U of A library staff knitting the curve of COVID-19 cases across Canada

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U of A library staff knitting the curve of COVID across Canada
If graphs and charts aren’t your thing, there’s a unique way to keep track of new COVID-19 cases. Morgan Black explains. – Sep 5, 2020

University of Alberta library staff have been tracking COVID-19 cases with yarn.

The group is “stitching the curve” to capture a unique moment in history. A colleague created a data spreadsheet for the group to work off of and are each assigned to track a province or territory.

Each row represents a day, beginning on March 1.

Darker colours represent fewer cases, the lightest colour on the pattern corresponds to one hundred cases and above and Hailey Siracky is knitting Alberta’s curve.

“It’s easy to get a sense of how the curve is working based on the colours we are all seeing in the knitting, even though we are all working with different colours,” Siracky said.

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The “Alberta” stitch by Hailey Siracky. Courtesy: Stitching the Curve

In total, 11 staff members are stitching COVID-19 cases across Canada (the territories are represented in one swatch).

Hanne Pearce, who is stitching the representation of B.C., said everyone’s experience has been different.

“B.C. has been a rollercoaster. It’s been very up and down,” Pearce said.

“My colleagues who are doing Ontario and Quebec have been knitting nothing but light colours [representing cases 100+ new COVID-19 cases per day].”
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The “Ontario” stitch in July by contributor Christine Brown (buttons represent significantly higher numbers). Courtesy: Stitching the Curve

While some areas have seen a lot of new cases, Pearce said others who have been assigned to Maritime provinces have been knitting mostly dark rows.

“I keep telling them ‘It’s all important!’ Of course, we do want to see more darker colours and low numbers.”

Kara Blizzard’s “Newfoundland & Labrador” Crochet from Mar 1-Apr 5. Courtesy: Stitching the Curve
“As librarians, one of the things we teach a lot about is data. Prior to COVID-19, we had been discussing different projects that take data and put it into a manifested object,” Pearce said. “When COVID[-19] hit, it occurred to us that this was the time to do it.”
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Pearce said other patterns begin to emerge the longer they stitch.

“For example, when B.C. stopped doing weekend updates there’s nothing to report — so you see two lines that are dark, then you get a much lighter Monday line, because all of the new reports are coming in, then you get a few lower days that are average. That happens over and over again,”

She noted Canada Day as another significant marker.

“You can see over two or three weeks, the numbers start to go up again. It’s slow, but it’s happening.”

Once complete, the pieces will be stitched together into a blanket.

Pearce said she has reached out to the Royal Alberta Museum to see if it would like to display the homemade project.

“I believe at this point we have a pretty unanimous decision among our group members that’s where it’s going,” she said.

“Now that we know it will live on at the museum, it’s taken on a new meaning.”

If you’d like to “stitch the curve” outside of the main project, you can learn how here.


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