Ever since I learned to sew, I have loved being around fabric, feeling the texture and weight of it and noticing differences in various materials.

Although sewing is a solitary activity, there is a community of sewers—people who gather at fabric stores, sharing ideas as we shop or wait for our fabric to be cut. At one transition point in my life, I worked at a fabric store while I figured out my next steps.

One of our regular customers was a mother of six, five girls and a boy, all of whom had Biblical names. She usually brought a few of the children with her when she shopped, and over time, I got to know all of her children. She sewed most of their clothing, as well as her own.

This young mother and I lived very different lives, but we shared a common bond through sewing. We also shared a desire to live lives based on our faith.

She belonged to a small, Bible-based community, a “remnant” community, she called it.

I had just come back from living in an intentional Christian community in Canada, and our vocabularies around community and faith were in sync.

As I helped her select fabric or we stood around the cutting table, we talked about our sewing projects and our faith.

Her clothing was an expression of her faith. She and her girls all wore long dresses, usually calico. Their shoulders were always covered, as well as their knees. Modesty was an important virtue for her and other members of her community.

I had just spent time living and working with Mennonites, sharing life and faith with people whose religious practices differed from my own. My understanding of where our faith traditions overlapped and where they diverged had grown, and I had come to a deeper appreciation of my faith tradition.

I think my customer had not had much experience sharing faith with people from different traditions; she continually expressed amazement that we could have so much in common. She marveled that our passion, our core beliefs and our faith-talk were so similar. She was able to get beyond the externals—the fact that I was not wearing a long calico dress and that my shoulders and knees were not usually covered—to see that my faith was as important to me as hers was to her.

In sewing, a “remnant” is the small piece of fabric at the end of the bolt which gets marked at a reduced price and tossed into a bin. Most remnants are unwanted leftovers, but sometimes gems are found in the pile of bundled material—just the right piece of fabric to make a pillow or some other small project. My “remnant” community customer was that gem in my job; I happily greeted her whenever she came to the store, feeling blessed by her presence and her willingness to share bonds of sewing and faith.




6 thoughts on “Remnants

    1. Madeline Bialecki Post author

      Anne Marie, We have a number of students at my work who wear Islamic garb, and they remind me of the woman from the fabric store and Catholic sisters in habit. Externals do communicate a message (whether it is clothing, hair, accessories, body art, etc.) and I find it interesting to discover what the message is. I think beneath/above/around the external, though, is a desire to communicate ourselves and our beliefs–and to be known for what we hold dear. Thanks for sharing.

  1. Patrick

    Ha, I remember our St. Charles lessons on the “anawim” (remnant)…It seems God was preferential toward them. Maybe “marginalized” would be another image that I get. Thanks Madeline for another rich mediation on your faith history and how you have often crossed the path of God.


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