“Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the LORD. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD as in the days of old and as in former years.”
I’m told I’m wrong about this. But no matter. I’m going to make my case anyway. Even if it is wrong because I can’t stop thinking about it.
I made a phone satchel this week for my new iPhone. I have trouble keeping the phone on me, so as usual I’d solve that problem with one of my two favorite coping methods: knitting.
Knitting as a process itself is pure bliss. But to be practical about it, my favorite construction method is really felting or, rather, fulling. Felting is what you do when you make a whole piece of cloth. Fulling is what you do when you make the garment and then shrink it to size. You knit something in wool about double in every dimension and through alternate hot and cold baths, friction, and soapy water the whole thing shrinks to a completely different looking item.
Felt is one of the oldest known ways to make cloth. They discovered it by some poor schlep sticking raw wool fibers into his shoes to keep his feet warm. By the end of the day, the heat, sweat, and friction had created something more sturdy and resilient than before.
Like with these Stetson hats.
I knit the thing with just a hunch about its future purpose. More instinctive art than exact science, I imagine the approximate proportions and the general design. And just run with it, changing as I go and incorporating mistakes as . . . well, challenges.
I wish I had taken a picture of the purse, post-knitting but pre-fulling. It was pretty ugly. It looked homemade. You could see each stitch and every tucked-in yarn tail. Every flaw was as plain as day. Yet you could see a vision of its final purpose too.
Then into the wash it goes. About 6 times. Friction, soapy water, and heat turns a floppy, gargantuan purse into a tidy little wallet. The stitches disappear. The curling that inevitably happens with a knitted garment is no longer a problem. It’s resilient now — strong and durable. And, in my not-so-humble opinion, it’s much prettier.
You need the soap. The oily soap makes the wool’s fibers slippery enough to “stand up” and the friction makes them connect. When cool and dry, the fibers lock and form the felt.
The NIV translates Malachi’s words as “launderer’s soap.” But the KJV and ESV choose “fullers’ soap.” The latter image is very different than the former. From my vantage point, that Soap is not just cleaning, but strengthening. It’s not only purifying, but also perfecting. The Knitter of our bones and sinews has a end purpose in mind for His creation. We start out floppy and misshapen — a kind of Burkean burlesque. But life’s friction and heat under the Fuller’s watchful eye and, of course, with His Soap make something entirely new.