An Exhibition That Stitches Together Quarantine Stories

Quilters have been busy during quarantine.

In March, the Wisconsin Museum of Quilts and Fiber Arts, located in Cedarburg, released a call for submissions of 12-inch fabric blocks documenting people’s experiences during the pandemic.

The museum received over 500 blocks from around the world, and 27 of those quilts comprise the “Quarantine Quilt” exhibition on display until Nov. 15.

Participants got creative – some blocks are knitted, crocheted, felted, painted or written on. A few even feature items like twigs and seed pods.


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“Each block tells a story of family and friends, love, community, new hobbies and experiences,” says Devyn McIlraith, the museum’s collections manager. “People were so incredibly creative.”

Some common themes include racial justice and pride. One block is a portrait of George Floyd, and others reference voting and handwashing; one of the quilts is even shaped like a face mask. Heidi Parkes, a volunteer who sewed one of the quilts, believes the tradition of community quilting can unite people in a time of isolation. “When you look at the blocks, you can see that there are really different political points of view and responses to something traumatic that’s happening,” Parkes says. “Yet what everyone has in common is that we are connecting with fiber art and with quilting, and that is an incredible way for people to bridge gaps.”

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This story is part of Milwaukee Magazine‘s October issue.

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Elizabeth Johnson is an editorial intern at Milwaukee Magazine and a journalism major at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.