Table of Con­tents | Arti­cle doi: 10.17742/IMAGE.MM.12.2.4 | PDF

Walk­ing, Stay­ing In, and Mak­ing Sense Corin­na Peterken

Walking, Staying In, and Making Sense: Quilting with Pandemic Matter

Corin­na Peterken

This mak­ing and mak­ing sense are in rela­tion with pan­dem­ic mat­ter and a quilt. Mat­ter on hand: fab­ric, embroi­dery thread, and appliqué map and speak, sow­ing sense. The nine blocks sewn and joined togeth­er hold their sense mak­ing as indi­vid­ual and col­lec­tive. The con­ver­sa­tion from and through mak­ing a quilt with pan­dem­ic mat­ter emerges from, and plays with, text and image. I align mat­ter and stitch­ing through to hold and turn process into prod­uct as I con­tin­ue mak­ing and mak­ing sense for know­ing about who we are and how to live with each oth­er and the world.

Cette con­cep­tion et com­préhen­sion sont à la fois en rela­tion avec la ques­tion de la pandémie et celle d’un plaid. La matière à portée de main : le tis­su, le fil à broder, la carte à coudre en appli­ca­tion et le lan­gage, tis­sant du sens. Ces neuf blocs, cousus et assem­blés ensem­ble, sont por­teurs de sens, à la fois de manière indi­vidu­elle et col­lec­tive. La con­ver­sa­tion qui découle à par­tir et à tra­vers la fab­ri­ca­tion d’un plaid asso­ciée à la ques­tion de la pandémie émerge et joue avec le texte et l’image. J’aligne la matière et les cou­tures pour main­tenir et trans­former le proces­sus en pro­duit fini, tout en con­tin­u­ant de créer et de don­ner du sens à la con­nais­sance de ce que nous sommes, à notre manière de vivre les uns avec les autres et notre rap­port au monde.

Sense­mak­ing with a quilt in this research is my artist/academic process for notic­ing impor­tant issues and pos­si­bil­i­ties in pan­dem­ic life. A quilt as visu­al means of con­nect­ing and under­stand­ing teach­es and pro­vides a way to think with and beyond (dis)comfort. This con­ver­sa­tion from and through mak­ing a quilt with pan­dem­ic mat­ter emerges from, and plays with, text and image. The visu­al is vital in my work as an artist/academic, and a way that I engage with the micro and macro. As I revis­it­ed the images, quilt, and writ­ing more than a year after lock­down I quilt­ed fur­ther and made this paper as think­ing “in the mak­ing” (Ellsworth; Ingold, “Mak­ing”; Peterken, “Know­ing in the Mak­ing”) that is not over. Through­out this process of mak­ing sense with the quilt I took up open­ings and rup­tures (Irwin and de Cos­son) that stopped me and cre­at­ed spaces for think­ing as I par­tic­i­pat­ed in “Mas­sive and micro­scop­ic sense­mak­ing dur­ing a glob­al pan­dem­ic (MMS)” (Markham et al.).

Mak­ing a quilt with pan­dem­ic mat­ter gave me space to think with encoun­ters and mate­ri­als. Hope and fear around herd immu­ni­ty and vac­ci­na­tions that were not avail­able until recent­ly (Love­less) are also into the quilt block analy­sis of respons­es to the MMS prompts. The quilt pro­voked (and made vis­i­ble) think­ing about fears and hopes (Kwon), self, oth­ers, and the world (Markham et al.) dur­ing the pan­dem­ic, and after vac­ci­na­tion gave more com­fort. In the MMS project, prompts over 21 days between May 18 and June 7, 2020 (Markham and Har­ris) gave me some dis­trac­tion with research (Markham et al.) and a focus to con­sid­er mak­ing sense of this dif­fer­ent pan­dem­ic world with crit­i­cal autoethnography.

This sense­mak­ing allowed me to be per­son­al while con­sid­er­ing broad­er issues as I “per­form mean­ing from and through [my body], sit­u­at­ed dai­ly rou­tines, and rela­tions with embed­ded, embod­ied, and every­where dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies” (Markham et al. 2). My respons­es to prompts includ­ed moti­vat­ed per­son­al writ­ing, embod­ied encoun­ters, still­ness and silence with­out ignor­ing but not being out­ward­ly active, and active mak­ing: mak­ing images, poet­ry, and nine fab­ric blocks. These were brought togeth­er with quilt­ing intra-actions (Barad, “Meet­ing the Uni­verse”) where items for sewing (fab­ric, thread, stitch­es, quilt blocks, and the quilt as a whole) join forces, becom­ing-with my artist/researcher/teacher wan­der­ings, won­der­ings, and think­ing. The quilt was a way to deal with the impact of COVID on my life, the lives of those near and far, the world, and how we live dur­ing and after a pandemic.

Fig­ure 1: Fin­ished quilt front and back. Image of quilt pro­vid­ed by author.

Fear­ful, and closed in with pan­dem­ic advice to “stay strong” while at home, com­ply­ing with exec­u­tive orders and direc­tives, on my dai­ly neigh­bour­hood walks I began to con­sid­er what mat­ters with the MMS prompts. I walked tak­ing notes and images while attend­ing to what my body and sens­es noticed. My fear and hope in this pan­dem­ic assemblage/remix (Markham, “Remix Cul­ture”) in the quilt ren­der open­ings (Irwin and de Cos­son; Spring­gay et al.) for lis­ten­ing to mate­ri­als and to the quilt through piec­ing and pierc­ing through with threads. The quilt also brought com­fort, as is com­mon in quilts used as cov­er­ings (Wit­zling), and it is a medi­um to give mes­sages that can be read from “mul­ti­ple direc­tions” (Koelsch 823). Con­nec­tions are across, up, down, diag­o­nal, bound in, and alto­geth­er through the quilt, back and front (Fig­ure 1).

Pandemic quilt conversations as research

Living in the USA I am near quilt­ing shops, but they were not open. Quilt­ing can be con­sid­ered an Amer­i­can craft­ing tra­di­tion con­nect­ed to pio­neer­ing and lack of mate­ri­als for warmth, as well as part of craft­ing and the arts in many cul­tures (Flan­nery; Fitz­patrick and Bell; Fer­rarese). I used quilt­ing for research before in Aus­tralia to bring togeth­er pho­to­graph­ic images young chil­dren cre­at­ed (trans­ferred onto fab­ric) for their mean­ing mak­ing and belong­ing in an ear­ly child­hood cen­ter (Peterken, “Craft­ing Liv­ing Inquiry”). Mak­ing a quilt can be a solo activ­i­ty with many hours of sewing, part of leisure (Stalp, “Nego­ti­at­ing Time”), and can also give plea­sure (Fer­rarese) as mate­ri­als are brought togeth­er to make visu­al­ly appeal­ing pat­terns. I want­ed the quilt to be an art­work, to have visu­al appeal, but that was not the main pur­pose. It was a research prod­uct for sense­mak­ing. Quilt­ing has the poten­tial to be “a pow­er­ful social­ly com­mu­nica­tive prac­tice” (Nieberd­ing 8) as women/makers gath­er in ‘quilt­ing bees’ to cre­ate a fin­ished arti­cle, but quilt­ing in a pan­dem­ic dur­ing lock­down is lone­ly. I find some com­fort in work­ing with fab­rics in rela­tion with the MMS prompts. My quilt-mak­ing as artist and researcher pulled focus and cre­at­ed a space to do some­thing to think about and make sense with.

Quilt­ing in research involves more than “the cre­ative process­es that every­day quil­ters face” (Stalp, “Quilt­ing” 24), and William Nieberd­ing pro­pos­es that as a visu­al medi­um quilt­ing “gen­er­ates social­ly sig­nif­i­cant visu­al texts” (9). The social issues and pan­dem­ic expe­ri­ence are in this research quilt as dis­parate events, and images are sewn in rela­tion through the nine blocks in com­bi­na­tion. The num­ber of blocks need­ed to make a com­plete quilt varies, but I used items placed in a nine-cube stor­age shelf for one of the MMS prompts, which gave me the idea for a nine block quilt to engage with what mat­ters and what I noticed. This quilt as a mys­to­ry text (Den­zin and Lin­coln) that col­lect­ed (and holds) per­son­al inter­ac­tions with var­i­ous mate­ri­als teach­es me as I cre­ate. Quilts are an exchange that does not always have words (Ellsworth; Peterken, “Craft­ing Liv­ing Inquiry”). In this research quilt the “cuts, tears, rup­tures or cracks that resist pre­dictabil­i­ty, com­fort and safe­ty” (Irwin and Spring­gay xxx) opened con­ver­sa­tions about pan­dem­ic life. Artist/researcher/teacher inquiry and knowl­edge cre­ation here was not about mak­ing quilts, but about mak­ing sense. It mat­ters that “some know­ings can­not be con­veyed through lan­guage” (Ellsworth 156) and can be craft­ed (Ingold “Mak­ing”) through mak­ing as method, includ­ing mak­ing this nine-block quilt. My process of mak­ing with found mate­ri­als and what was on hand had me think­ing per­son­al­ly, as artist/researcher/teacher “through obser­va­tion [as well as] after it” (Ingold “Mak­ing” 11) with the quilt­ing and writ­ing process.

Conversations and sensemaking in the quilt

Figure 2: Completed quilt. Image provided by author.

The nine blocks con­nect across the whole quilt (Fig­ure 2), and each of the blocks holds indi­vid­ual and col­lec­tive sense­mak­ing. Some respons­es in the quilt blocks were from an indi­vid­ual MMS prompt, such as in Green dot (Fig­ure 3) seen in the still image from a video of Rock Canyon that is in rela­tion with the idea of tech­nol­o­gy mak­ing its pres­ence known, impact­ing what is seen and experienced.

Fig­ure 3: Green dot. Image pro­vid­ed by author.

The lit­tle green dot shiv­ers and shakes

a gift from the camera.

Pulling focus


from the moun­tain flowers

from the birdsong

and the free­way hum

the hum­drum.

Sun­light grow­ing brighter


tip­ping over the moun­tain top


reach­ing beams spread­ing down the canyon.

The birds know-

they her­ald the day!

This iPhone cam­era uses this same light.

Pho­tog­ra­phy is draw­ing with light I read.

The device uses this light.

It cap­tures.



images (includ­ing its’ added shiv­ery green dot).

Video appears with sounds

of birds

of qui­et breathing

of vehi­cles far off

con­tain­ing a mul­ti­tude of humans now out and going

about their business


(Research jour­nal iPhone notes)

Oth­er blocks attend­ed to the more gen­er­al issues of life in the pan­dem­ic and ‘what is hap­pen­ing here?’ and opened to learn­ing about sense­mak­ing with the quilt as an artist/researcher/teacher (Spring­gay et al.). Quilt­ing through, adding embroi­dery, mak­ing knots as “places where many lines of becom­ing are drawn tight­ly togeth­er” (Ingold, “Mak­ing” 132) made sense. It was in these process­es, and the emer­gent autoethno­graph­ic writ­ing (Den­zin and Lin­coln; Ellis et al.), includ­ing poet­ic notes in my iPhone research jour­nal (in ital­ics in this writ­ing), that open­ings to sense­mak­ing called out through what was on hand.

As an artist I use the visu­al to show me what mat­ters and, in this instance, mak­ing a quilt pro­vid­ed think­ing with visu­al art process­es. Images and words (includ­ing poet­ry) “invite atten­tion” (Barone and Eis­ner 39) here in rela­tion with my sto­ries from the MMS prompts. The visu­al as well as writ­ten per­spec­tives cre­at­ed this mys­to­ry text com­bin­ing media and mes­sages. Lan­guage oth­er than words is with, and in between, words in dif­fer­ent forms in this writ­ing as artist/researcher/teacher to “learn in my head what my body already rec­og­nizes” (Sameshi­ma 49). Mak­ing (sense and visu­al art) with the MMS prompts opened to sewing a quilt and some know­ing about how to live through a pan­dem­ic and beyond as artist/researcher.

Wandering and staying in shift to wondering and making

Figure 4: Pandemic bubbles. Image provided by author.

Wan­der­ing by myself and stay­ing in to remain in my pan­dem­ic bub­ble shift­ed with the MMS prompts to won­der­ing and mak­ing sense with art mate­ri­als stashed in two nine-cube shelves and in bas­kets in my home. I sewed from four years of age, mak­ing cloth­ing for dolls, and made cloth­ing for myself and oth­ers from my mid-teens. I have sup­plies on hand to quilt, sew, knit, cro­chet, embroi­der, weave, spin, paint, and bead, as well as nat­ur­al mate­ri­als such as feath­ers, sticks, stones, grass­es, and seed pods found and gath­ered from my yard and as I walk around my neigh­bor­hood for col­lage and adding to art projects. Think­ing through mak­ing (Ingold “Mak­ing”) with these mate­ri­als is part of my arts based research prac­tice. Mak­ing (sense and art) with the MMS prompts opened to sewing and to know­ings through mak­ing a quilt and sow­ing a gar­den. In this research, change occur­ring on a glob­al scale had me notic­ing and feel­ing fear and hope. This autoethno­graph­ic w(a/o)ndering (Peterken, “Bat­tle­dress”) with my sens­ing and the quilt opens to mak­ing and play­ing with some hopes/fears, and more things to pon­der. My dai­ly neigh­bor­hood walks dur­ing the pan­dem­ic lock­down in a col­lege town in Utah, USA, shift­ed to con­sid­er­ing the MMS prompts.

Atten­tion was drawn to self dur­ing the peri­od of pan­dem­ic lock­down. Mak­ing sense in this iso­lat­ed bub­ble was a chal­lenge, depict­ed in the Pan­dem­ic bub­bles (Fig­ure 4) quilt block. I wrote in my research jour­nal iPhone notes while read­ing, think­ing, and walk­ing with MMS prompts:

Move­ment and embod­ied sense­mak­ing come from attending,

know[ing] for your­self” (Ingold “Mak­ing” 141) with the small and the large.

A feel­ing in silence and stillness.

The micro and macro cap­ti­vates and aston­ish­es (Ingold “Mak­ing”) as I

live in hope” (Ingold “Mak­ing” 141), uncertain.

(Research jour­nal iPhone notes)

I found that mate­ri­als on hand offered ways of mak­ing art and mean­ing with what was hap­pen­ing. Find­ings from walk­ing and think­ing with MMS prompts were ana­lyzed using fab­ric, thread, and oth­er art mate­ri­als. Rela­tion­ships between my artist/researcher/teacher (Irwin and de Cos­son; Irwin and Spring­gay) selves, oth­ers, and the world were called into focus with the quilt.

Making do and a pandemic assemblage

As I moved around my neigh­bor­hood, I noticed small ele­ments and con­nec­tions with larg­er con­texts. I gath­ered images of moments that cap­ti­vat­ed and mat­ter that evoked awe. Moments of mak­ing with the quilt then gave extend­ed time for atten­tion to feel­ings and to make a dif­fer­ence to my know­ing in the mak­ing (Ellsworth). This brought me hope and some com­fort along with my con­cern for oth­ers and the plan­et. Pan­dem­ic time length­ened and col­lapsed (Ingold “Mak­ing”), and with no atten­tion to mark­ings on a clock, days melt­ed togeth­er into a week, or it could have been a month? “How long will this go on?,” I won­dered … “when will bub­bles pop?” Time and space also col­lapsed as I spoke with friends and fam­i­ly (me in my time) across mul­ti­ple con­ti­nents and time zones, in my home, in my town and state, and oth­ers all over the world. We were in vir­tu­al bub­bles. Con­nec­tions online and offline helped us in know­ing self, oth­ers, and the world. Lines of com­mu­ni­ca­tion, walk­ing lines, and lines of sewing con­verged in the quilt. One block, Blank jour­nal (Fig­ure 5), became a piece of crys­tal organ­za sewn through with lines. Lines with messy ends. Gaps that still sparkle and draw atten­tion. They present unseen events and encoun­ters, more that I can and can­not do for oth­ers and the world, if I learn and attend and act.

Figure 5: Blank journal. Image provided by author.

I was in my bub­ble as spring arrived and flow­ers bloomed after a long, bare, white, win­ter, burst­ing col­or and tex­ture. Life. Mak­ing the quilt, nature is noticed, liv­ing and announc­ing this joy­ous­ly to the world and to me. Splash­es of col­or and know­ing from bub­bles and stitch­es. The image here of the neigh­bor­hood cam­pus gar­den I walked in to gain respite from the pan­dem­ic is becom­ing-tapes­try with pix­e­la­tion (Fig­ure 6) blur­ring the leaves and petals, shift­ing lines and mak­ing squares.

Fig­ure 6: Flower tapes­try. Image pro­vid­ed by author.

I was also stitch­ing a tapes­try. The stitch­es were made in the same way seeds are plant­ed, “thread[ing] through and among” (Ingold, “Mak­ing” 132), lay­ing lines, line by line in rows, or here and there, entan­gled. The Flower squares (Fig­ure 7) block of the quilt holds this sense­mak­ing and the way that mean­ing (like flow­ers where I walk, and in my gar­den) can be laid out in tiny incre­ments before me, before us.

Figure 7: Flower squares. Image provided by author.

I accept with the quilt blocks’ sense­mak­ing that life can be messy, and there is (dis)comfort in that, as in the lines and pages that were left blank in my jour­nal. Mak­ing sense is more than an endeav­or with words, as the quilt “plays an active, indeed agen­tial role” (Barad, “Posthu­man­ist Per­for­ma­tiv­i­ty” 826). The flo­ral squares come into rela­tion with the emp­ty jour­nal and play an active part, call­ing atten­tion to times where making/research sus­tained me dur­ing weeks of lock­down and ten­ta­tive ven­tur­ing out after­wards until I was ful­ly vac­ci­nat­ed. Mak­ing was a method to process and sort through changes brought on by pan­dem­ic life, and to engage with self, mate­ri­als, oth­ers, and the world when iso­la­tion and fear closed in. Mak­ing blocks and the quilt did not always have any answers, but I won­dered with “won­der­ments” (Andrews and Duff 30) that in research allow assem­blages, ener­gy, and move­ment that attend, with­in paus­es, to some of what matters.

Walk­ing is part of my cre­ative sense­mak­ing prac­tice (Peterken and Potts, “Ped­a­gog­i­cal Expe­ri­ences”) and in this research trees, plants, and flow­ers around me also made a dif­fer­ence to my phys­i­cal and men­tal health. I became more atten­tive to my sur­round­ings. I took time to be present. I felt less iso­lat­ed with con­nec­tions to the nat­ur­al world. Not every­one had a place to walk, fam­i­ly to be with, a gar­den to be plant­ed, health care, or space to safe­ly be away from risk of infec­tion in a bub­ble through the pan­dem­ic. I felt with so many oth­ers who lost loved ones. I worked from home but the con­nec­tion with stu­dents and col­leagues was vir­tu­al and unem­bod­ied, we were all tired using new tech­nol­o­gy and process­es, and that made a dif­fer­ence. At times I felt emp­ty and blue.

Figure 8: Blue. Image provided by author.

This Blue (Fig­ure 8) quilt block was made in rela­tion with the walk­ing and images for a col­lab­o­ra­tive MMS video (Frølunde et al.) that braid­ed the dis­lo­ca­tion of researcher lives and selves with the pan­dem­ic, notic­ing the still­ness and messi­ness of that. I noticed blue for hope, lone­li­ness, blue breath, and blue skies as not only fair weath­er in images I made for the video. As we wove our expe­ri­ences across the world into the imagery we were “read­ing insights through one anoth­er” (Barad, “Meet­ing the Uni­verse” 25) to notice what was hap­pen­ing at that moment. Being with images and oth­ers as researcher/teachers who embody the “car­ing dili­gence required” (Markham et al. 6) for learn­ing gave open­ings for con­nec­tions and more per­spec­tives that were hope­ful. Blue (Fig­ure 8) is cen­tral in the quilt, so it touch­es all the blocks as COVID touched all our lives. The mag­i­cal pres­ence of a uni­corn and gold pat­terns in it also offered glim­mers of hope when all I noticed was blue. Work­ing with oth­ers across time zones in the MMS research held some chal­lenges but was enrich­ing as we thread­ed our lives, sto­ries, and the world, sense­mak­ing togeth­er in the video. That mat­tered to us.

Sewing/sowing for sensemaking

Figure 9: Sewing, quilting through. Image provided by author.

Sew to know, know­ing in the making

To give hope

To “live in hope” (Ingold “Mak­ing” 141) as schol­ars do…

To feed

hope more than fear.

For artist/researcher/teacher selves, for oth­ers, for the world.

A new normal

I hope…

with the world.

(Research jour­nal iPhone notes)

Hand­made blocks for a quilt as part of sto­ry­telling (Ingold “Mak­ing”) pro­vid­ed room to learn and pre­sent­ed “guid­ance with­out spec­i­fi­ca­tion” (109). Open­ings between things that mat­ter as held in each block were joined togeth­er as the quilt was pieced, sewn, pinned through, and quilt­ed (Fig­ure 9). This process pro­vid­ed a means to attend to mat­ter for mak­ing sense. The quilt blocks, the quilt as a whole, and mate­ri­als are telling with col­or, tex­ture, jux­ta­po­si­tion, stitch­es, rep­e­ti­tion, and rupture.

Fig­ure 10: Map­ping pan­dem­ic home. Image pro­vid­ed by author.

Sewing the Map­ping pan­dem­ic home (Fig­ure 10) quilt block, I noticed that flow­ers and plant­i­ng fea­tured once more. The asso­ci­at­ed MMS prompt had me map­ping (Markham and Har­ris) my home life, the stay­ing in with time for plant­i­ng a gar­den, and sow­ing seeds in rows. The back of the block gave anoth­er per­spec­tive that maps out­lines and reduces the visu­al to what was essen­tial. A gar­den was not essen­tial, but for me (and oth­ers) gar­den­ing was a way to escape and be out­side. It was hope­ful; a gar­den sown (and sewn) here was unsuc­cess­ful in that most plants died or were not fruit­ful, but it was a dis­trac­tion dur­ing a pan­dem­ic. It gave some­thing to care about and to make sense with, like the MMS prompts and research project (Markham et al.) and the quilt.

Mak­ing a quilt with micro and macro, mat­ter, and mak­ing was a “process of cor­re­spon­dence” (Ingold, “Mak­ing” 31). Fab­ric, thread, the quilt blocks, and my artist/researcher selves in con­ver­sa­tion were enmeshed in this knot­ted, mat­ted, patch­work of scraps tak­en up and put togeth­er then sewn across and through. This process of know­ing and think­ing used mate­ri­als as “sub­stances-in-becom­ing” (Ingold, “Mak­ing” 31) as I quilt­ed with the flow­ers and plants as pan­dem­ic mat­ter that made me attend to the fragili­ty of life and connections.

Listening to materials in the quilt

While mak­ing this quilt I was iso­lat­ed, but in rela­tion with pan­dem­ic prompts and mat­ter on hand includ­ing fab­ric, mate­ri­als, drag­on­flies, flow­ers, images, neigh­bor­hood walk­ing, read­ing, and vir­tu­al respons­es. These were my com­pan­ions. There was a lot being said. Bron­wyn Davies (2014) urges emer­gent lis­ten­ing, the type of lis­ten­ing that I use as teacher/artist in my work in ear­ly child­hood edu­ca­tion. I urge my teacher edu­ca­tion stu­dents to attend to chil­dren. To lis­ten to and with and take cues from chil­dren (Rinal­di), mate­ri­als, and the world as it presents encoun­ters. This style of lis­ten­ing has no antic­i­pa­tion or pre­dic­tion, accepts sur­pris­es, and bids us work with what occurs, explor­ing open­ly what it might mean as we “meet in spaces of dif­fer­ence” (Paci­ni-Ketch­abaw et al. 30). This type of lis­ten­ing as an artist/researcher/teacher is nec­es­sary for mak­ing sense of things. The quilt tells sto­ries of and from arti­facts bound togeth­er; col­laged, appliquéd, quilt­ed in a pleat­ed text (Richard­son) that holds sto­ries and encoun­ters of learning/teaching with art and mak­ing as thinking.

The fab­ric pieces were select­ed as they stood out in rela­tion with think­ing as researcher while mak­ing with the prompts as artist. I was mak­ing and mak­ing do (Markham, “Brico­lage”) with what was on hand, think­ing through mak­ing in what Tim Ingold describes as the “art of inquiry” (“Mak­ing” 6). As an ear­ly child­hood teacher/teacher edu­ca­tor I am used to using mat­ter on hand and in hand. The mat­ter and my artist/researcher/teacher selves exist before, now, and in the future with what Barad con­sid­ers as hav­ing “his­toric­i­ty” (“Posthu­man­ist Per­for­ma­tiv­i­ty” 82), always already becom­ing. I lis­tened and heard/noticed some intra-actions (Barad) with the fab­ric and quilt, and I am sure I missed many oth­ers. Nev­er­the­less, mat­ter brought what mat­tered and need­ed to mat­ter then/in the future to me. It is a gift. Present. Pre­sent­ed and here/now/then as “sub­stances-in-becom­ing” (Ingold, “Mak­ing” 31) for quilt­ing with these blocks.

Figure 11: Dragonflies dancing. Image provided by author.

An encounter with drag­on­flies danc­ing around on a moun­tain trail was also a gift. It prompt­ed the Drag­on­flies danc­ing (Fig­ure 11) quilt block as an analy­sis of an MMS prompt to cre­ate a dance/movement piece (Markham & Har­ris, 2020). Care for nature and the world now and for the future is also in this block. Drag­on­flies here drew my focus and admit­ted me to the dance with­out a tick­et or any prac­tice. The buzzing and swirling bod­ies with vibrat­ing wings sur­prised me, and I jerked my head side to side with their fly­bys and turned to see then head off, dart­ing and return­ing. Drag­on­flies showed me there was no need to make a dance, the dance was there and it includ­ed me, and moun­tain and trail with veg­e­ta­tion were audience.

Quilting as analysis: Remix with bricolage for knowing in the making

Figure 12: Matter. Imagine provided by author.

I attend­ed com­mu­ni­ty gath­er­ings in sup­port of Black Lives Mat­ter while inquir­ing with the MMS prompts. Mak­ing the Mat­ter quilt block (Fig­ure 12), I want­ed to make sense of the chal­lenges and inequity where I live, and I wrote in my research notes:

Dried rose and gera­ni­um petals, crowns,

flo­ral emblems,

green embroi­dery encroaching,

creep­ing in

folds in tulle,

sewn cages

stitch­ing that cuts across and hems in


cross­es and flat straight stitch­es of matter

what mat­ters?

Black mat­ter

Black Lives Matter!

The assem­blage of this matter

stop­ping at a point lost in the middle

no (easy) answer.

(Research jour­nal iPhone notes)

I expe­ri­enced com­mu­ni­ty com­ing togeth­er in com­pli­ance with safe­ty, restric­tions bind­ing us like the black tulle pock­ets in Mat­ter. We were out­doors, wear­ing masks, spaced for phys­i­cal dis­tanc­ing, while Black voic­es gave their per­spec­tives. We lis­tened with ears, hearts, bod­ies for what we might do and how to make a dif­fer­ence, “com­mu­ni­cat­ing in new ways with neigh­bors” (Markham et al. 2). We cared as a com­mu­ni­ty of self and oth­ers, we saw some sparks of hope like the gold pat­tern through the tulle. Fam­i­lies and chil­dren came, were atten­tive and cared. This was a small open­ing and threads of green grow across this sec­tion of the quilt, hope­ful for growth in under­stand­ing and kind­ness, that Black Lives will mat­ter in our com­mu­ni­ty where more empa­thy, care, accep­tance, equi­ty, and sup­port are need­ed. It is com­pli­cat­ed, messy and I notice that we are all entan­gled, part of this community.

Figure 13: Tangles make sense. Image provided by author.

As encoun­ters, text, artist/researcher/teacher and quilt mat­ter intra-act (Barad, “Posthu­man­ist Per­for­ma­tiv­i­ty”) there is no last thread to be knot­ted (Markham, “Remix”; “Brico­lage”) and I leave tan­gles under­neath to keep the insta­bil­i­ty alive (Fig­ure 13). Research obser­va­tions emerged in rela­tion with mak­ing and writ­ing as the pieced-togeth­er quilt was fin­ished off. Craft­ing “the aes­thet­ic and mate­r­i­al” (Den­zin and Lin­coln 4) in a syn­the­sis of meth­ods, the­o­ry, and per­spec­tives allowed me to research in per­son­al ways through cre­ative process­es with the quilt as prod­uct and data (Ellis et al.; St. Pierre). The “tex­tu­al per­for­mance” (Den­zin and Lin­coln 6) of the fab­ric with autoethno­graph­ic encoun­ters (Hol­man Jones; Ellis et al.) and the micro and macro are entan­gled, stitched togeth­er, and embed­ded in the quilt.

Mak­ing sense using mate­r­i­al I have-


Iron. Steam. Breathe.



Appliqué first


Embroi­dery later

Threads smooth and knotting,


Mat­ter mak­ing some sense of the world for/with me.

(Research jour­nal iPhone notes)

Mak­ing sense with an assemblage/remix

Figure 14: Walking, iPhone steps graph. Image provided by author.

Find the thread to pull through.

Caught and flowing.

Knot­ting and cutting.

Lay­ing out the blocks.

What do they say to each oth­er and to me??

(Research jour­nal iPhone notes)

Mate­ri­als in the quilt were placed in jux­ta­po­si­tion, align­ment, and rela­tion; famil­iar work for an artist who cre­ates with found mate­ri­als and textiles/fiber. I cut and stitched and fol­lowed threads, plac­ing blocks, arrang­ing them to speak togeth­er, to make sense of pan­dem­ic life and research. The quilt and this mat­ter was/is vibrant, as I allowed “mat­ter it’s due as an active par­tic­i­pant of the [quilt’s] and the world’s becom­ing” (Barad, “Posthu­man­ist Per­for­ma­tiv­i­ty” 803). Walk­ing, iPhone steps graph quilt block (seen in process in Fig­ure 14) brought togeth­er iPhone, walks, my body, Health App graph­ing, fab­ric, and threads to present the impor­tance of well­ness. Well­ness became more of a focus in the pan­dem­ic, but walk­ing meant pos­si­ble con­tact with oth­ers, oth­ers who might pass on the virus. As I walked for this research I “reflex­ive­ly explore[d my life] and lim­its” (Markham et al. 3) as well as mak­ing and mak­ing sense. I was sure to cross the street if oth­ers were com­ing, or choose my path depend­ing on if I could see any­one. I could not see the virus, only pos­si­ble hosts. This quilt block shows days when I walked for the allo­cat­ed time out­side for recre­ation and also days of less, and almost no, move­ment. I sewed these strips of orange fab­ric in rela­tion with the orange graph in my iPhone App. Sewing also gave still­ness in the mid­dle of chaos where move­ment and mak­ing taught, and “visu­al and tex­tu­al under­stand­ings and expe­ri­ences… [were more than] rep­re­sen­ta­tions” (Irwin in Spring­gay 185). Spaces for open­ings cre­at­ed with mak­ing the quilt, such as this, were gen­er­a­tive. I looked beyond myself, my fears, and rec­og­nized there were oth­ers not as priv­i­leged as this who could not get out or who lived in in high den­si­ty hous­ing or were home­less. I won­dered about lives, the world, and liv­ing with a virus. Well­ness (and sick­ness) for self, oth­ers, and the world are in this orange fab­ric graph.

Sew this, know this

The quilt devel­oped my under­stand­ings with fab­ric, thread, knots, and loose ends. Over a year lat­er, ful­ly vac­ci­nat­ed and feel­ing some­what safe, I am here (still) in rela­tion with time, my gar­den as I write in it, fab­ric, and con­nec­tions in quilt­ed lines of com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Know­ing in the mak­ing and with mak­ing (Ellsworth; Peterken, “Know­ing in the Mak­ing”) as artist/researcher/teacher pro­duced a pan­dem­ic quilt. Words are not the only way to make sense. The visu­al and mak­ing mat­ters for me (and for oth­ers). I con­tin­ue to align mat­ter and stitch­ing through to hold and turn process into prod­uct with this writ­ing for more won­der­ing and more stitching/making.

The quilt reveals.

Led by mate­ri­als. What I have.

Tying off

and leav­ing loose ends

It takes time.

Pulling threads through, tying care­ful small knots to not be seen.

The fin­ish­ing

The unseen neatness

And the mess hidden

(Research jour­nal iPhone notes)

Figure 15. Pieced blocks laid out. Image provided by author.

I return visu­al­ly with this image (Fig­ure 15) to lay­ing out the blocks to assem­ble the quilt with all the var­i­ous com­bi­na­tions that could have been and I won­der if remix and brico­lage as tools for thinking/making might be the same and dif­fer­ent (Markham “Remix”; “Brico­lage). The quilt blocks and I are in rela­tion with mak­ing do and mak­ing ten­ta­tive sense. The quilt is (un)finished, prod­uct and process, as is the sense­mak­ing. I con­tin­ue walk­ing, mak­ing and won­der­ing in per­son­al ways as artist/researcher/teacher/mother/sister about who I am in those sub­jec­tiv­i­ties, how I and oth­ers can research in visu­al ways, and how research with visu­al art informs how we might live with each oth­er and the world.

…and further lines are ‘drawn’: ongoing learning with the quilt

I find out from my daugh­ter in Ger­many that I have made a mis­take. You don’t cut the back­ing until the quilt­ing is done. I pin and pin with bent quilt­ing safe­ty pins to hold the lay­ers and Machine sews lines to hold it all togeth­er. I hope it comes out smooth. Pol­ished. An art work. Then I realise that it doesn’t real­ly mat­ter. It’s the mak­ing to make sense that is my focus.

(Research jour­nal iPhone notes)

I can ‘make do’ (Markham, “Brico­lage”) when sense­mak­ing with mat­ter on hand is the mat­ter in hand. Mis­takes are part of the process, and part of life. The act of making/research sus­tains me dur­ing pan­dem­ic seclu­sion. I am excit­ed, alive in a call to engage the MMS prompts, to process, to be with, to sort through what is hap­pen­ing, for mak­ing with mat­ter and sense­mak­ing with what is. Research and sewing came togeth­er and made lines for lis­ten­ing and communicating.

Mak­ing lines of stitch­es. Lines with machine. My body as machine and the sewing machine. Machine snaps cot­ton. Bob­bin ends part way through a row of stitch­ing. I have no con­trol over this. I work with it. I let machine dic­tate my progress. There is no oth­er way. I do hold and adjust. I sneak a look at the back. Seems straight. Many years of sewing com­ing back to me. Mus­cle mem­o­ry. Famil­iar­i­ty with materials.

(Research jour­nal iPhone notes)

I am sewing, sense­mak­ing in rela­tion with ques­tions, prompts, the peo­ple, mate­ri­als, my selves, micro and macro, acad­e­mia and all its’ chal­lenges and joys and poten­tial­i­ties. Through mak­ing I feel “when” (Markham and Har­ris 933) it is, “where” (Markham and Har­ris 933) I am, what is impor­tant or of “con­cern” (Markham and Har­ris 937). Mak­ing art is mak­ing sense for me. I feel con­nect­ed to peers and process­es, to ideas and prod­ucts of research we create.

Threads for moving on

Again, I thought I was finished…

threads beck­on.

We walk across the quilt, mak­ing more connections.

Always in the middle

(Research jour­nal iPhone notes)

I add more hand stitch­ing with embroi­dery thread. It takes me for a walk. A wan­der to won­der more…

Figure 16: Quilting connecting lines. Image provided by author.

Encir­cling ‘so what?’ and some flow­ers for hope, I begin to con­nect across blocks. On the oth­er side of the quilt, a wan­der­ing line cuts across bub­bles and out to the bor­der (Fig­ure 16). Visu­al think­ing wan­ders across and through this a/r/tographic research (Spring­gay et al.; Lazo and Smith) where ren­der­ings of a/r/tography and my artist and researcher and teacher selves were brought into com­bi­na­tion and worked with, across. and in between to notice what demands atten­tion with open­ings in cuts, tears, and rup­tures in the evolv­ing process of this liv­ing inquiry. Mak­ing and writ­ing are in rela­tion with fab­ric, embroi­dery thread, and appliqué. Encoun­ters were mapped in the quilt and it spoke, sow­ing sense where “mean­ing un/create[d] itself” (Irwin and Spring­gay xxx) and played with what was hap­pen­ing. This pan­dem­ic assem­blage becom­ing-quilt (Deleuze and Guat­tari; Flan­nery) notices that what mat­tered is inquiry, care, and connection.

Mak­ing the quilt is sen­si­ble. The visu­al nature of this analy­sis in between mate­r­i­al and pan­dem­ic mat­ter, sand­wiched in a quilt, is mak­ing sense. Tiny stitch­es con­nect­ed across ideas and fab­rics in the nine blocks, my encoun­ters in nature with drag­on­flies, moun­tain, and oth­ers, and a need for inclu­sion and change from a Black Lives Mat­ter gath­er­ing, well­ness with blue, my blank jour­nal, and steps walked and graphed in the orange of my iPhone App, pan­dem­ic red bub­bles for safe­ty, vir­tu­al dots of green, flow­ers and gar­den­ing, home, neigh­bor­hood and beyond out into the world were placed in rela­tion with per­son­al sto­ries and lines of thought. We sensed, and we came to know­ings togeth­er in the making.

It was through mak­ing brico­lage and remix (Markham, “Frag­ment­ed Nar­ra­tive”; “Remix”; “Brico­lage”) in the quilt that sense­mak­ing moved into col­lab­o­ra­tion and analy­sis with this place, time, oth­ers, the world, my selves, and think­ing through the mak­ing process (Ingold, “Mak­ing”). The micro and the macro emerged as an entan­gled quilt assem­blage (Deleuze and Guat­tari) to make some sense of glob­al trau­ma, albeit from a priv­i­leged posi­tion (Markham et al.). As artist/researcher/early child­hood teacher on this research ‘hunt,’ the quilt gave com­fort and opened to mov­ing for­ward or side­ways, over, around, and through (Rosen and Oxen­bury; Ingold, “Foot­prints”) what was trou­ble­some and what was joy­ous and hope­ful. The visu­al took prece­dence here. Pan­dem­ic research encoun­ters in rela­tion with this mate­r­i­al on hand are quilt­ed sense­mak­ing that teach­es with the micro and macro. Sense­mak­ing with mate­ri­als and mak­ing art matter.

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Image Notes

Fig­ure 1: Fin­ished quilt front and back. Image of quilt pro­vid­ed by author.

Fig­ure 2: Com­plet­ed quilt. Image pro­vid­ed by author.

Fig­ure 3: Green dot. Image pro­vid­ed by author.

Fig­ure 4: Pan­dem­ic bub­bles. Image pro­vid­ed by author.

Fig­ure 5: Blank jour­nal. Image pro­vid­ed by author.

Fig­ure 6: Flower tapes­try. Image pro­vid­ed by author.

Fig­ure 7: Flower squares. Image pro­vid­ed by author.

Fig­ure 8: Blue. Image pro­vid­ed by author.

Fig­ure 9: Sewing, quilt­ing through. Image pro­vid­ed by author.

Fig­ure 10: Map­ping pan­dem­ic home. Image pro­vid­ed by author.

Fig­ure 11: Drag­on­flies danc­ing. Image pro­vid­ed by author.

Fig­ure 12: Mat­ter. Imag­ine pro­vid­ed by author.

Fig­ure 13: Tan­gles make sense. Image pro­vid­ed by author.

Fig­ure 14: Walk­ing, iPhone steps graph. Image pro­vid­ed by author.

Fig­ure 15. Pieced blocks laid out. Image pro­vid­ed by author.

Fig­ure 16: Quilt­ing con­nect­ing lines. Image pro­vid­ed by author.