Quilting in the Time of Covid-19

Let’s Sync.

Syncing is when I finally manage to step back from my life for a moment and take a big picture look at what is happening. As in, stop quilting Maria, and take a look around.

This is almost always an airplane moment.

airplane photo

I knew this year was going to be a tough schedule all the way around, and then it got serious. The details go like this.

Son #1 and Son #2 are graduating from college and high school this spring. While we do know that they will graduate, we are not so sure about the ceremonies. Moments and milestones are being cancelled all over the world. What event will you not being taking pictures of?

I have a solo exhibition at the Shelburne Museum in Vermont. That experience has been exhilarating, intimidating, and humbling all at the same time. Work. Work. Work.

The Wrangell Mountains Center, a non-profit arts, science, educational institution that I serve as a board member for, has been without an Executive Director since early August. This means the board has been serving as the ED for many months now.

All board members have been pitching in as we can. This means almost daily tasks for me, for others it has become an almost full time job.

It has definitely been “a what does not kill you will make you stronger” moment. I love this organization and the community it serves. I also love my fellow board members. It is like we said I DO, and we are keeping our vows.


The WMC board at our retreat last December.

My teaching and lecturing schedule looks down right daunting on paper.


But I have been keeping on— parenting, stitching, and volunteering.

And then a bug got loose, and it all kind of feels like maybe.

Who knows? Apparently, no one at all.

So we do our best to navigate a landscape thick with the unknown.

Yesterday, I was supposed to embark on a three-week long trip.

The plan was to teach for the Los Angeles Modern Quilt Guild in California, and then fly to Ontario, Canada to teach for The York Heritage Quilt Guild and the Ancaster Modern Quilt Guild. Tucked in the middle of all this teaching, I was going to attend the Studio Art Quilt Associates Conference in Toronto.

About a week ago, The SAQA conference transformed into a virtual event. This is when the Coronavirus became a reality for me. Has it become a reality for you?

I cancelled a lecture along with my hotel reservation for the conference and booked two new flights. Essentially breaking up my long trip into two short trips. More time in planes, but also more time at home.

Every day, I watch the map of the United States get redder and redder as each state grapples with the spread of the virus.

Virus Spread

I get phone calls and texts and emails. Here are a few snippets.

“Would you like to teach for us in two weeks? One of our teachers just cancelled because of the bug.”

“Are you sure you still want to come? We are totally disinfecting the entire classroom.”

“I don’t know what the big deal is. It is just a virus. We deal with the flu every year. I don’t think there is any reason for you to change your plans.”

“You have been upgraded to first class.” (Cause you know, nobody is flying but fools.)

How to decide?

I am healthy. I must travel to do my job. I signed a contract.

My sons are now all getting at least two weeks off for spring break. Maybe more, maybe what? We just don’t know.

And so yesterday, I sat on an airplane headed towards Los Angeles via Seattle. I will be here for just a few days, and then I fly home to Anchorage. The airport was very quiet. Each traveler aware of what we cannot see.

The status quo reeks of industrial disinfectant.

I just touched my eye. I just reprimanded myself for doing so.

The things we take for granted in this wide world of hyper connection.

In ten days, I fly to Toronto. Or will I? Will I change my mind? Or will someone else do it for me?

I am playing chicken with a pandemic.

My biggest fear is being quarantined away from home. When I say that, I am really saying my biggest fear is being stranded in a foreign land without a sewing machine.

In the sky, somewhere near Seattle.  I clasp my scrubbed down hands and hope for the best.

I land. We shop amoung empty aisles.

We stand six feet apart, and try to follow the rules even though it feels like they were invented yesterday.

This entire essay may be in need of an edit. It is my past, present, and future all at once. And things are just changing to darn quickly for me to keep up. I imagine with the latest news from Canada that I will be flying home and staying home for a good little while. I hope you all are safe out there.


This entry was published on March 14, 2020 at 8:55 AM and is filed under About Teaching. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

14 thoughts on “Quilting in the Time of Covid-19

  1. Everything is uncertain. I had three teaching gigs in April, and I think they are all going to cancel. My two shows have cancelled. I am preparing to spend the next few weeks like a hermit, emerging only when strictly necessary from my studio. My own safe, comfortable corner of the world. Stay safe, Maria!

  2. Thanks, Maria, for sharing your thoughts. I feel just as confused as you. I just have a lot more experience doing it.

  3. Maria, You are an amazing quilter and an amazing writer—thank you for this.

    Take care—and don’t touch your eye!

  4. Deborah Btight on said:

    Be safe, Maria! And take care.

  5. Elizabeth Cooperrider on said:

    Hi Maria,
    I felt the same as you about what do to at this uncertain time. I decided to go to my nephew’s wedding earlier this week in NYC. I was healthy, the guests appeared healthy, we were all aware of the possibility of Covid infection and took precautions to not get infected. Unfortunately, Covid has an incubation period with no symptoms. 2 people in our party tested positive today. I am sick and get my test back Monday. 2 more are currently sick. The virus went from Virginia to NYC to Oregon, Ohio, Colorado, and New Jersey in one day. That is just from this one wedding. It’s hard to imagine the implications of this pandemic. Please be careful and I hope you and your family can stay healthy and be together. If you do travel, you might want to self quarantine before you get back with your family to keep them safe and all the elder and immunocompromised people that will not make it if they get infected. All my best.

  6. jphoddick on said:

    Maria thanks for sharing your experiences and thoughts. It gave me a few chuckles and I guess that is what I needed today. It is snowing in Portland, OR. This is our first snow of the season. What ???? My husband and I went out to eat last night as our last hurrah. I went to the grocery store this am and got what i could – shelves bare of TP, paper towels, cold meds, milk, organic veggies, all frozen foods, dry and canned beans….My husband volunteers for AARP Tax Aide 4 days a week- and was shut down Friday. What will happen if people can’t get their taxes done??? We fiber artists have a place to go, something to do, something we LOVE to do. What is everyone else going to do sitting at home for 2 week quarantine? I’m glad we don’t have little kids at home. I feel so sorry for the pay check to pay check workers who have been displaced by this virus. On another note, I just loved that photo you shared of your new work with the cross motif…WOW!! I hope you travel safely. Wash your hands!

  7. Hi Maria,

    These are indeed strange times – unknowns, panic instead of calm, and yes empty shelves because of hoard shopping. We’re debating about our vacation to Texas at the end of the month. It’s a driving trip (12 hours each way) which means hotels, restaurants, and public restrooms (lots of them). We are of an age we have to be more careful, and we both have medical concerns. So though we want to see family & friends, we don’t want to get sick, and we’re probably going to have to cancel. My guild has cancelled meetings, classes, and our annual retreat (so far). Better to be safe than risk unnecessary exposure.

    I have mixed feelings about all of this. People have panicked even though we are at the beginning of this, we have better ways to deal with viruses, and access to more (not necessarily better) information. I am frustrated with the panic because that doesn’t help anyone, the hoard shopping puts many people without basic daily necessities, and the mindset of me first & only is disappointing. I think we need to all stop take a deep breath (in a safe zone), calm down, and realize we are all in this together. And we will get through this episode. We have survived numerous epidemics/pandemics, and this is not the end of the world. I am greatly concerned about the adverse economic impact this will be having on folks. Elderly trying to survive on Social Security, families dealing with school closures, less work, or being laid off. Even those of us not invested in the stock market are affected by it.

    Prior to this virus, we were going out at least 3 to 5 mornings each week for coffee or breakfast and dining out for other meals once or twice each week (we’re retired). I was at a sew day at least once each week, sometimes 3 – 4 times week, and we enjoyed going to museums, galleries, or events often. We have stopped those activities. We limit our public contact as a preventative measure. I am dreading going to the doctor this week because sick people go to the doctor. I have no choice because he is retiring, and I need my check up and meds renewed.

    And so this ended up a very long reply, so I hope you made it through. There’s so many complex issues, lifestyle adjustments, and such need for compassion for others during this episode. I know we can do what is needed, we’ve done it before, so this panic environment is disheartening to me. I search my FB for good news stories, follow my quilting blogs, and focus on the positive. I will remain calm, have faith this too shall pass, keep my sense of humor, and quilt on. I am going to use this time as creatively productive as I can. Perhaps this year I will actually get my Christmas made on time.

    Sending thoughts of health and safety for you and yours, Kay

  8. Maria, Please just be careful. This virus is not the regular flu…it’s much more contagious and potentially deadly. Just look at the example about the one wedding. I live in an area that’s been hit hard and all schools, movie theaters, court houses, synagogues, malls etc. are closed. I work at an assisted living facility and the residents are truly petrified. Boredom is our worst problem at home and at work, my worst problem is having to reassure seniors when i’m stressed myself. The reason we quarantine is to keep the cases to a minimum, to protect the vulnerable and to prevent the hospitals from being overburdened. Just be careful please.

  9. good luck with your schedule – you might find that others make the decision for you – shut down airports, cancel events etc. I’m in Tasmania Australia and all week there have been announcements of events cancelling – a big event Dark MOFO in Hobart Tasmania that isn’t held until June has already been cancelled so there are some serious decisions being made !

  10. You have every right to do as you wish, Maria! I admire you for tackling everything – rearranging and accommodating. Everyone is dealing with tough decisions and choices.

    Later this coming week, I was supposed to give a free motion quilting presentation to a guild in my state. Contract or no, I apologetically backed out. I received attitude such as you did in your third quote: “What’s the big deal? The media is just hyping this.” This guild leader is certain everyone will attend their meeting, and just as surely, this guild will not reschedule me. I did the right thing for me, cognizant of living in a retirement community as I do. What might I potentially bring back from others with latent coronavirus? Make your choices, and feel assured about them. That’s what all of us are doing. And when you find yourself at home with time on your hands, sew. It’s the best therapy.

  11. Fantastic essay, thanks for sharing your experiences from the traveling artist/teacher perspective!

  12. It feels a bit like we are living in a science fiction novel, doesn’t it? Your fear of being stranded without your sewing machine struck a chord (we are having power cuts as well in my part of the world). But we are lucky to be able to “sew on”, even if it is hand stitching!

  13. You did the right thing by going home. Canada is now asking that US visitors stay at home. It’s the best thing we all can do, and we need to make the best of it. Take care of your family and the vulnerable and quilt on!

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