Canadian finally returns for pre-pandemic quilt

“Fate got in the way” of Maura Whittaker picking up a quilt she dropped off before the pandemic.

When Vancouver Island resident Maura Whittaker dropped off an unfinished quilt at an Oak Harbor workshop in early 2020, she had no idea that the finished product wouldn’t be returned to her for more than a year and a half.

Whittaker had sewn the front of the quilt and dropped it off at Quilters Workshop to have the batting and the back sewn on, intending to pick it up the next time she was on the island.

But thanks to COVID-19, Whittaker wouldn’t make it back to Whidbey Island until the weekend of Dec. 11, 2021.

Whittaker’s pre-pandemic visit to Quilters Workshop marked the second time she had a quilt finished there. Whittaker and her husband are regular visitors to the island, stopping in at least a couple of times a year, and she said she planned to pick up her quilt from the shop the next time she was in the area.

“Fate got in the way,” Whittaker said with a laugh.

Shortly after her visit, COVID-19 entered the Pacific Northwest in full force, and the U.S.-Canada border was closed to all non-essential travel.

Quilters Workshop owner Debra Staley said that sending the quilt by mail would have been expensive. Like many people did in the early days of masks and isolation orders, Staley and Whittaker assumed the pandemic would blow over and the world would return to normalcy within a few months. The pair decided to wait until the border reopened for Whittaker to pick up the quilt instead of footing expensive shipping costs.

“Months and months would go by, and things would change,” said Quilter’s Workshop owner Debra Staley of the countries’ differing travel restrictions.

As the pandemic wore on, Staley said she kept in touch with Whittaker, using their check-ins to keep herself accountable. The Quilters Workshop owner said that she worried she might lose the quilt among the many other projects and fabrics in her shop if she didn’t keep careful track of it.

Staley said the situation felt especially comical when she would look out over the Salish Sea from her property on the west side of Whidbey — Vancouver Island, where Whittaker lives, is partially visible from Staley’s home.

The border remained closed until August this year, when Canada reopened its land border to fully vaccinated Americans. The U.S. didn’t reciprocate until November, when it finally opened its border to fully vaccinated travelers.

Finally, on Monday morning Dec. 13, Whittaker returned to Oak Harbor to pick up the quilt she dropped off almost two years earlier.