Forging Ahead: Solidarity Stitches

In a new series of features, we will be sharing readers’ makes from their time in lockdown. Did you make a difference during lockdown? Make sure you share it with us via our contact page.

Prayer, creativity and activism have come together to inspire a tribute and a clarion call to action for Grenfell.

Janet Lee’s Grenfell tribute quilt

Retired school chaplain Janet Lees had been considering the impact of the lockdown on families who did not have access to open spaces as she came to consider creating with her fabric stash at home.

Janet said: “I used to live and work in London and visit families who lived in high rise blocks like Grenfell. However, I’m now retired and live in the Derbyshire Country side. I have been very aware of the space and beauty around me during the Coronavirus lockdown. I was able to walk in the countryside everyday.

“I’m a self taught fabric artist and I’m no perfectionist. I sew stuff together and see what happens. The NHS rainbow theme particularly attracted me and I started, with my scrap pile, making lots of different rainbows.”

Experimenting with Seminole quilting, a form of fabric art created by Native American people, Janet started to create colourful works of 9 patches which became her “Mini-Covid Quilts”. As she stitched she considered the sentiments of a book called “Stitching Resistance: Women, Creativity and Fiber Arts”, edited by Marjorie Agosin and exhibits of solidarity banners at the People’s History Museum in Manchester.

Janet said: “I just kept going. Then the anniversary of Grenfell Tower Fire approached as we were also thinking about Black Lives Matter. For me sewing is a good time to pray and I also find people on Twitter inspire me too. I knew that Grenfell Residents had not yet got justice, three years later. Also that other people were still living in tower blocks with flammable cladding. It just developed from there really.

“I sewed all the blocks I could find together and made a great big ‘Tower Block’ of the different coloured pieces. Its rainbow colours and different fabrics, many collected from different places over the years, were a statement of the multicultural nature of Britain and the multicultural community that suffered as a result of the Grenfell Fire.”

Janet, who last year completed an End to End Walk in aid of charity (see her blog to read the story of the journey), had been looking forward to her daughter Hannah’s wedding, as featured in Imprints on CrafStory, but the big day has had to be postponed due to Covid 19. Rather than wallow in sadness over what might have been, Janet has relished the chance to create and highlight the injustice which continues to this day.

She added: “When we feel disempowered it’s important to find a way of expressing our solidarity and our hope. For me sewing is a way of doing that, a sort of fabric-based activism. I hope to show all these pieces somehow when we have come through this. But for Grenfell, however long it takes to get justice for the 72, we must never forget and we must ensure it never happens again. I hope the quilt shares that message.”

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4 thoughts on “Forging Ahead: Solidarity Stitches”

  1. I love the quilt & the story behind it! I am making bunting during the lockdown – a pennant for every family celebration postponed both personal & national. The last piece will be the hug I get with my mum when all this is over – hopefully by her 90th in September.

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