My Covid Scarf

My Covid Scarf

Council & Volunteers General

 My COVID-19 scarf came about after a friend in my knitting group decided to make a scarf according to the daily maximum temperature and rainfall and I thought the COVID-19 figures would make an interesting and topical subject for a similar project. I suspect the seed of an idea to make an historical document was sown in my mind after reading about the Rajah quilt stitched by convict women on the sailing ship Rajah on their way to New South Wales and presented to Lady Macquarie on their arrival. The Bayeux tapestries are also an example of stitched historical documents.

Each Saturday throughout 2022 I Googled ‘WA Covid Cases’ which gave me the seven-day average of new cases for WA the previous week. I then knitted seven rows (for seven days) of a colour according to a key I had previously concocted (see pic showing the end fringe). I used moss or seed stitch so there would be no right or wrong side. If there had been any deaths, I knitted one row of black. It is interesting to note how the colours became darker once the border opened on 3 March and case numbers rose markedly.

Once the scarf was finished, I worried that I might have trivialised the number of deaths by only knitting one row to denote all deaths each week, so I made an end fringe black to better acknowledge them.

The scarf can be ‘read’ by noting the hole knitted each week at both ends of the starting row and a full row of holes to denote the start of each month. A separate line in March shows the date the borders opened.

Not everyone thought it a good idea and I was told it was a morbid exercise, but I believe it has achieved my aim of providing a visual expression of a year of the pandemic.

I have donated the scarf to the WA Museum where it now resides as part of an archive of artifacts is being assembled relevant to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Apart from knitting for family, plus scarves, beanies, fingerless gloves and baby clothes, etc for various charities, my preferred item to knit is comfort bears for children in hospital experiencing difficult procedures, etc., from a pattern I devised by combining several patterns. To date I have knitted over 300 comfort bears and donated them to several charities including Perth Children’s Hospital and Ronald McDonald House.

I am not a fancy knitter because most of my knitting is done in front of the TV while my husband watches sports or quiz shows and counting stitches in that environment is a recipe for failure. I have, however, been knitting since I was a child when I was given a ball of string and a pair of butcher’s wooden skewers with 20 stitches cast on and told I could choose my own ball of yarn and some real needles once I had knitted 10 rows without a mistake. As I was four years old at the time the incentive was great, but there were many tears and tantrums before I finally triumphed, and I have been knitting ever since. These days I knit (albeit with fewer tantrums) to keep my arthritic fingers moving.

  • Helen Smith Burston, Volunteer Coordinator at Peninsula Farm
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