When Amy Fisher was a senior in high school, she began knitting to reduce her stress of college applications. She says she needed something to keep her hands busy so she wouldn’t chew off her nails.
Fast forward 25 years, and Fisher is still knitting but the driver most recently was a global pandemic.
A stay at home parent and mom of four from Robbinsdale Minn., Fisher began monitoring COVID rates on Twitter and elsewhere.
With more time on her hands, she wanted to see if she could visually explain the extent of the pandemic and maybe, if things got better, a reflection of the journey.
She had knitted a similar work before. In 2019, Fisher created a blanket documenting the weather with colors representing temperatures. Fisher decided to make the project more complicated, 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 being able to see the story of the last two years. I am a visual learner, and seeing it in color and texture just makes it so much more real.”
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Fisher began in April 2021, but reached back to the beginning of the pandemic roughly a year before. She had a habit of checking COVID data from the Minnesota Department of Health. She also relied on former MPR News data reporter David Montgomery’s tweets.
One side of the blanket depicts positive COVID cases in Minnesota using 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 blanket was shortened by a bulb every time 5 percent of Minnesotans got their first COVID vaccine. But just showing Minnesota’s data wasn’t a big enough challenge for Fisher.
On the other side of the blanket she decided to track her family’s own journey with vaccine. Her four children range from second grade to a recently graduated high school senior, so she had almost every age group with varying access to vaccines. The colors change as her family received their doses.
Fisher said she saw the two-year mark of the pandemic as a stopping point because the blanket was so big.
“I did not think it would get so long,” Fisher said. “I felt like this was the place to stop because a lot of people have moved to the at-home tests, data takes a while to get updated and cases are not as scary as they were a year or two ago.”
But that doesn’t mean Fisher does not take 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 so far is keeping everyone healthier.
“I have been very frustrated for a long time at friends and acquaintances that were not being vaccinated but I have also had to let that go because it was eating at me,” she said. “I try not to question what people did ‘wrong’ now when they get it because it feels like you can’t even prevent it anymore.”
Now that she is done, Fisher considers entering the COVID blanket in the Minnesota State Fair, though she worries nearly ten feet of knitting may be too big to display.