When Amy Fisher was a senior in high school, she took up knitting to reduce the stress of college applications. She says she needs something to occupy her hands so she doesn’t bite her nails.
Fast forward 25 years and Fisher is still knitting, but the last driver has been a global pandemic.
As a stay-at-home parent and mother of four from Robbinsdale Minn., Fisher began monitoring COVID rates on Twitter and elsewhere.
With more time, she wanted to see if she could visually explain the scale of the pandemic and perhaps, if things improve, reflect the journey.
She had knitted a similar work before. In 2019, Fisher created a quilt that documents the weather with colors representing temperatures. Fisher decided to complicate the project, so she added precipitation rates. Then she spotted a social media post from Canada about a blanket based on COVID data, and a new challenge emerged.
“It was my way of understanding and processing everything that was happening,” she said. “I enjoy watching the history of the past two years. I’m a visual learner and seeing it in color and texture makes it so much more real.”
Fisher started in April 2021 but stretched back to the onset of the pandemic about a year earlier. She had a habit of reviewing COVID data from the Minnesota Department of Health. She also relied on the former data reporter from MPR News Tweets by David Montgomery.
One side of the blanket depicts positive COVID cases in Minnesota with a tulip bulb pattern, with each bulb representing 5 percent of Minnesota’s population. The darker the color, the higher the case numbers for the day. The width of the ceiling was slashed by an onion each time 5 percent of Minnesotans received their first COVID vaccine. But just showing Minnesota’s data was a challenge Fisher didn’t have enough of.
On the other side of the blanket, she decided to follow her family’s own journey with the vaccine. Her four children range from second grade to a recent high school graduate, so she’s had almost every age group with varying levels of access to vaccines. The colors change when her family receives her doses.
Fisher said she sees the two-year mark of the pandemic as a breakpoint because the ceiling is so big.
“I didn’t think it would take that long,” Fisher said. “I felt like this was the right place to stop because a lot of people have switched to at-home testing, the data is taking a while to update and the cases aren’t as scary as they were before a year or two.”
But that doesn’t mean Fisher isn’t taking the pandemic seriously. Recently, the first member of her family tested positive for COVID. They isolated and no one else caught the virus. Every member of her family is vaccinated and boosted which keeps everyone healthier so far.
“For a long time I was very frustrated with friends and acquaintances who didn’t get vaccinated, but I also had to let that go because it was nagging at me,” she said. “I try not to question what people have done ‘wrong’ now when they get it, because it feels like there’s not even a way to prevent it.”
Now that she’s done, Fisher is considering entering the COVID blanket at the Minnesota State Fair, though she worries nearly ten feet of rope might be too big to display.
You make MPR News possible. Individual donations stand behind our reporters’ clear statewide reporting, stories that unite us, and conversations that offer perspective. Help keep MPR a resource that brings Minnesotans together.
donation today. A $17 gift makes a difference.