Covid 19: A Stronger WEave

Textile craft work from our community

During the pandemic an unprecedented amount of crafting occurred. Following the first lockdown in March 2020 crafts supply retailers saw a surge in sales, and demand for online workshops and crafts videos increased, sparking a flurry of interest from media outlets who reported on this trend in amateur crafts, (especially textiles, which can be so easily practiced at home) and the benefits of crafting to mental health.

As a textile museum, the increase in crafts activities did not go unnoticed, and we wondered what our members might be doing with their time at home. Like many, our community came together to make and donate personal face coverings for those that could not afford them. Some picked up a textile craft for the first time and discovered a new interest (or obsession!), and others found themselves with a lot more time to devote to an ongoing crafts practice.

The MVTM’s call for submissions of textile projects created during the pandemic was met with great enthusiasm: both beginner and more advanced makers sent us their “Covid-19 Crafts” projects, along with their thoughts on crafting during these turbulent times. The overwhelming consensus: a crafts practice of any level of skill and effort provides a meditative retreat and soothing balm for the mind.

Barbara Irving, Ottawa ON

Sheep and Tongues rug hooking kit by Loretta Bluher-Moore

I purchased this rug hooking kit from Loretta at the Art in the City craft fair in Ottawa’s Confederation Park in 2011. I was happy to finally find the time during the lock down to tackle it. A new craft for me and one that I enjoyed.

Hand knitted cardigan based on the Game Board Cardigan pattern by Brandon Mably

I’ve been a hand knitter for years but life during the pandemic gave me more time to tackle larger projects. It was a challenge to tie in all the ends of the squares for this cardigan but it felt wonderful to choose the yarns and make my own garment.

Visible Mending

I streamed an online course through the Canadian War Museum on Visible Mending. It’s always inspiring to learn a new skill and it’s come in handy to mend some clothing items rather than worrying about replacing them.

Becky Hurwitz, Toronto, Ontario

View, Victoria by the Sea, PEI, 2021 textile mosaic collage, 11.5” X 23.75”

Based on a photo from a family trip, this image holds special memories, especially as we have not been able to see our children for over a year and a half. Making art provided—and continues to provide—an engaging activity during this period of restricted movement.

Christie Jane

Christy Harris, Ontario

Part of what I have been doing is making crafts out of the things I have at home instead of shopping for supplies since we couldn’t leave the house for the longest time. I’ve been keen also to reduce the amount of single use plastic I’ve had at home, long before Covid even started, so I have been making things out of milk bags and bread bags that I have in the house. Recently I made a tote bag out of 23 plastic bread and milk bags as a way of doing my part to “reuse” the plastic on hand instead of throwing into the garbage where it would end up in landfill.

Debbie Hackett, Stittsville ON and Marie Hackett, Trenton ON

Knitted baby jacket

I thoroughly enjoyed the creativity and sense of connection this project gave me. Although I’ve been knitting for almost 60 years, I had never before knitted a curved yoke. My mother had started this jacket but couldn’t finish it due to an illness that took her life. So years later I finally took up needles to complete it for my first great niece, Eloise. Mom would love to know her great-granddaughter is now wearing this jacket!

Knitting calms so I’ve turned to it many times during the pandemic! I’ve knit 20 projects since early March 2020.

Ingrid Hamster

Being a Historic Costume designer by trade and work having slowed down during COVID, I reminded myself of the antique dolls I had stored in a trunk for years. Going through my stash of linens, silks and some antique cottons and lace, what better to spend my time on than recreating new clothing for my old friends

Janet Whittam, SE Ottawa

I have been using this time to get to a project I have thought about for many years. I have been sewing in a crazy quilt aesthetic the offcuts from my handwoven cloth, pieces that I have saved for many years. This cloth is turned into clothing. The leftovers from that sewing project, I have then woven into rugs. It has been very time consuming but also very rewarding and I have been very happy with the finished projects.  They can be viewed on Instagram @handweavingbyjanet and on Facebook, Handweaving by Janet Whittam.

Jennifer Derstroff

Title: Canadian Mandala
Designed by: Jennifer Derstroff
Hooked by: Jennifer Derstroff
Materials used: wool yarn on a linen backing
Type of textile project: Rug Hooking

I really enjoyed creating this design. We don’ t have many patriotic Canadian rug hooking designs.

Title: Eye of the Beholder
Designed by: Pam Bartlette
Hooked by: Jennifer Derstroff
Type of textile project: Rug Hooking
Materials used: various wool fabrics on a linen backing.

Title: The Christmas Flower
Designed by: The old Tattered Flag Hooked by: Jennifer Derstroff
Type of textile project: Rug Hooking
Materials used: Mix of handspun, hand-dyed wool yarn and upcycled wool fabric on a linen backing.

Jennifer Noxon – Almonte ON

Comfort in Uncertainty

Over the last year and a half, I found myself, as an artist, craving an activity that would require focus and repetition. With so much uncertainty and so few deadlines, it was hard to focus and create timelines. People were experiencing a weird perception and slowing down of time, on the disconnection they felt from others, on the apathy that accompanied days of isolation. I embarked on creating a virtual/visual ‘quilt’ knowing not how large it would be or when it would be finished. As it grows, each piece moves from ‘isolation’ to becoming part of the larger assemblage or ‘community of pieces’. It becomes connected to all the other pieces. Whereby the whole makes a larger impact on the viewer, than each of the individual pieces.

The concept of a visual/virtual ‘quilt’ was the inspiration for this piece because of the comfort quilts can provide. I took on the task of posting a new piece of the ‘quilt’ regularly on Instagram because of its three-column format. I am currently on Day 54 though the real pieces number almost 100 at present. The collages are made of recycled magazines. I chose the colours, patterns, and juxtaposing fragments of images for the comfort they brought me on any given day. Sometimes dark, sometimes energetic, sometimes positive and reassuring.

Each piece is a collage on a 6″ x 6″ piece of wood.

Jennifer Tsuchida, Toronto ON

Photo 1: Wet and Nuno Felted Wall Sculpture
Photo 2: Wet and Nuno Felted Handbag with Hand Stitched Leather Handle
Photo 3: Wet Felted Wall Sculpture

Creating this work, as with all of my hand felted art, has permitted me to explore and express the concealed world of the darkest corners of my imagination through the use of different colours, textures, and biomorphic forms sculpted from wool fleece. The repetitious movement of the felting process is meditative, which helps keep me grounded, and allows me to drown out all of the chaos and uncertainties of today’s outside world.

Jill McFarlane, Santa Fe, New Mexico and Anna Lenk, Ottawa, Ontario

Shoulder bag with a knitted panel

Our young friends were having their first child in August 2020. As aunties, one who sews and one who knits, we wanted to make a hand-made gift from the both of us to welcome the baby. For our international collaboration, we decided on a practical shoulder bag with a knitted tapestry panel.

Julie Griffith, Kanata Ontario

Love to Felt Artwear

My artwork is based on wet felting wool and other natural fibres into fibre artwork or wearable artwork in the form of shawls.

The Gift

A fibre dreamscape – wet and needle felted using wool, silk fibres. It is my feeling of hope coming with a vaccine to a COVID darkened city enveloped in fog of despair.

Distant Sky

This is a wet felted landscape with the sharp contrast of a red and blue sky. The ancient tree is needle felted with wool locks. For me this scene evoked a sense of turbulent times.

Wear Your Heart

A triangular wet felted triangular shawl with a dominant heart design and wool locks. This was inspired by the turbulent emotions of this past year. Being truthful is what feels right in these challenging times.

Kathryn James

Fibre is a silver lining during these times, a calming influence, and a chance for uninterrupted production.

Kim McCurdy, Clayton ON

Crocheted shell stitch baby blanket

I made this blanket for my grandson who was born in April 2020. We weren’t able to see him for many months after his birth so making this blanket for him helped me feel connected. I loved seeing him with it in photos and videos.

Krystyna Sadej, Navan, Ontario

Cosmic Dance of Hope

Type of textile project: Art tapestry; weaving and manipulated warp
What have you enjoyed about making it? How has making it helped you during this time?:
Weaving has always given me comfort, and in this difficult pandemic time, I needed to create art more than ever. My tapestry’s message brings me calmness: “we must stop fear and negative emotions in their tracks, replacing them with creativity and finding meaning and beauty within chaos”. “Cosmic Dance of Hope” is dedicated to raising the awareness of hope, love, and unity across the globe.
Size: 165 cm x 160 cm
Material: My tapestry is composed of two parts, the first one is done on the basis of manipulated warp, partially woven, using different materials, mostly recycled (plastic foil, videotape, and yarn of different golds, blacks, and metallics). The second part is woven on a wheel on a circular warp using similar materials. Together they create one whole.

Lorraine (Lorrie) Lafrance, Ottawa ON

Cross-stitched reproduction of the Dun Horse from the Cave of Lascaux in France

The pandemic has provided me with almost limited hours to stitch. It took 475 hours to cross-stitch this piece and for now, it must replace the trip to France that we had to cancel in 2020.

Cross-stitched “My Summer in My Garden”, chart from Mirabilia

This is where many spent their summer in 2020. I stitched on my balcony and enjoyed every minute spent with a needle and thread.

Cross-stitched “To-Do List”, chart by Lizzie Kate

I found this chart in my stash and reflected on the words. They spoke to me and have kept me grounded during these difficult times.

Loretta Moore, Westport, Ontario

Hooked Rug

Rug hooking has been my sanity during Covid. I can let my imagination roam far and wide although this piece entitled Porkalicious, is closer to home. The porcupine who ate my front steps!

Luigina Baratto, Ottawa

Sewing and botanical contact printing on lyocell1 (scarf) and organic hemp cotton blend (tank top)
Usually, this type of work is done with fresh leaves, but it was a treat to work with (dried) leaves in the middle of winter.
Crafting helped focus my mind on positive goals, finishing projects or trying new techniques, rather than dwelling on what a scary time we live in.

Contact printing on lyocell with revitalized dried eucalyptus leaves and shibori style logwood dye bath.

Lyocell is a man made fibre from eucalyptus tree pulp. It is considered a cellulose fibre

Hemp cotton jersey with botanical contact printing with revitalized eucalyptus and silver maple leaves, and logwood dye bath

Marie Dunn, Catherine Cameron

Materials used in making these Japanese KimiKomi balls include mainly cotton which holds its shape well as well as lace, gimp, ribbon and decorative trims. Each ball can take anywhere from 8 to 12 hours to complete depending on the complexity of the design. I have enjoyed making these balls throughout the pandemic as they have given me something creative to do using materials I often have on hand.

Martina Edmondson, Victoria, BC

Acorn Catchers H50” x L24” x W10”

I made this blanket for my grandson who was born in April 2020. We weren’t able to see him for many months after his birth so making this blanket for him helped me feel connected. I loved seeing him with it in photos and videos.

Installation of 50 crocheted catchers, dyed in acorn cap dye liquor

This installation encapsulates the notion of absence: the containers will remain empty; there are no more acorns to catch from an absent tree. Creating these acorn catchers helped in coming to terms with the loss of a very old majestic Garry Oak Tree.

…for the Trees H39” x W39”

Installation of 15 uprights, covered in eco printed silk
Sometimes one cannot see the forest for the trees but here, these upright forms stand as an elegy for all trees lost.

Navigating without a Map 7’ X 12” (unrolled size) Scroll book

During these surreal times of a pandemic, stitching has become a way of coping and making sense of this strange world. Stitching can be very meditative and, as thoughts meander freely, the stitches make their own marks, creating maps for survival.

Acorn Catchers Installation


Navigating without a map scroll book partially rolled up


Mary McNeill, Woodlawn ON

Bookmark using serger and sewing machine

In July 2020 I bought a fairly sophisticated serger. One day each week, I retreated to my sewing room and immersed myself in learning some of the stitches. It was a wonderful opportunity to shut out the rest of the world and teach myself a new skill.

This project used a serger flatlock stitch with ribbon woven between the stitches. I used a regular sewing machine for the zigzag stitching.

I made matching bookmarks for the members of one of my book clubs.

Mary Porritt, Kinburn, ON

Handwoven linen shawl

Enjoyed working with linen for the first time. Helped to past the time in a creative way, especially during lockdown.

Michelle Freemark, Almonte ON

Handmade, needle-felted nests using Canadian wool with embellishments

When the lockdowns started in March and we stocked up on supplies and were told to stay home, it reminded me of birds building their nests in preparation for the time they would sit on their eggs. I hand felted my nests with wool roving, then added embellishments with items I had on hand, using found items like the birds do. I enjoy the meditative feel of the hand-felting, combined with the creativity that comes with the embellishing. This process brought a sense of comfort during an uncertain time.

Nesting I, Blue Hope 2020

Nesting II, Green Pearl 2020

Nesting III, Create 2020

Paddye Mann and Pattie Dolan, Pakenham, ON

The project began with fabric from Textile Traditions and The Pickle Dish to make masks.

In all 9000 were donate or sold to make for donations. Nothing was wasted. The very small bits were given to Jessica Plager who made tiny masks for children’s dolls and donated them to places like Interval House. Her thinking was that if children could put masks on their dolls it would make mask wearing a little more inviting.

The selvedges were saved and put into big balls to keep them in order. Pattie Dolan then wove these selvedges into amazing mats, runners and pillows.

Often Pattie over dyed the pieces when they were finished. The pieces are glorious – a reminder of how everything has a use.

Reinouw Bast, Dunrobin

Tea towels in Dutch Tartan design, handwoven on 4 shafts using cottolin yarn.

A friend shared the design for weaving fabric in Dutch Tartan colours and dimensions. While proper tartan cloth is woven in a straight twill, I decided to make 12 tea towels, using a variety of weave structures, including this one, which is a canvas weave. Weaving a tartan requires a lot of counting of threads and frequent colour changes. It kept my mind occupied and my hands busy during Covid19 restrictions.

Baby wrap, handwoven on an 8 shaft loom, using mercerized cotton.

I designed the baby wrap, keeping in mind the favorite colours of the parents and weaving different textures as a point of interest for the baby. For the design, I had to learn how to combine two different weave structures, first on paper and then making it work on the loom. I made it 7 meters long, so that it can be used while the baby grows. While socializing and many other activities could not happen due to Covid19, learning new things and making something substantial helped pass the time and kept the brain active.

Retta Rive, Ottawa ON

Monochrome – Wall Hanging
(20″ x 20″) completed June 2020
Fabric Art: Hand pieced, hand appliqued, machine quilted, 100% cotton

This was one of my teaching samples for a fibre arts class that I taught some years ago in PEI. The objective was to use 12 shades of related colours. It remained a “UFO” (unfinished object) until I finally got around to doing the quilting in 2020 – with so much unexpected time on my hands. In addition to helping me keep busy it provided a pleasant trip down memory lane!

Seasons – Through a Window
(Framed – 18″ x 23″) 2020
Fabric Art: Machine pieced, top-edge stitched, machine quilted, 100% cotton

2020 saw many of us staying indoors much of the time – looking through windows as the seasons passed by – hence, the inspiration for this piece of fabric art!

Sunset across Lake Champlain
(3.75″ x 5.75″, matted to 8″ x 10″) 2020
Fabric Art: Machine pieced, top-edge stitched, machine quilted, 100% cotton

As 2020 unfolded, I was unable to engage in many of the activities that I had previously taken for granted, such as our usual trips across the border into the USA. I looked through my sketch book and found the basis for this landscape, a happy memory of our last visit to Vermont!

Robin Whitford, Ottawa ON

Sandbanks at Sunset, 2020. 12” by 36”
Rug Hooked, with mixed fibres on cotton rug warp

Rug hooking has kept my hands busy and my creative juices flowing during this unprecedented times. Without it I am not sure what I would have done! I especially enjoyed working on this piece as it reminded me of many family vacations visiting Sandbanks.

Samantha McLellan, Almonte ON

Tunisian crochet wrap/shawl

I have enjoyed the repetition of the Tunisian simple stitch and how it gives me something to do with my hands, yet it is not a complicated pattern. It has helped me during this time because I find it very satisfying to learn a new type of craft – I usually do traditional crochet and this was my first Tunisian project.

Thoma Ewen, Val-Des-Monts, QC

Offering – medium: hand-woven tapestry
size: w 47” x h 65”
Materials: wool and cotton weft, cotton warp 8epi

Offering came about as a visual exploration of the meditative process centred on the Buddhist practice dedicated to Chenrezi, the Bodhisattva of Great Compassion. Regular and consistent on-line Zoom meditations helped me maintain a sense of structure and purpose in my weaving at a time when all structures in the world seemed to be rapidly and maybe forever changing. The on-line meditations created community and connection around a positive and uplifting practice, helping to alleviate the isolation and distress I was feeling during Covid lockdown. Because there were fewer outside art world demands, the meditative visualizations could be entered into more deeply with fewer distractions. So in a sense, Covid assisted in deepening my understanding that love is the antidote to fear. Offering was woven during the late fall, winter and early spring of 2020-21 and is an offering of gratitude to my teachers.

Starwatch – medium: hand-woven tapestry, size: w 165cm x h 147cm
Materials: wool and cotton weft, cotton warp 8epi

Starwatch was completed in 2020, during Covid lock-down in Canada.

Weaving it, and being immersed in its energies, provided a gateway or a portal beyond the extreme physical confinement that everyone, all over the world, was experiencing at the same time. Weaving the tapestry provided a connection to something larger, something cosmic, allowing me to mentally transcend isolation and confinement. The visual concept of the spiral galaxy is a metaphor for unlimited and ever-expanding space, and weaving it provided contemplation of life’s mysteries.

Uta Riccius, Almonte ON

Knitted vest (unfinished)

Similar to COVID- the unpredictability of what is to come next. Unable to control the outcome and just be with the process of knitting and watch how the colours and wave patterns change.

Fall cap sewn from upholstery fabric scraps

Finding time to work on some sewing projects, working with recycled fabrics.

Converting a jeans dress into a vest

Trying to make something new from something old.