Queensland Quarantine Quilt comes into State Library's collection

In early May, right in the midst of the strictest lockdown any of us have ever experienced, ABC Radio Brisbane put out a call to Queenslanders to contribute a small textile square which would be made into a ‘quarantine quilt’. The quilt was a true community art project with the aim of showing gratitude to Queensland’s dedicated healthcare workers as well as raising awareness of the ABC and the role it plays in the wider community.

The only criteria were that the squares needed to measure 15cm x 15cm, they should feature joyful and colourful motifs, and they needed to represent people’s isolation experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic, with a focus on what made them happy.

Queensland Spinners Weavers and Fibre Artists (QSWFA), a society of passionate textile producers and creators who last year celebrated their 50th anniversary, took up the call agreeing to partner with ABC Brisbane to assemble and make the final quilt. Their message to members was to ‘use your favourite natural fibres’, ‘feature your favourite techniques’ and to ‘go WILD!’.

Single square and submission paperwork, provided by Deborah Green of Brisbane. Image courtesy Queensland Spinners Weavers and Fibre Artists.

Woven into each square are the personal stories of individuals who have not only struggled through life in lockdown, but who have also kept a sense of humour about life in a pandemic. Being forced to stay at home, quarantine life has prompted all of us to slow down a little, perhaps affording the time to notice and appreciate the small things. The finished squares, mostly depicting the lives of women around the state, feature everything from going bra-less at home, a plumber doing repairs, gardens, books, cups of tea, jigsaw puzzles, face masks, and of course, beloved pets.

QSWFA member, Yvonne Ritson, marveled at how much work went in to the making of each square. She estimates that most squares would have taken three to six hours on average, with several pieces taking 10 to 30 hours to complete due to the complex craft techniques used. Ultimately, assembling the quilt which is designed to be wall-hung, took QSWFA members more than 108 hours of work. They applied a cotton backing, made from cotton grown in St George and spun at Acacia Ridge in Brisbane, making it a truly Queensland quilt.

Queensland Quarantine Quilt being assembled by members of Queensland Spinners Weavers and Fibre Artists. Image courtesy Queensland Spinners Weavers and Fibre Artists.

State Library of Queensland was very fortunate to be chosen as the ‘home’ of the Queensland Quarantine Quilt. We have been proactively collecting a record of the impact of COVID-19 upon the lives of all Queenslanders, mainly through photographs, ephemera and the archiving of websites. However, the heartfelt and creative expression contained in the Queensland Quarantine Quilt serves to convey how we felt about this extraordinary time. The things that brought us happiness and joy in a dark time of unequalled change and uncertainty.

The quilt has come into State Library’s collection, where it was assessed and readied for display by our Preservation Services team. It can now be seen in the Infozone on level one at the Library and can be viewed from both inside and outside.

The quilt and all its individual squares have been digitised by the team at State Library. You can view the records and each item, including the story behind each square as told by its maker, by searching our online catalogue, One Search.

Preservation Services staff Amelia O'Donnell (left) and Rachel Spano (right) install the Queensland Quarantine Quilt on Level 1 at State Library, with the help of Applied Creativity's Simon McKellar. Image supplied.


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So when will I be able to come to the library to see the quilt? Do I have to wait for it to be assessed first? I hope not as a group of us are looking forward to a trip to st bank and making it part of the journey.
Let me know please.

Hi, at the moment we are aiming to have the quilt on display in the Knowledge Walk some time in November.

Absolutely stunning, enjoyed looking at the quilt, amazing.