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Vanderbilt Covid Memorial Quilt Project

The Vanderbilt Covid Memorial Project begins with inspiration from 13 year old Madeleine in California who began a memorial quilt project during the pandemic. Like Madeleine, I believe that people who passed away from Covid are more than just statistics in media and government reporting. They are individuals with names, families, friends and they often inspired others in the life they were leading before the pandemic. The Vanderbilt Covid Memorial Quilt Project, like Madeleine’s quilt project, is meant to honor and name the individuals from Vanderbilt as well as any part of Tennessee who passed away from Covid or any reason during the pandemic. Anyone and everyone may create a quilt square for any loved one that was part of the Vanderbilt Community or in our state. Squares can be completed for a close personal family member, a friend and even for a person you may not have known but have admired. Squares can also be created for groups of people like nurses, teachers, hospitals, first responders, flight attendants, an agency that supports those in need and more.

What is a Memorial Quilt Square? Memorial Quilt Squares begin with any type of fabric as a base that measures 8.5” x 8.5”. The .5” will be used as seam allowance for joining the square with other squares. This allows each square to have an 8” x 8” space in the quilt. After this there are no real “rules”. But read on so you have more information about this project.

Why 8” x 8” for the square? The number 8 is the symbol of infinity and can represent the flow of energy – a sign of life. Covid Memorial Quilts are a living memorial to remember all who have died from Covid and during the pandemic.

Can I create my own square to honor someone? Yes, absolutely! You may design and build your own square using any materials and techniques that you know how to do. Just be sure to leave the outer edge of .5” clear so that the square can be sewn to others. It is strongly recommended that important information be in the center and away from the edges. But feel free to fill that 8” square with photo transfers; writing with sharpies and colored pencils; sew or glue on favorite objects like buttons, pins, pieces of fabric from favorite clothing, etc; logos from favorite sports teams, schools, military, or business; images or names of favorite places; lyrics from songs, poetry or favorite sayings; cut felt into letters to spell the persons name; and so many other ideas exist. Just choose carefully and fill the space to best convey this person to others. There’s no “right” way to make a square as long as you know you have shared something about the person that feels right to you. I can always reinforce or support anything in the square as needed.

What if I can’t sew or craft a square on my own? You may send any items about the person or group to me. I will make the square for you and I hope to be working with other artist volunteers to also assist in creating squares. I can even transfer a photo on to fabric for you, so send the items and information you think are most important to share about the person you want to honor.

Sending squares and items for a square to me. You may mail a completed square or the parts for a square for me to complete to: David Heustess, 2301 Vanderbilt Place, Nashville TN 37240. If you only have images for a square please email them to me at with VanderbiltCovidQuilt in the subject line. Either way, please include your contact information: your name, mailing address, email address and phone number in case I have a question. Your personal information will never be shared, but I do plan on sending newsletter style updates on the quilts.

What happens with the squares? Each square will be bordered and attached to other squares. The plan is to continue the use of the symbol 8 by building a panel of 8 squares by 8 squares. How many panels there will be doesn’t matter and there is no deadline for submitting a square. There’s also no limit to the number of squares you submit or request and likewise a person or group may have more than one square.

What happens with the completed panels? Completed memorial panels will be displayed at Sarratt Gallery and other locations at Vanderbilt University. Plans are to seek out other venues and galleries in Tennessee such as Arts at the Airport, local craft fairs, churches, libraries, etc. But the work has to begin first and I will maintain a contact list for the quilts so you will know where and when you may see them. And I will share images of completed panels here on this website under the blog tab.

Just a bit about me: I am a craft based artist and have a strong passion for fiber arts. While you may not ever see quilts in my art portfolio, I have a lot of experience and training in lots of areas of the fiber/fabric world. I also have many fiber art friends as a resource as well for anything I can’t do, need to learn, and to support me in this project. If you are a fiber artist of any type and interested in helping with this project please email with” covid quilt volunteer” in the subject line. My intention is that this project becomes a community project as I know I cannot do this alone.

Thank you for your interest in this project. I’m excited to see how it all takes shape.