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Crochet project chronicles one COVID year on the Kenai

Sabine Poux/KDLL

When the pandemic grounded people at home, many new crafters picked up painting, sewing and bread-baking for the first time. For those already making crafts, the extra days at home were chances to get even craftier.

For Rebecca Bezdecny, the pandemic wasn’t just an excuse to craft, it was also a muse. The Kenai resident crocheted what she’s calling her COVID blanket – a striking visual picture of one pandemic year on the central Kenai Peninsula.

“It gave me a way to kind of bring order to an unorganized thing that was going on outside of my control," she said. "It’s almost literally like a safety blanket.”

Bezdecny’s blanket is modeled after what’s called a temperature blanket in the fiber arts world. Each row on a temperature blanket represents one day, using a different color of yarn to show how hot or cold it was on a given day.

Each row on Bezdecny‘s blanket represents a day of COVID. And each color is a different range in 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 blanket at the beginning, representing July 2020.

"It starts off really mild," Bezdecny said.

But as summer 2020 faded into fall, Alaska saw its first COVID spike. That’s where the blanket becomes really colorful. Pink stripes are days with 51 to 60 reported cases and light blue stripes are days with 61 to 70 reported cases. Noticeably missing is any white.

There is one ominous strip of red, representing 91 to 100 cases.

"It’s stuck in my mind," she said. "Ninety-two cases that day. Now I look back and go, ‘Yeah, that wouldn’t be a bad day today.’ But back then, about a year ago, that was a really bad day.”

Bezdecny stopped before the omicron era. Her last row represents June 30, 2021.

The finished blanket is nearly 11.5 feet long by 5 feet wide and weighs 10 pounds. It represents more than a year of crocheting in front of the TV, watching cases spike and fall like a roller coaster. 

That deeper meaning, hidden behind cheerful pastels and a black scalloped border, is eerie. But Bezdecny wonders what the blanket would look like to someone who doesn’t know the story. At first glance, there seems to be little rhyme or reason why there’s one row of dark blue here and two rows of pink and yellow there. 

Credit Sabine Poux/KDLL
Bezdecny worked on the blanket between July 2020 and 2021.

"I try to imagine, if I hand this down to my grandkids, are they going to understand what this means? Are they going to know that Grandma did this in the middle of the pandemic?”

There’s also an ode to Bezdecny’s own COVID experience. A red pin near the piece's chronological end represents when in the process COVID came into her home for the first time.

The pandemic, of course, is not over. And if Bezdecny was still crocheting, she might have to create a whole new color category to account for the high case numbers reported some days on the central peninsula.

But she has hung up her crochet hook for now. That also means relief from meticulously monitoring the state’s case counts.

"There were some days where you add ’em up, you had to add up the four towns I was keeping track of, your stomach just sinks," she said. "You’re like, ‘Oh, gosh.’ Even now, it’s a hard habit to break. You get those texts from the state with the every-other-day case counts, it’s like, ‘Oh, OK. I don’t need to keep track of this anymore.’”

Finally, she can enjoy the blanket for what it is, using it to keep warm during her third pandemic winter.

Sabine Poux is a producer and reporter for the Brave Little State podcast of Vermont Public. She was formerly news director and evening news host at KDLL in Kenai.

Originally from New York, Sabine has lived and reported in Argentina and Vermont and Kenai.
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