Chukka chukka chukka. The sound of Abuela’s olive green sewing machine — the small needle punching through fabric — was a lullaby for me growing up.

She’d maneuver the fabric like a prayer — with and without a machine in front of her. I’d often spend hours with my eyeballs glued to her, watching Abuela use her hands to create, sustain and provide.

How did she have such precision? Such patience? How did her hands wield so much wisdom?

When Abuela first arrived from Cuba, she worked in a clothing factory, similar to the tens of thousands of Cuban women who found jobs in manufacturing when they arrived in Miami.

Many of them, like Abuela, were experienced at cosiendo (sewing and pattern making). In fact, Miami’s golden era of fashion can be attributed to that time in history when Cuban women brought their cheap labor and their invaluable skills.

Years later, Abuela was able to create her own designs like she did in Cuba and to start her own small business selling clothes from her home.

She would spend hours sketching designs, creating entire worlds out of nothing, leaving me in awe of how they seamlessly came to life. Working with lace was her favorite — its delicate and resilient nature reflected the strength and skill of her hands.

Through the power of cloth, women throughout history have become the tellers of their own stories; a way of bodily remembering.

Sewing is an ancient craft passed down by our ancestors. Women across time have sewed and traded clothes and other materials in their communities, making the textile industry one of the earliest industries known to humankind.

From the Aymara, the Indigenous people of Bolivia, to native African communities, people have used Creator’s gifts of the land for reasons both spiritual and physical.

To this day, I’ll visit Abuela wearing a new article of clothing bought in the store. She’ll stare at the fabric, run her fingers over the buttons, inspect the hems.

Ay, no hacen cosas de la misma manera que antes. (They don’t make things the same way they did before), she’ll respond, dissatisfied. I’ll nod in agreement; the fast-fashion industry from which we fill our closets perpetuates some of the gravest global injustices.

The sacred art of sewing has lost the spirituality — the sacred wisdom and love — that was once used to create it. Abuela carries this knowing within her.

Wisdom, and the act of giving love through art made with our hands, is an act of deep healing power, and we see this through a myriad of women in the Bible and throughout history.

Tabitha in one such example in Scripture. While her story often gets lost within Peter’s, seeing her through new eyes allowed us to recognize the wisdom she too carried in her hands.

There isn’t much we know about Tabitha. But several details cause me to pause. Not only is she the only woman specifically called “disciple” in the New Testament, but she is one of very few people to be resurrected. After she becomes ill and dies, the disciples call Peter to bring her back to life.

Out of all the details that could have been told about her, this is the image we receive of Tabitha’s life: a room full of mourning widows holding up tunics, “Look! Look! Look what she made for us!” (Acts 9:39).

Caring after widows holds particular weight in the Hebrew Scriptures and in the early church. In fact, just a few chapters prior to Tabitha’s story, the Greek-speaking disciples complained that the Aramaic-speaking disciples were overlooking their widows in the daily food service (Acts 6).

The result was that seven “well-respected” men were appointed to make sure the widows were looked after. Did word about this important ministry reach Tabitha? Or perhaps she was well versed in Torah and felt God’s heart toward widows deeply.

She engaged in her skill as an act of love, but also as an act of justice.

While we don’t learn a lot about Tabitha’s life, one thing we do know is that Tabitha was a woman who cared for others through her craft — working with her hands to create, provide and supply. Perhaps it is this detail that awards her the title “disciple,” why her life is worthy of resurrection.

It’s no wonder that throughout the centuries, the weaving of arts has served as a metaphor for healing, showing us how doing so helps to compose and better understand our world.

Abuela sewed to heal the wounds of her husband’s death when, out of selfish greed, her brothers-in-law fought to push Abuela out of the family business. In a subversive sense, Abuela used her craft to provide economic stability when the pangs of patriarchy and sexism tried to keep her down.

Like Tabitha, Abuela mended, restored and provided through the work of her hands — empowering me and dozens of other women in her community.

This is a truth I’ve learned from these ancestors: women carry sacred wisdom in their bodies, their hands, their hearts.

Editor’s note: This article is part of a series this week to call attention to Sept. 15 through Oct. 15 as Hispanic Heritage Month. The previous article in the series is:

Celebrating Resilience, Condemning Oppression and Changing Symbols | Alyssa Aldape

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