March 22, 2023

Inside the Growing Movement to Share Science Through Quilting

When her journey with science quilting began, Earth researcher Laura Guertin had simply returned from Louisiana. Her seatmate on the flight home had described to her how discarded Christmas trees were utilized in the Louisiana bayou to help in reducing wave energy and shoreline disintegration. Guertin was fascinated by this ingenious example of recycling garbage to help an environment. Then, while strolling through her dining space, the Penn State Brandywine professor saw her quilting products spread out beside her sewing maker. And it hit her– she could combine her passion for quilting with her talent for discussing science to the general public.

Mitch Hopper.

Courtney Gallaher, a location and femaless studies teacher at Northern Illinois University, is likewise utilizing quilts to educate. In 2017, she taught a Women in Science course which consisted of a job where students worked together to create a quilt concentrating on female researchers.

Guertin starts each quilt with a story she wants to tell, using a variety of fabrics printed with themes like ocean waves, fish, birds, compasses and even sea glass. For her invasive apple snail quilt, she developed a design depicting 9 jars, and utilized a different fabric within each container– revealing everything from snails to apples to birds– to share how flying predators are helping to manage the problem gastropods. She states such quilts tend to attract attention.

Some students enjoyed quilting a lot they purchased products and worked on their own tasks after the class ended. Gallaher says she is called a couple times a year by professors at other universities who aspire to bring quilting into their science class.

Ann Baldwin May produced a series of physics-inspired quilts, including Blue Collider Event Display.


” Quilting is amazing as an artform,” Gallaher says, prior to including that she enjoys that such an innovative procedure is being brought into STEM. “Theres a growing number of research study and just basic understanding that art plays a truly essential role in assisting peoples brains comprehend science and mathematics.”.

Courtney Gallahers Women in Science students at Northern Illinois University created a quilt illustrating female scientists.

Laura Guertin.

She blogs about her science quilting at Journeys of Dr. G. “I desire to make the quilts accessible to people in terms of bringing in brand-new audiences to talk and engage about science that perhaps we havent been able to draw in before,” Guertin states. “These science discussions around these science quilts, those conversations can lead to action,” Guertin says. Laura McDowell-Hopper, who was curating The Human Rights Quilt Project at the NIU Pick Museum of Anthropology, combined each piece into a queen-sized quilt. She focused on bed quilts prior to transitioning to art quilts about a decade ago. May produced a number of physics-inspired quilts, consisting of the Blue Collider Event Display, which is now part of a traveling quilt show.


Not every science quilter is a researcher. Ann Baldwin May is a devoted quilter who has made hundreds of quilts over the years– she stopped counting at 300. She focused on bed quilts prior to transitioning to art quilts about a decade ago. When she heard about a University of Santa Cruz job pairing artists with scientists, she was interested. She was matched with a physics PhD candidate who was studying dark matter, so she began taking a look at pictures of subatomic particles smashing together, noticing the vibrant colors and patterns, and the area in between.

Guertin keeps in mind quilts have a long history of interacting messages throughout generations. Underground Railroad quilts often contained codes suggesting nearby dangers and interacting where escapees must go next. For instance, a bear paw pattern suggested audiences ought to follow an animal path. Numerous homesteader quilts also interacted a variety of messages, from designs suggesting faith to patches representing households and pals back home. Guertin believes quilting is an effective medium to help engage individuals with science, since the art type produces familiar, reassuring handmade objects. She blog sites about her science quilting at Journeys of Dr. G. “I wish to make the quilts accessible to people in regards to generating brand-new audiences to engage and talk about science that maybe we have not had the ability to draw in the past,” Guertin says. “Its been pretty efficient.”

Anybody can share a science quilt to display at the American Geophysical Union Meeting, and #QuiltYourScience 2021 is open to all ages and ability levels. Each quilt will concentrate on Earth and area sciences, broadly, and be no bigger than 24 by 24 inches. Science quilters are already getting in touch with one another ahead of the exhibition, discovering inspiration and sharing ideas on Instagram and Twitter with two other hashtags– #SciQuilt 21 and #QuiltYourScience.

Guertin is producing a collection of miniature quilts focusing on Project Drawdowns objective to reduce greenhouse gas levels, including this quilt exploring the transport sector.

Guertin displays her quilts at science centers, schools and academic occasions around Philadelphia. Throughout the pandemic, she found a various location where she might display her quilts and inform others: her front door. “With the shut down of the schools and our public libraries, so lots of households were just beginning to walk the area,” she states, before later including, “I resembled what a chance.”.

Karen Vaughan, a soil scientist and University of Wyoming professor who produces paints with dirt, states quilting is another artform that can help people embrace science. “By incorporating science and art, were developing connection through a psychological action to something thats often viewed as concrete and accurate, she says. “Art unlocks to more– its an invitation to care, relate and act upon the results of scientific inquiry.”

Laura Guertin

The wall hanging she produced ended up being the first of nine quilts in Guertins “Stitching Hope for the Louisiana Coast” collection. One depicts the story of intrusive apple snails and another concentrates on marsh remediation. “Each quilt is a different story about adaptation and resilience– that theme of seaside optimism,” she says.

Art Meets Science.

Women in Science Quilt blocks illustrate (clockwise from top left): primatologist Patricia Wright, neuroscientist Patricia Goldman-Rakic, psychologist Kathryn Klement, and developer and actress Hedy Lamarr.

” What I saw when I looked at the pictures was a lot of them appear like fibers and threads … I was really shocked– I was blown away by that.” She picked a number of images that interested her and worked to recreate performances of them with cloth and decorative threads.

May produced a number of physics-inspired quilts, including heaven Collider Event Display, which is now part of a traveling quilt program. She says she enjoys having fun with colors and materials. “Thats what inspires me– how the products go together and make something of interest,” she says.

” People immediately see this blanket hanging there,” Guertin states. “Blankets are not threatening, nobody is terrified of a blanket. Everyones got a favorite blanket story or everybodys got that blanket on completion of their bed that their grandma made, so the concept of a blanket seems to bring a great deal of individuals in.”

Motivated, she started designing a style to illustrate the story she heard on the airplane. “Theres no pattern that exists for [telling] a story about Christmas trees in Louisiana,” Guertin says. Her quilt, “Christmas trees for seaside optimism in Louisiana” depicts a bayou scene. She developed the quilt to be viewed from top to bottom, with horizontal areas– separated by gray fabric strips– depicting sequential moments in time. As the audience moves down each section of the quilt, less and less land is represented as water deteriorates the coast. At the bottom of the quilt, Guertin sewed patches of Christmas trees near the coast and decreased the loss of land fabric to represent a minimized rate of erosion.

She remembers seeing a female with three kids reading among the instructional indications. Each child picked their favorite science truth. As soon as, a neighbor left a Post-it stating just how much they delighted in discovering from the display screens. “Its a way to teach science I never thought I would ever do,” Guertin says. This year, she is utilizing her front door to show a mini quilt each month related to Project Drawdown– a company aiming to reach a location where greenhouse gas levels in the environment start decreasing. Her Project Drawdown quilts take on topics such as food, farming and electrical power.

Earth Science.

Guertins quilt, “It Begins with the Ocean Biome” portrays dolphins, sea turtles and other wildlife.

Forty trainees worked to produce 20 quilt squares, illustrating well-known scientists like Rachel Carson and Jane Goodall, along with lesser-known women such as molecular geneticist Leena Peltonen-Palotie and X-ray crystallographer Rosalind Franklin. “A lot of these ladies researchers– even the ones place on the quilt– their capability to take part in the clinical procedure was deeply impeded by their gender,” Gallaher states.

Laura Guertins very first science quilt focuses on the practice of using old Christmas trees to help in reducing coastal erosion.

Sometimes Guertin will engage admirers in discussion, and they will often take photos to send to relatives who quilt, passing on the story yet again. “Theres the novelty of having a quilt telling a story about science, and its getting shared, which is exactly what we want as scientists and what the locals of southern Louisiana want.”

Laura Guertin

Females in Science.

Guertins collection of coastal quilts will be just some of those on screen at the American Geophysical Unions conference this year, which will be held practically and in-person in New Orleans in December. In an effort to welcome STEAM– science, innovation, art, mathematics and engineering– Guertin and partner Betsy Wilkening are leading the charge to encourage people to make quilts that interact science. They have actually established a hashtag, #QuiltYourScience 2021, for artists to share their designs on Twitter and Instagram, along with a Slack neighborhood.

She thinks the discussion the quilts cause is very important. “These science conversations around these science quilts, those conversations can result in action,” Guertin states. “And then the action is whats going to benefit planet Earth in the end.”



Ann Baldwin May.

Blocks produced by Olivia Hardy and Sydney Hall– Wright, Nina Nicole Gonzales and Kellie Suelter– Goldman-Rakic, Kiana Martin– Klement, Emma Falk and Leeana Alcantar– Lamarr. Professional Photographer: Mitch Hopper.

The trainees looked for out methods to portray each females scientific work abstractly and creatively, then took a crash course in sewing, developing squares, cutting out material and assembling each piece. Laura McDowell-Hopper, who was curating The Human Rights Quilt Project at the NIU Pick Museum of Anthropology, integrated each piece into a queen-sized quilt. “I anticipated that they d like it, but I was a little blown away by how much they liked it.”.

Her front door is close to the pathway, so she began positioning science truths on her door in March 2020, covering topics from earthquakes to oceans. She began hanging quilts, placing info about each pattern below the creation.

Natural Sciences.