1. Comfort Blanket for Our Planet at COP26
Last September, I interviewed Gijsje, who is the initiator of the 'Comfort Blanket for Our Planet'. Back then, she was still collecting contributions for the blanket and making plans to get into the COP26. You can read the first interview here:
The Comfort Blanket is a huge blanket made from hundreds 'little blankets' collected by Gijsje. She wanted to show that many people care about sustainability. So she started the Comfort Blanket and also called others to contribute a 10 X 10 cm square done with crochet, knitting, quilting, felt or any other textile technique.
Gijsje has connected all the little blankets into a big blanket together with volunteers. The blanket is a statement towards the government to start doing more for sustainability.
The gains of this project are that many people are involved in the climate crisis (...) many companies are taking actions themselves without waiting for the government to finally start seeing some sense.
By now, the comfort blanket is finished, the COP26 has ended, and the blanket has a new destination. I interviewed Gijsje to ask her about those things.
2. Interview Gijsje of the Comfort Blanket
Last September, I interviewed you about the Comfort Blanket. You were in the middle of collecting little blankets of people and preparing for your big trip to Glasgow. I’m very curious how you are now, hence this follow-up interview.
How are you, and how is the Comfort Blanket now?
Between September and the COP26, I worked really hard on the Comfort Blanket to finish it. I even invited people over for a day to help me sew the remaining little blankets together. Without them, I wouldn’t have been able to finish it.
I worked on the Comfort Blanket for a year, and that stopped after the COP. I had some withdrawal symptoms! The gains of this project are that many people are involved in the climate crisis, many people talked about it in a positive way, many companies are taking actions themselves without waiting for the government to finally start seeing some sense. It’s a long road, and we can’t spare the time, but this project gave me faith in the possibilities of many hands working together.
I figured cycling to Glasgow was the way to go. It’s the most sustainable mode of transport!
How big did the blanket become?
7 by 4 meters, with 2866 little blankets, made by people from 22 different countries, spread out on 4 continents.
You told me in September that people started crocheting, knitting or quilting to participate in the blanket. Do you know if they are still active creatively?
I think most of them are still creative.
You told me that you hadn’t found a way into the Glasgow conference yet. Did you manage in the end?
Yes, I did. I got an invitation from Frans Timmermans, who is the head of the European Union. I got accreditation for the COP26, where I could show the Comfort Blanket on the 3rd of November in the European Pavilion.
It’s a long road, and we can’t spare the time, but this project gave me faith in the possibilities of many hands working together.
On Instagram, I saw that you cycled to Glasgow. How did you think of that?
To increase publicity for the project on the road, I figured cycling to Glasgow was the way to go. It’s the most sustainable mode of transport! It was a wonderful trip along the coast, full of beautiful encounters.
Can you tell me some interesting stories about your journey?
I have met a lot of very friendly, helpful people during the cycling trip. I slept in people’s homes. They opened their houses to people that were on the road to the COP26.
The bicycle paths there cannot be compared with the bicycle paths here, so we regularly ended up on narrow unpaved paths, narrow bridges where the bicycle trailer could only just pass through. It is also anything but flat in the UK, which made cycling a lot of hard work.
I took 4 days to cycle from Newcastle to Glasgow, with 3 sleepovers, which came down to 75 to 80 mile of cycling each day. I misjudged the distance.
Poppy, the host of the second night, picked us up around 7 o’clock in the evening, because it was too dangerous to continue cycling in the dark at that point, because of the lack of bicycle paths. We would have been forced to cycle between the cars in the dark.
On day 3 we had a flat tire, but Lynn and David (whom we met in the pouring rain), were kind enough to fix our tire at their house. Afterwards, they dropped us and our bicycles with their horse trailer a bit down the road, so we could make up for lost time. People were positive about the Comfort Blanket and were impressed when they saw it in its full glory.
Can you tell me more about the Glasgow conference?
It was big, busy, impressive, with lots of dressed up people. One of the criticism points on the COP26 was that they didn’t allow enough ‘normal’ people in. There were so many activists with beautiful projects that no one from the COP has seen because they were all outside on the street.
Did you have any special encounters during the conference?
The people I spoke to were all praising the Comfort Blanket, however many people were on route from one meeting to another….
The people outside the COP26 had more time. I met @stitcherforsurvival there and in my last day in Glasgow we put up both of our projects in Glasgow Green, a big park where the climate walk would end on the 6th of November. Dora, from @zurciendoelplaneta, which is a project in South America, also came by.
What impact do you think your Comfort Blanket had during the conference?
The people of the European Union, like Stefano Sarris, sung high praises and he apped me yesterday to tell me it was his highlight of the COP26!
(On Instagram, there is a movie where he and Stella Brozek Everaert speak).
Whether the Comfort Blanket made an impact during the conference? The blanket had one day to shine on the COP26, at least it was an eye catcher….
Is there another sustainability goal or plan where you need the help from global communities?
I don’t have a new plan. Well, I do. I won’t be buying new clothes, but I will repair my clothing if it breaks. There is a whole community of visible menders on Instagram, and you can use the gorgeous sashiko technique to repair jeans.
How can creative people (that crochet, knit or quilt) contribute to climate activism?
There is craftivism, which is crocheting, knitting, cross stitching and with that asking attention for climate awareness. You can quickly make a beautiful visual project.
3. Conclusion: Updates on the blanket and climate activism
Many things have happened since this interview. You can follow the Comfort Blanket on Instagram to see what's happening! Let me give you a quick summary:
3.1: A documentary on the Comfort Blanket craftivism project
Edith van Zalinge is making a documentary about the 'Comfort Blanket For Our Planet' story. The premiere is the 11th of February 2022. Afterwards, you can watch the documentary online.
Storytelling is a powerful medium to create change in the world. Because stories bring understand and connection.
3.2 SSPI_Center in Uganda is repurposing the blanket into other items
In the spirit of sustainability, Gijsje has found a way to give a new life to the Comfort Blanket now it has served its purpose to create awareness during the COP26. Instead of storing the blanket somewhere, she has decided to donate it to the SSPI_Center in Uganda together with materials to set up a knitting, crochet, and sewing studio.
The SSPI_Center is a place for earth activism in Uganda. The organization is started by refugees and supports education, clean-ups and awareness campaigns at the grassroot. The motto of the SSPI_Center is:
Making the world the world you want to live in
Wonderful. I wish them much luck and fun with the Comfort Blanket and the craft supplies. Follow Gijsje and the SSPI_Center on Instagram for more updates:
4. A platform for creative sustainability champions
Kick Ass Quilts is not only a place to learn sustainable quilting. It's also a platform where I share and collect stories and projects of other people who fight for sustainability in their own way. For example, I also interviewed Sock by Sock and @lemonadeamsterdam both fighting for sustainable fashion.
Do you have a suggestion for someone to interview? Reply in the comments or email me.
- What is the role of quilting, crochet, knitting and other creative pursuits in sustainability according to you?
- How do we convince politicians to take more climate action?