Having seen Sylvia Priest’s ‘Quilt of Memories’ on display at the Queen’s Centre Oncology Unit in Hull’s Castle Hill Hospital, Helen Dickinson was inspired to create a group quilt that captured people’s experiences of living through the COVID-19 pandemic. With the help of her quilting tutor, Linda Alexander, the idea was developed and together they formed ‘Rainbow Quilters’ to take the project forward.

As the country was in Lockdown in January 2021 spreading news of the project was difficult – yet within 2 weeks, 26 people aged 13 – 91 had come forward to make blocks for the ‘2020 Reflections Quilt’ Many reasons were given as to why people wanted to be involved  – to relieve boredom, loneliness and feelings of isolation; to have a purpose; to feel part of a community; to do something worthwhile and positive as well as raise funds for a good cause.

Most participants knew one person in the group but nobody knew everyone and it was another 5 months before they would all get to meet each other!

Apart from reflecting the individual’s experience of life during the pandemic, no restrictions were placed on the content of the 15” x 15” quilted blocks. The finished quilt was made up of 9 separate strips of 5 blocks, each strip was bound with rainbow material.

We asked Helen herself about things – “We decided to do this, along with naming ourselves Rainbow Quilters, in recognition of the symbolism of ‘hope and cheer’ that rainbows came to represent during the pandemic. Given our theme of reflections, we also liked the thought that a reflected rainbow becomes a smile”

The finished quilt measures 3.43m x 1.9m and was constructed using a mixture of techniques – applique, pieced, fabric painting, hand and machine embroidery. Each block was quilted on a domestic sewing machine.

Each contributor was asked to write a few words about the inspiration behind their block(s) for a booklet that would be published to compliment the quilt. The booklet is being sold to help raise funds for EDAN Lincs, a Lincolnshire charity supporting the victims of domestic abuse and their families.

In addition to the booklet raffle tickets are also being sold. One ticket will be drawn at the end of their fundraising year (May 30 th 2022) and the winner will be able to choose one strip of the quilt as their prize. The remaining 8 strips will be gifted to one or more ‘good homes’ which have yet to be decided.

Rainbow Quilters chose to support EDAN Lincs in recognition of the vital role they played in supporting vulnerable people throughout the pandemic.

Most amazingly all of the above was achieved during lockdown, by 26 individuals who did not all know each other when the project started. They got to meet in person and see the finished quilt for the first time in June 2021 – after lockdown restrictions had eased to allow for the gathering of groups of up to 30 people in outdoor spaces!!

Helen and Linda decided to enter the ‘2020 Reflections Quilt’ into the Group Quilt category at the 2021 NEC Festival of Quilts,  They thought it would be nice for all the contributors to be able to say that they had exhibited at the Festival of Quilts.  You might have seen it there if you visited.

The quilt won 3 rd prize in its category which enabled everyone to say that they were ‘a prize winner’ at the 2021 Festival of Quilts!!

In 2021 the quilt has been exhibited at a number of locations in and around Lincolnshire. Future exhibitions include:

Grimsby Minster from 17th to 30th November to coincide with Luke Jerrams -Museum of the Moon  exhibition (17th November to 19th December). You might recognise his name if you visited his Patchwork Bridge in Wales. Admission to Grimsby Minster will be by timed ticket only during this time to help with social distancing. Tickets are free and can be obtained from: https://www.theculturehouse.co.uk/museum-of-the-moon/I.

St. James Church in Louth, for their Festival of Trees, 3rd to 10th December.

The Newark Quilt Show 13th – 15th January.

Rainbow quilters have just started to look for exhibition opportunities for January 2022 to May 2022. If you have any suggestions or would like further information about Rainbow Quilters and their 2020 Reflections Quilt, please contact Helen at [email protected]