A vibrant patchwork quilt, made over the course of 12 years by the Sew Gay group, is on display at the annual Norfolk Makers Festival at The Forum in Norwich. The 60-square piece is a celebration of key moments in the lives of the LGBTQ+ community, with each handmade patch depicting an event that was particularly inspiring to the maker. The quilt features a mix of local, national, and international LGBTQ+ history and events, ranging from personal moments to big moments like Section 28 or the AIDS crisis.
The inspiration for the quilt came from Lilian Dring, who in 1951 created the Patchwork of the Century for the Festival of Britain, bringing together women with no sewing experience to produce a quilt documenting advances in women’s rights over 100 years. Sew Gay’s Norwich Pride Patchwork similarly brought together members of the LGBTQ+ community, family, supporters, and friends to create a quilt documenting advances in queer history.
“We’ve seen it makes people start to talk about queer issues and events from our recent LGBTQ+ history,” said quilt co-ordinator Stevie Savage. “We hope it will be the start of a conversation.” Sew Gay hopes that schools will use the quilt as a springboard for conversations about LGBTQ+ issues.
The quilt features a number of needlecraft techniques, including knitting, sewing, embroidery, and applique, and is a celebration of the Pride rainbow flag’s six lines of themed color. “Because it’s a community project I wanted people to make their own choice about what to feature, I just specified their patch included a small amount of the color of the line it was in,” said Savage.
While most people who contributed to the quilt are from the LGBTQ+ community, the project also drew support from “really strong allies like mums, friends, and people who have an interest or links to our community,” according to Savage. The Sew Gay/Norwich Pride Patchwork is a testament to the power of community and collaboration in documenting queer history and celebrating LGBTQ+ identity.