

It’s a lot easier, and in a way so much more comforting to me, to imagine God as a quilter. The Psalmist tells us that “He knit me together in my mother’s womb.”  (Psalm 139:12) but the word that is translated as “knit” could just as easily have been translated woven or stitched. Some translations use the word “covered” as if wrapped in a baby quilt.  When I hand stitch a binding, I often envision God painstakingly putting tiny stitches in us to hold us together. I imagine Him taking the little scraps of our life and turning them into something beautiful.

 He heals the brokenhearted
    and binds up their wounds. (Psalms 147:3, speaking about God)

One of the main reasons we bind a quilt, is so that the batting doesn’t start coming out of the sides. The binding keeps it all together, holds it in place, because it’s the nature of fabric and fibers to shift. One of my favorite hymns to this day is “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.”  And this verse doesn’t make me giggle, it just brings me peace:

Oh to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be
Let Thy goodness like a fetter
Bind my wandering heart to Thee
Prone to wander, Lord I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love
Here’s my heart Lord, take and seal it
Seal it for Thy courts above

Yep, prone to wander. Prone to shifting. Prone to moving around in the wrong direction just like the fibers and fabrics I work with every day. But God has that all bound up, and I don’t have to worry about it.

Its fitting to me that the last step in finishing a quilt is the binding. It’s that final act in a long process of making something beautiful, that closes it off from the elements to prevent the edges from fraying away. It makes it look perfect and finished.

But over the life of a quilt, it’s the binding that will take the most abuse. On many of the antique quilts I’ve seen, it’s obvious that one of the first things to fray is the binding. It gets tugged when the night is cold and the covers need to be pulled up. The drowsy toddler grabs a corner and drags it with them when waking up from a nap. They might even chew on it.

Just before Jesus ascended into heaven, he told Peter:

whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven (Matthew 16:19)

That’s one of those scriptures that’s a bit cryptic, and entire doctrines have been built around it. But I take a simple view. I think Jesus was giving Peter a mission. And that mission was a simple one: Help me bind up these broken people. And the way we are going to bind them isn’t going to be a temporary fix.  It’s going to last.

Hoping your quilts and your life have a binding that lasts!


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