When the pandemic forced people to stay home, many new artisans started painting, sewing or baking bread for the first time. For those who were already crafting, the extra days at home were opportunities to become even more crafty.
For Rebecca Bezdecny, the pandemic wasn’t just an excuse to manufacture, it was also a muse. The Kenai resident crocheted what she calls her COVID blanket – a striking visual image of a pandemic year in the central Kenai Peninsula.
“It gave me a way to bring order to an unorganized thing that was happening beyond my control,” she said. “It’s almost literally like a security blanket.”
Bezdecny’s blanket is inspired by what is known as a thermal blanket in the textile arts world. Each line on a thermal blanket represents a day, using a different yarn color to show how hot or cold it was on a given day.
Each line on Bezdecny’s cover represents a day of COVID-19. And each color is a different range of case numbers.
A row of white means the central peninsula had between zero and five new cases that day. There’s a lot of white on the front cover, representing July 2020.
“It starts off very slow,” Bezdecny said.
But as summer 2020 turned into fall, Alaska experienced its first COVID spike. This is where the cover gets really colorful. The pink bands are days with 51-60 reported cases and the light blue bands are days with 61-70 reported cases. There is obviously a lack of white.
There is a worrying red band, representing 91 to 100 cases.
“It’s stuck in my mind,” she said. “Ninety-two cases that day. Now I look back and say, “Yeah, wouldn’t be a bad day today.” But back then, about a year ago, it was a really bad day.
Bezdecny stopped before the omicron era. Its last line represents June 30, 2021.
The finished blanket measures nearly 11.5 feet long by 5 feet wide and weighs 10 pounds. That’s more than a year of crocheting in front of the TV, watching the crates go up and down like a roller coaster.
This deeper meaning, hidden behind cheerful pastels and a black scalloped border, is strange. But Bezdecny wonders what the cover would look like to someone unfamiliar with the story. At first glance, there seems to be little rhyme or reason why there is one row of dark blue here and two rows of pink and yellow there.
“I try to imagine, if I pass this on to my grandchildren, are they going to understand what this means? Will they find out Grandma did this in the middle of the pandemic? she says.
There’s also an ode to Bezdecny’s own COVID-19 experience. A red pin near the chronological end of the piece represents the point in the process when COVID-19 first entered her home.
The pandemic, of course, is not over. And if Bezdecny still crochets, she might have to create a whole new color category to account for the high number of cases reported on some days on the Central Peninsula.
But she hung up her hook for now. It also means relief from the state’s meticulous monitoring of case counts.
“There were days when you added them up, you had to add up the four cities that I was watching, your stomach just sank,” she said. “You’re like, ‘Oh, gosh.’ Even now, it’s a hard habit to break. You get these texts from the state with the case count every other day, it’s like, ‘Oh, okay. I don’t need to keep track anymore. of that.
Finally, she can enjoy the blanket for what it is, using it to keep warm during her third pandemic winter.