More than 100 keen crafters around the world have come together to form a patchwork “quarantine quilt,” stitching together a picture of how we’ve experienced the pandemic.
The project, started by London-based friends Rachel Schofield Owen and Emma Slade Edmondson, tells stories of grief, hope, community, and gratitude, often marking tough moments, or celebrating those who’ve helped us through.
One patch, created by London-based participant Bryony Porter (@tickover), contains the words: “There is no magic way to cope in a pandemic.”
“I stitched how I was feeling and it’s messy and imperfect as is my relationship with my mental health,” she says.
“I wanted to show that it’s ok to be feeling tired, lost, angry, stressed, anxious, sad, overwhelmed, vacant. It’s ok to feel every emotion under the sun in a single afternoon, and it’s also ok to feel nothing at all.”
Another patch, by Bristol-based Sarah Inlam (@sarahyinlam7), celebrates the love of gardening she’s discovered during lockdown.
“I’ve really taken to growing and caring for plants at home,” she says. “My windows are packed with succulents, herbs and my most ambitious addition: a propagated pineapple top!
“Every morning I’m eager to check up on my plant babies, it gives me purpose and is therapeutic beyond measure. My little indoor garden has been a wonderful haven for me.”
Other patches have been created to thank key workers, from NHS staff to posties. Many participants also chose to thank friends, family, the LGBTQ community and neighbours, who’ve made this year bearable.
Several squares have been made to support the Black Lives Matter movement, including the below design by London-based Nicole Chui (@thatsewnicole).
“This patch was created to express my solidarity with Black Lives Matter,” she says. “Solidarity does not mean it’s all blissful and happiness, it’s where we all need to listen, unlearn and be openly reminded of the systematic racism we have all ashamedly normalised.
“As a non-black POC and a light skinned E&SE asian womxn, I need to constantly acknowledge my privileges and do everything I can to fight the fight against racism in my career and daily life.”
Most of the patches have been created by crafting enthusiasts in the UK, but some have come from crafters in Australia and Europe, connected through Instagram.
Schofield Owen and Slade Edmondson also connected with the conscious fashion community, inviting designers and makers in the global south to contribute to the quilt.
“80% of garment workers are women and given the countries garment workers are usually situated in, it follows that they’re likely to be women of colour,” says Slade Edmondson. ”These contributions were especially important to me given that I’m acutely aware from my work in the space that these makers and creatives are rarely given the voice and platform they deserve.”
Schofield Owen came up with the idea for the quilt, hoping it would bring communities together and fill her days during the first lockdown. She usually works creating props, set and costumes for stage and screen, but work has “disappeared” for her and her colleagues during the pandemic, so the quilt provided much-needed focus.
“I have felt isolated, lonely and fearful about work and the longevity of my practice,” she says. ”Unexpectedly the quilt bought me a lot of goodness, structure and meaning at a very difficult time. It’s been a blessing and a huge privilege to connect with so many people.”
As the project took off, Schofield Owen invited Slade Edmondson, who owns a marketing consultancy, to get involved. It’s also been a tough year for her friend.
“As a self-employed mixed race, woman of colour, despite being relatively young, I’ve definitely felt worried at times about my level of vulnerability both financially and physically (and of course the vulnerability of my family to Covid-19,” Slade Edmondson says.
“This has bled into a residual anxiety and a general concern about vulnerable communities. Being asked to come on board with this project has given me a way to connect and offer support outside of my immediate, accessible circles.”
Choosing a quilt was the obvious arts project for Schofield Owen, who says she’s been inspired by quilt makers for a long time. “I love the idea of using fabric scraps and old clothes to make something beautiful. Blankets resemble safety and security; they’re used for warmth, lain on beds and cribs, and gifted at significant life moments,” she says.
She was also inspired by The Names Project (also referred to as the AIDS Memorial Quilt) – a quilt project that originated in the US in memory of people who have died from AIDS-related illnesses.
“As a queer person that project is testament to solidarity against shameful government neglect, and demonstrates the links that were formed through the act of craft,” she says.
Together, the friends hoped to reflect different experiences of a year like no other. “We wanted to document expressions and experiences, with so many viewpoints we hoped to paint a picture of Covid,” says Schofield Owen. “We thought of it like a block of flats lit up at night, with each patch being a window into someone’s life and the whole quilt making up a residence.”
The quilt is currently being exhibited by The MAC (Metropolitan Arts Centre) in Belfast, as part of an exhibition curated by Hugh Mulholland about creativity during Covid, entitled A Coalition of Rainbows.
All proceeds collected during the making and exhibition of the quilt will be split equally between four charities: Fashion Revolution, The Trussel Trust, Women’s Aid and Black Minds Matter.
Schofield Owen and Slade Edmondson have also set up a Go Fund Me page for those who wish to donate. “Whilst lockdowns are being called it is difficult to plan exhibitions, but we look forward to the days when things are more relaxed and the quilt can be accessible,” says Schofield Owen.
”We want it to be seen by as many people as possible, so they can reflect and compare Covid experiences, it’s amazing to see the motifs that repeat; the rainbows, the hands, the nature, it’s a beautiful display of our uniquenesses and our commonalities.”
Check out more of the patches below and follow @quarantine_quilt to read the stories behind them.