In this instalment of ‘how the professionals do it, creating sustainable fabric art’ we interview Gijsje. Gijsje is making a Comfort Blanket for the planet, with input from anyone willing to make a ‘little blanket’ for her. Participants use quilt, knitting, crochet or any other textile techniques. The goal of the Comfort Blanket is to show policymakers people are capable of working together, and it’s time to take action for the climate.
Kick Ass Quilts talked with her about the blanket, the aim, and how crafts and art can contribute to awareness on sustainability and climate change.
You can contribute to the Comfort Blanket until 1st of October.
Interview Gijsje, creator of the Comfort Blanket for Our Planet
Tell us something about yourself
For a long time I did things like separating waste, not driving a car and things like that. But it was not enough.
On 28th October last year, I watched ‘Life on Our Planet’ from David Attenborough, which made a big impression on me. It left me sombre. Only after watching that documentary, I realized how bad the climate is doing. For a few days I felt sad and listless.
Everybody can participate in the project by sending in their ‘little blankets’ made with crochet, knitting, felt or quilting
I decided to do something to turn those sad feelings into something productive. That is how I came up with the ‘Comfort Blanket for our planet’ (Troostdeken voor de Planeet, Dutch). Everybody can participate in the project by sending in their ‘little blankets’ made with crochet, knitting, felt or quilting.
Do you have a background in fabric art? To come up with a project like this?
I’ve always enjoyed fabric and yarns, textiles in general. Also, I used to make my own clothes. I like working with textiles because you don’t need a lot to start, and you can do it everywhere.
The benefit of working with your hands is that it’s a way to get back to your inner self. It calms you down. Craft could have a positive effect for society. It is also something without any outwardly interests, it just is.
Currently, I work as a graphic designer, and I’ve always been a visual person and I love working with my hands.
The benefit of working with your hands is that it’s a way to get back to your inner self. It calms you down. It is also something without any outwardly interests.
Are the people who participate all proficient in knitting, embroidery, crochet, quilting etc?
Some of the little blankets I get are from craft fanatics. They use complicated embroidery stitches or fancy crochet patterns. However, there are also people who have watched YouTube videos to make a little blanket.
There have also been primary schools who have participated in the project. They taught the children about climate change, and they have made their own little blankets.
When you are making a little blanket, you are really consciously thinking on climate change. It becomes almost like a second bloodstream. I also notice that when I am attaching the little blankets together. You are actively participating in something, and it heightens consciousness of climate change.
Some of the little blankets I get are from craft fanatics. However, there are also people who have watched YouTube videos to make a little blanket.
What is the aim of the comfort blanket for the planet?
I wanted to show world leaders that we don’t have to know each other to work together and to be able to cooperate for the planet.
To show the powers that be that cooperation is possible, also when people don’t know each other. The participants of the comfort blanket are from different countries, ages, gender and nationality, and it doesn’t matter. The project transcends borders.
I wanted to show world leaders that we don’t have to know each other to work together to be able to cooperate for the planet.
And it worked.
In total, 20 countries are participating now. I hope there will be more by the end of the project.
How big is the blanket now?
The blanket itself is now 1709 squares.
I also have 4 blankets with 16 squares and 1 with 42 squares I still have to attach. Also, more little blankets might come this month.
The blanket weighs about 12 kg now. I can’t carry it around in shopping bags any more.
What is the end goal with the comfort blanket?
My hope is that I can take it inside at the Glasgow Climate Conference in October. However, I’ve written official letters to the organization to ask to be let inside, but I haven’t heard back from them. I’ve also tried to write organizations representing themselves at the conference, but I haven’t heard from them either.
It’s very bad that those organizations don’t even bother to reply.
There is a program for youth to participate, but I am not young, so I don’t qualify for that. However, there is an organization called ‘stitches for survival’. I am going to join them for one day with the blanket.
Beyond that, I will just go and make my plans there.
Why do you think they haven’t even replied?
I don’t know. My project shows that people can work together.
It is time we all drop our ego and start to work together. That is the only things that is going to work to solve the problem of climate change. We can’t all keep shouting about our own individual needs or opinions, because we won’t make it that way.
How can people participate?
People can send in a little blanket until the end of September. But please don’t spend any money to get materials for the blanket. We all have to declutter, so everyone has enough materials in their home to make something.
Any kind of little blanket is welcome, as long as it’s textile. Be it a quilt, knitted, crochet, felt or something else.
The size should be 10×10 cm. If you haven’t put a border on your quilt, it should be 11×11 cm.
It is time we all drop our ego and start to work together. That is the only things that is going to work to solve the problem of climate change.
What are you going to do with the blanket after Glasgow?
Hopefully, I can exhibit the comfort blanket somewhere. I am talking to the Textielmuseum in Tilburg. My wish is that the blanket will be displayed somewhere for some time, so people get the chance to see it.
I travel with the blanket, and whenever people see it they are impressed because the comfort blanket looks fantastic.
Also, I want to see if I can turn the blanket into wearable clothing afterwards. I am talking to some fashion designers to see what’s possible. I would like the comfort blanket to become something useful afterwards.
Conclusion: How you can contribute to the Comfort Blanket by quilting, knitting or crochet
Now it’s time for you to contribute. You can do that in several ways:
- Make a little blanket: quilt, knit or crochet your little heart out. This is possible until the 1st of October. Find information here.
- Share stories on the Comfort Blanket with policymakers. Make the blanket even more difficult to ignore.
- If you know a way to get the blanket inside during the climate conference in Glasgow, let me or Gijsje know.
This article, and my quilted little blanket, are my contribution to the Comfort Blanket. Kick Ass Quilts aims to make quilting more sustainable, by teaching sustainable quilting and by featuring sustainable craft initiatives.
I made my blanket with scrap fabric of old quilt projects. The backing of the quilt is an old towel. We have a saying in Dutch that roughly translates to ‘mopping with the tap open’. It means engaging in a futile action.
The blanket symbolizes my frustration with current climate policy. It is way too little to have a meaningful impact, to the point it feels as 'mopping while the tap is running'. Let's hope more awareness will create better, more strict climate policies.
What are you going to do for the climate?
Photos: From Instagram @comfortblanketforourplanet used with permission