This Family Created a Quilt to Preserve Memories of the Pandemic

The story of how one family's quest to document their experience of the pandemic for future generations brought them closer.

In March 2020, when we were hit with COVID-19, most of us were surprised and in a bit of a daze, not fully understanding just what that meant—or would mean—for ourselves, others, our community, and different parts of the world. Early coverage of COVID-19 compared what was developing to the “Spanish Flu,” an influenza pandemic just over 100 years earlier, lasting from 1918-1920.

Thinking about this, I realized my parents would have been in their teens in 1918—and that they had lived through that pandemic. And yet, I grew up never having heard them speak of it or their experiences! I had questions about what it was like for them, but no answers since my parents are no longer with us.

I thought to myself, “I don’t want this kind of thing to happen to the younger generation in my family in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

I spent the first eight months of the pandemic taking in all the new and changing information, adjusting to the uncertainty and restrictions, wondering about my parents’ experiences and thinking about how I might be able to help pass on information to younger/future generations. One day in December 2020, I woke up knowing what I wanted to do. I had a vision of a family quilt documenting our family’s experience of the pandemic. The idea excited me because I’ve always loved quilting, sewing, knitting, and other fibre crafting. Also, I was facing another winter, this time with a lock-down and stay-at-home order; I really wanted something creative to do so I wouldn’t feel as isolated.

Covid 19 Pandemic Quilt NetflixPhoto: Lois Hutchings
Mermbers of three generations
of Lois’s family contribuuted to the pandemic quilt she conceived of to keep the memories alive.

I ran the idea by my family members—my four adult children (with invitations also to their spouses and my eight grandchildren). They all gave it some thought and said “Go for it, Mom!”

So, I asked each person to create a square to convey their views on and experiences of the pandemic. We did some brainstorming together, including ways to include some family members providing essential services without taxing them too much. I ordered the fabric and quilting supplies we needed. One of my daughters sourced some good acrylic fabric markers. And we found a good local shop that did a great job printing photos and other designs onto fabric.

Each family unit contributed a few completed squares for a total of 20 squares. Some of us made more than one square, collaborated with and/or helping one another. The quilt covers three generations: the youngest family member is 17 this year, and I’m the oldest at almost 83. The quilt took my family and I almost four months from the time I envisioned it to the day I finished sewing it up.

Once the pandemic has ended, I will stitch the end date and any other key information onto the inside of the quilt. It may not be as skilled as some of my earlier work—I hadn’t made a quilt in a long time!—but it’s certainly one of the most creative and exciting things I’ve done, already serving the cause of bringing our family closer together. Seeing it completed—my vision realized, and knowing that upcoming generations will learn about our family experiences firsthand and not be left in the dark as I was as a child—is a dream come true.

Next, get inspired by the stories of 30 Canadians who reveal what they’re most thankful for.

Originally Published in Our Canada