Creating comfort in COVID: Utah mother crafts quilt documenting virus’ effect on Utah

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Courtesy of Molli Black

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PROVO (ABC4) – The COVID-19 pandemic has been a time most people would prefer to forget. Molli Black, on the other hand, has found a warm and comfortable way to remember the challenging and historically tragic period in daily life in Utah.

By crafting a temperature quilt that documented the virus’ impact on the state with a square for each day from March 13, 2020, to March 16, 2021, some sense of control and creativity came to Black in a time when many aspects of life were unpredictable and chaotic.

“All I did was watch the news and see the COVID numbers every day and this was something that I could control, it was like I can do this,” Black recalls of the early days of the pandemic in March. “Quilting is just something that I’ve always done and so when the death numbers started rolling in, that was when I really felt like I needed to have something to remember it by.”

With her 13-year-old daughter, Lydia, who had come home quite upset about the events that had ended her school year and being together with her classmates, Black began creating a clever pattern and color system that would represent what was happening in the state.

The background color of each square would represent whatever Utah’s warning level was for that day. The color of the piece in the corner of each square would identify how many cases had been diagnosed for the date.

Courtesy of Molli Black

It took a few days, but eventually, a new element would have to be added: a white circle to symbolize a death.

Eventually, the red squares became orange, then yellow, then orange again, before shifting to a dark blue, with the corner marks forming a circular design to resemble the virus’ shape at the molecular level.
The dots, which began to appear in sparse numbers, grew to fill each square more and more throughout the quilt. A final element, a heart, was also added to represent the loss of a loved one in Black’s life.

Putting the quilt together became more emotional by the day.

“Sewing each of those hearts on was what made it real and the dots too. It wasn’t real because we weren’t hit hard in our neighborhood until somebody did get it and he went to the hospital for like four months,” Black states. “And so, once I started sewing on all those dots, it really made it real.”

Finally, the quilt and its heaviness; which is literal due to its thick material, and figurative for what it represents, was completed after its 369th square to represent March 16, 2021.

Even though the final stitch and symbolic element has been applied to the quilt, Black still finds herself thinking in terms of material and color when the daily figures are announced.

“When I see the numbers I still think of what color I’m going to put on the corner,” she says. “It’s hard to get out of that mindset of it’s not gonna end.”

Stretching to the size of a queen-size bed, Black expects the quilt to be a permanent family heirloom, where hopefully one day, her posterity can grasp the magnitude of the pandemic in a very physical sense. It’s meant to be used and embraced, not hung on a wall, she explains. Black has slept under the quilt a couple of times and says it has a way of providing comfort, even as the virus continues to impact the globe.

“The whole thing for me was just to stop and breathe and move on,” Black tells ABC4.com. “And yeah, several times I did wrap myself around in that blanket and it is comforting even to just feel it. It’s just soft, fuzzy, warm and it feels good to hold it.”

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