'No soul in Canada will be forgotten': Ontario knitters create COVID-19 memorial project, call on others to contribute
TORONTO -- Heather Breadner has been knitting for as long as she can remember.
“It’s part of my DNA,” she tells CTV News Toronto. “I love the peace and solitude, but I also love the amazing community that it provides, as well.”
Breadner is the owner of Aberdeen’s Wool Shop in Lindsay, Ont. and says she wanted to put her knitting needles to good use during the pandemic.
“I was looking for a way to amplify the humanity of the people that we’ve lost during COVID-19,” she says. “I felt that a lot of the names and the faces were being lost amongst the statistics, so I wanted to turn that into a project that could inspire hope.”
From that idea, the COVID-19 Memorial Blanket Project was born, with Breadner co-leading the initiative with two of her colleagues. The blanket is made up of knitted 12x12 inch squares, each representing a life that has been lost in Canada to the virus.
“There’s a beautiful aqua colour that’s being used to represent frontline workers who have passed away,” explains Amanda Sharpe, co-leader of the project with Breadner. “We’re attaching a fallen maple leaf to each of those squares.”
With thousands of Canadians having died as a result of COVID-19, Breadner and Sharpe recognized that they couldn’t complete this project on their own, and are turning to their community of knitters from coast to coast to coast to help build the blanket.
“We’re calling on knitters across Canada, as many as we can rally,” Breadner says. “We’ve already had lots of parcels starting to arrive from across the country.”
She adds that when knitters mail their squares to them, they simply have to be one plain colour. “The leaves will be put on by a team of volunteers,” Breadner explains.
“We’ve had a huge response in people volunteering their time, as well as knitting of course,” adds Sharpe. “I think, finished, it’s going to be absolutely stunning and I think it will have a lot of emotional impact on a lot of people.”
Sharpe and Breadner acknowledge that assembling the blanket will likely take ‘a lot of work,’ and will require a large space, like a gymnasium.
Breadner says she expects the blanket to be about ‘half a football field’ in size.
“The intention of this project is actually to have it continue to grow as it’s needed to,” she says. “We will be on this project until we don’t need to be on this project anymore.”
The COVID-19 Memorial Blanket Project was inspired by the massive AIDS quilt created in 1987 in San Francisco, Breadner says.
“I remember the first time I saw the quilt and how impactful it was for me at that time,” says Breadner. “I identified with that sort of ‘craft activism’ part of it.”
Breadner and Sharpe say they hope that, eventually, the blanket will tour the country before being put on permanent display. They are asking knitters to register online at their website, and are creating a memorial book to remember the lives lost to COVID-19.
“I think this is a really great project to unite all of us during this time,” says Breadner. “No soul in Canada will be forgotten on this blanket.”