This quilt was made as the fires raged from September 3 through the first rains of the season on November 8, 2020. Each 4 inch square was created from screen shots captured on of the outdoor Air Quality Index of San Francisco.  

Air Quality Index (API)

For weeks, millions of Californians were smothered by smoke from a record explosion of wildfires burning through grass, shrubs, conifer forests, homes and businesses. Eyes watered. Lungs burned. Skies glowed orange. People suffered sore throats, headaches and chest pains. Many cloistered themselves indoors as pollution spiked to “hazardous” levels, or worse. Smoke transported health dangers to nearly every corner of the state. State air quality officials are aware of no precedent for so many people breathing such high levels of wildfire smoke for so long. Even as air quality begins to improve, many remain worried about long-term health impacts. Wildfire smoke is poisoning California kids, and some pay a higher price than others.

San Francisco 2020 (Quilt represents AQI starting in September)

In many ways, the blazes were unprecedented. But experts say these kinds of wildfires will also become very normal and routine if we do not take significant action to adapt to climate change and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

On September 9, 2020 we awoke to an apocalyptic dark orange sky with smoke blowing at high altitudes across the California coastline from wildfires throughout the northern part of the state. At midday the sky was still so dark headlights were required to drive and with no daylight penetrating homes, interior lights were required to function indoors as if it were night. While hard to believe, the smoke only got worse in later days as it moved from high altitude to ground level, making it even more hazardous to breathe outdoors.

San Francisco 9.9.20 noon
San Francisco midday 9.9.20
Purple Air San Franciso 9.9.20 10:52am

The higher the AQI value, the greater the level of air pollution and the greater the health concern. Air quality ranged from purple/red (hazardous/unhealthy), to orange/yellow (unhealthy for sensitive groups/moderate) to green (good/satisfactory.) San Francisco’s microclimates and hilly terrain causes a great deal of variety in the small 7 by 7 mile city, as indicated by the varied confetti and bar colors at any one point in time.  Here are examples of blocks created from the associated screen shots.

Using the API index, I created a legend to guide the creation of each block based on the API reading of various San Francisco neighborhoods


To keep the blocks in chronological order (marked on masking tape on the back of each block) I sewed the entire quilt by chain piecing it. The completed quilt measures 60″ x 60″.

Final detail shots:

AQI Color Legend label sewn on back of quilt

This quilt has been juried into the Studio Quilt Artist Association ArtQuilt2 Exhibit at the California Heritage Museum and the Sanchez Art Center Left Coast Juried 2022 Exhibition:

California Heritage Museum 2
Sanchez Art Center Left Coast