Science in Color - My 2022 and 1969 Temperature Quilts
Starting in January 2022, I took part in a casual challenge to complete a temperature quilt through Sue Pelland's Block a Day Temperature Quilt facebook page. I figured if I was ever going to do one, I needed to feel accountable to keep up, and just knowing a group was out there to check in with by posting a photo every few months, whether they cared if I did or not, did keep me going!
If you are unfamiliar with a temperature quilt, it is a visual representation in fabric of the high and low temperatures for a year of one's choosing. There are so many different ways to show this data in designs and fabrics, and a quick google of "temperature quilts" will send you down a rabbit hole, never to return. Like with most areas of art, there are no hard and fast rules and the artist is in charge of the major decisions in planning. With a temperature quilt, the major decisions really boil down to What Pattern, What Temperature Ranges, and What Fabrics.
I love me a circle, and I wanted something that was going to be quick and easy to make so that I could keep up every single day that I was home - and catch up easily when needed because of travel. I chose to cut a 3 1/2" square of fabric to represent the low temperature, and fuse and machine applique a 2 1/2" circle to represent the high temperature for each day. Easy. Every day took me less than five minutes to accomplish, and that included picking out fabrics. I used Sue's Hearts and More™ templates to easily cut the circles.
What Temperature Ranges:
A lot of times, the ranges on these quilts are pretty small, between 3 - 6 degrees, and a single fabric is chosen to represent each range. Being a scrappy designer and quilter, I chose to make my temperature windows 10 degrees (or 11, in one case, because math is hard), and instead of one particular fabric to represent each, I just chose a color. Then all of my scraps were in the game, and I knew the end result was going to be pretty cool looking.
Once the ranges were set, all I had to do was choose what color I'd be assigning each range. I chose what made sense to me as far as how colors make me feel. Yellow for the 50s just says spring warmth, teal for the 20s just seemed the right amount of icy cold, black for over 100 because days that are that hot bring out the blackness in my mood. (I'm not a summer person AT ALL). I chose to not use red because I don't like red. So even though it seems fiery and hot, I went with magenta and dark purple for the 80s and 90s because I knew we'd have a lot of them and I at least wanted it to look good. My quilt, my rules. Love that.
Art met science when I decided to make a smaller version of the same design, using 2" cut squares and 1" circles, to show the daily temperatures for the same place, Pepperell MA, in 1969, the year I was born. The only difference was I didn't machine applique the circles because, to be honest, I didn't feel like it. Sometimes that's the only reason you need.
It was no surprise to me that the temperature trended upward as a whole from 1969 to 2022. I've lived through it and I know I used to wear sweatshirts on summer evenings as a kid, safely grew up without air conditioning in house or car, had more predictable seasons aligning with the calendar, and wore a heavy coat all winter and had snow on the ground from December to March.
Side by side, you can see that summer weeks were hotter and lasted longer into fall in 2022 than 1969, and that while winter temperatures (teals and dark blues, and pinks) were common again at the end of 1969, 2022 still was seeing more limes and yellows, and even a coral (60s) the last week of December. I didn't need a 2022 temperature quilt to tell me 2022 was a hot summer, or that fall just didn't cool into winter, or that this has become common. But the contrast, and seeing what I used to experience, albeit in fabric, is jarring to me.
A few highlights, because you know I love data:
|Number of days above 90
|Number of days below 10
|First day to hit above 60
|Average daily temperature, February
|32 (dark green)
|Average daily temperature, July
I was asked why I couldn't just "let a quilt be a quilt" when I showed part of my 1969 one in progress on my EvaPaige Quilt Designs FB page. I get that people aren't used to me making political/scientific/controversial statements very often at all on that page, and that is intentional. I enjoy that space being one where we look at beautiful things, we laugh, I share my foibles, and those who support my quilt design business are always welcome, no matter our differences. But art is messy. Art can make you think. Sometimes art is uncomfortable. This visual of our warming world is unsettling to me, even though I've lived 53 years of the reality and it isn't a surprise; I don't want to dismiss that. It doesn't mean the quilts are not beautiful. I love them both. Anyone is welcome to just let these quilts be quilts. But if you'd like to see more in them, you are welcome to do that as well.
I hope this has helped anyone who might want to make a temperature quilt start to think about how to do so. It is easy! It really is! Once the planning is over you just go for it!