Responding to the Climate Crisis with Quilts

My climate series has pulled me into a new world, one of protest and action. A year ago, I was at the point of despondency over the issue of climate change and ecological disaster. Of course, the news is not better on either of those fronts, but I personally feel better because I have found a way to be proactive. My answer to the climate change issue has been to change my own lifestyle, take a whole lot more political action, and to make these quilts.

So, these quilts have split into two tracks. The first is a series called “Charting Loss” using the tradition of memory and mourning quilts to grieve for all that is being lost to climate change from the receding arctic sea ice to the human lives lost in extreme weather events. The second track explores the subversive nature of quilts as multi-layered tools for delivering protest messages. My theory is that a quilt can be a powerful tool for protest and I decided to put that idea to the test with my latest text-based quilt.

Messages scrawled on posterboard have become ubiquitous in this era of protest. But a quilt puts people in a different mental space, one that sends them straight back to childhood and a beloved family quilts. On the climate issue, a quilt brings to mind caretaking, heritage, and heirlooms. In other words, what kind of world are we leaving for our children?

The imagery in this quilt relates to heat, nature on fire, and darkness and ashes. It is part of my evolving and in-progress series of quilts on climate change. It is composed in a loose, improvised log-cabin technique with raw-edged appliqué. 

Scroll through to see how this quilt evolved from the first block to the protest.

I worked improvisationally when piecing this. My goal was to have the colors start light and warm at the top, transitioning to dark reds and purples and finally, greys and blacks at the bottom. I was thinking about the natural world burning up in fires and the oceans heating up. In my fabric stash, I found many pieces that suggested that kind of imagery.

When I heard that Fridays for Future was holding a climate strike a few weeks ago, I hurriedly finished up this quilt so I could carry it in the march. My theory about how much attention a quilt can get was correct. Many people came up to me to take pictures of it and chat about their own experiences with quilts.

We marched from the White House to the Capitol, where I took this picture. And a shift took place where I moved from using quilts to mourn, to using a quilt to act.

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