The COVID-19 pandemic has been nothing if not disruptive. But that disruption—to routines, to workplaces and schools, to feelings of certainty about the future—has led to both large- and small-scale innovation and creativity.
The always-creative duo of Mary Spring and Terry Howell knew that the ways people spent their time in the imposed isolation of the pandemic’s early days, and how people felt about it, was something that needed to be captured for posterity.
So they invited the local community to create quilt squares out of whatever they had on hand to represent how the pandemic had affected them, and then submit those squares—along with a brief descriptive story—to be sewn into a larger quilt.
Related story: Isolation quilt-block makers share their stories
Quilts have long been used to tell stories, or have told one inherently through their materials and patterns. Sometimes they told a simple story through the recycled fabrics used, often clothing that had been worn beyond usefulness—pieces of an apron, coveralls, or a dress—which themselves held family memories. Others were more elaborate, containing images within their design which conveyed a message from the quilt-maker.
The isolation quilt is not the first story quilt Spring and Howell have coordinated. They invited community submissions for a Canada 150 quilt, which now hangs in Huntsville’s Town Hall.
For the isolation quilt, they received almost 50 squares from sewers of all ages—the youngest was four years old—and it is now complete. Spring and Howell, with the help of Vicky Mathies and Louise Wilson, stitched the squares together to make the front of the quilt and Libby Duncan added the backing. Wendy Stephen typed up squares containing each story and Spring compiled them on a display board. All of them volunteered their time to bring it together. “It was a community effort for sure,” says Spring.
The quilt will be on display at Partners Hall in the Algonquin Theatre on weekdays from 9:00-4:30, October 2-28, as part of the Huntsville Art Society’s Surviving Cabin Fever Part 2 show.
If you don’t get a chance to see it during that time, don’t worry. The Town of Huntsville has graciously agreed to hang this quilt too, says Spring.
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