The Purpose of the Pattern

When I was a child my grandmother made many of my clothes and taught me to use a pattern. If you have never sewed anything or seen a dress pattern, you might have the idea that it looks like the end result and that it contains all the details needed to produce carbon copy replicas. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

You see, patterns actually tell very little about the end product, and while some details are included and necessary, those details are few and far between. In order to create a garment that will shape and drape properly around a three dimensional human being, many smaller, odd shaped pieces must be fitted together. Some larger pieces must be folded and sewn into even more odd shapes. The size of some pieces must change depending upon the size and shape of the person who will wear the garment. The pattern contains marks to ensure correct joining, measurements for correct adjustments, and marks for sufficient seam width for the garment to hold together. These marks are often not labeled with language, however, and the person using the pattern must learn which ones are which and how to apply them.

The pattern itself cannot become a finished garment. Its purpose is to be applied to fabric with the appropriate markings for the individual transferred to that fabric, which will in turn be sewn together into the shape of the wearer. A pattern can be applied to any fabric, usually one reflecting the personality of the wearer. Different types of fabrics require different treatments; finer fabrics are more fragile, thicker fabrics can only be combined in certain ways, and still others stretch or slip easily so must be cut with great care to preserve the correct shape. The placement of designs within the fabric must be considered when a pattern is placed; the direction of the fabric weave must be carefully considered to avoid misshapen garments. Thread colors, trim styles, even fastener types can all be personalized to the needs or preferences of the wearer. The pattern itself doesn’t command any of this; the person using the pattern must take time to learn each person and each fabric before attempting to make the garment required.

If the same pattern is used to make garments for three individual people, each of those three garments will also be individual. They will be similar, the same recognizable garment, but one might have more space in the hips while another is slimmer in the shoulder. One may be made of sturdy material with a more sober design, while another may be flamboyantly colored silk. One may zip and have no trim, while another may fasten with buttons and be trimmed with elegant embroidery.

My grandmother also taught me that our lives are to be made according to a pattern, the pieces of which can be found in the stories and lessons of scripture. As a child, still learning the basics of sewing, I didn’t understand what that meant, but as my faith has grown I have learned what a beautiful gift our pattern is. You see, God as Creator understands the incredible uniqueness of each individual human. He understands that with that individuality of nature comes difference in application. The pattern He has provided is minimal, with marks for connection and adjustment that we must learn to read as we learn ourselves, the fabric upon which the pattern is to be applied. Just as a garment sewn for a large person would not fit properly on a small person, or a silk garment would be inappropriate for a manual laborer, applying rules based on one person’s needs or preferences to someone with completely different spiritual requirements cannot work.

We all have the same pattern we are to follow. We are all different types of fabric, designs, and trim styles. We each have the responsibility to know both the pattern and ourselves in order to become a finished garment pleasing to God who created both.

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