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Title: ‘Looking for Covid’ Textile Panel
Created by: Jan Dowson, author of The Textile Artist: Expressive Stitches. A ‘no-rules’ guide to creating original textile art
Size: 25 x 25in square (64 x 64cm square)
Materials: Paper, linen, scraps of recycled fabrics such as silk, cotton, linen and wool


I am a textile artist and the inspiration for this piece of work came from sitting at my upstairs studio window and looking down onto our little oasis: our beautiful garden. I have always enjoyed watching the birds, the trees and the rooftops. On a perfect sunny day I can hear the birds singing and I’m reminded about the fact that they are oblivious to what is happening in the world around us. Things are not quite as they seem, because among this beauty is a global pandemic! You can’t see it, but it is there, and it is really quite frightening. My house has become my safe haven, and even though I’ve been fortunate to get out for lovely local walks with our dog, for me, the world outside my house has become a scary place.


During the lockdowns and restrictions, I’ve taken comfort in knowing we have all been in this together. Here we all are in our safe havens looking out into this tainted view. I started this piece of work by drawing the buildings and rooftops and developing my ideas in my sketchbook. I began the central panel by drawing the buildings on paper to scale. The paper was placed over a base cloth of heavy grey linen. Using the sewing machine, I drew over the pencil drawing, machining the paper onto the fabric. The perforations allowed me to peel away areas of the paper to leave outlines, leaving some areas of paper and revealing areas of the grey fabric. I depicted the buildings in grey to reflect how I felt about our view.


I used machine appliqué and free motion machine embroidery to make the people around the outer edge. This technique allowed me to draw in the detail just as I would with a pen or pencil. They are looking into their community as it is now – so different – looking at the invisible virus that has changed their world.


At the time I started this panel, there were lots of rainbows appearing in people’s windows – little bursts of colour to cheer us up and give us hope for better times ahead. This inspired me to include a few hand stitched rainbows into this piece. I also hand embroidered some of the detail on the people’s clothing. We must not forget our pets that have given us so much love and joy during this pandemic, so it was important for me to include dogs. My own dog, Bertie, has been great company and has given me a reason to get out walking every day to overcome some of my fears.

The Textile Artist: Expressive Stitches is available from Search Press, RRP £17.99.

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