Quilting Hugs

In order to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe we have, from the beginning of the pandemic, adjusted our social lives by distancing, communicating by phone and video conference, and masking up. At first, this seemed it would be difficult but relatively temporary. As stay at home orders prevailed and the severity of the pandemic extended its hands into homes across the world, fatigue became inevitable. We can all appreciate modern technology that has enabled us to connect virtually during this time, but it's just not the same and as being truly together in physical form. We are by nature—even the introverts among us—social creatures, and we need human contact and interaction.

Our art often reflects these feelings. In one especially moving example, we were impressed by Gwen Edwards’s submission to our Covid issue. The way she channeled her creative powers to express the emotions from physical separation from her loved ones during the pandemic is powerful. 

Hugs by Gwen Edwards

In her article,Quilt: Aching Absence--Memories of Hug Missed in the Pandemic Gwen Edwards shares how in the middle of the pandemic, like many of us, she found herself desperately missing her family members. She started making a quilt about hugs to pass the time and with the intent of possibly sending the finished quilt to family members as a sort of hug that she could give them. 

Edwards used materials she had on hand which included an old table cloth, a set of Roman shades, and denim jeans. She began by tracing the outline of her hand and arm on a piece of paper, as well as the hand of her husband. 

Using a combination of hand appliqué and embroidery she stitched hands onto her quilt top. 

She arranged for the hands to reach out toward one another and many of them overlap on top of other hands. “I layered the hugs, so that each appears to be reaching out for the other, yearning to hold one another, remembering what it is to be hugged by one you love. 

To finish the quilt top, Edwards was inspired by a virtual improv quilting class she took from Heidi Parkes. She used hand stitching lines to convey the energy or pressure of a hug and to represent different aspects of giving or receiving (or not getting or receiving a hug) through the different places she chose to hand quilt. 

Edwards intends on creating a series of hug quilts. She has started a second one that includes hand tracings from her parents, her sibling, and nieces/nephews. The tracings of these family members' hands hang near her workspace. 

Through the innovative way Edwards has used the form of the hand, she has breathed life into an inanimate object. Tenderness and love is conveyed in what are sure to become family heirlooms for generations to come.

You can read the article,Quilt: Aching Absence--Memories of Hug Missed in the Pandemic by Gwen Edwards and more inCurated Quilts, Issue no. 15: Covid. Purchase your copy today! 

Gwen Edwards @gwen_._edwards is a maker and a mender. Whether it's gardening, sewing, printing, drawing, or sculpting, her brain and hands are never still. Lockdowns in the UK brought hand quilting into her life, and she’s hooked! “I’m cherishing ‘drawing’ virtual hugs from my family with embroidery and applique.”

 By Brittany Bowen Burton

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