NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg hosts quilting bee from space station


With her long blond ponytail floating above her inside the International Space Station, astronaut Karen Nyberg calmly explains the challenges of quilting in weightlessness.

“Now that I’ve tried my hand sewing in space,” she said in a video released Thursday by NASA, “I can say one thing with certainty: It’s tricky.”

As if being a mechanical engineer and astronaut isn’t significant enough, the avid quilter brought sewing supplies including fabric, scissors, thread, five needles (but no pins) to create a quilt block in space. Her video invites quilters from around the world to submit blocks for a star-themed quilt to be made for the 40th International Quilt Festival, scheduled for next fall in Houston.


To keep her supplies from floating away, she attaches them to a Velcro pad and stows them in a Ziploc bag when not in use. To cut strips of fabric, Nyberg said, she has to tape the material down.

Composing a quilt block requires precision cutting, stitching and ironing -- none of which Nyberg can do in space. She is sewing by hand, not with her usual machine, and though her finished quilt square is far from perfect, it is impressive considering the circumstances. Today on her Twitter page, Nyberg posted a link to her Pinterest page, sharing a cool block made with pieces cut from T-shirts she wore during her space station stay, stitched onto a Russian food container liner.

For her star-themed quilt, participants are asked to create a 9.5-inch square in any color and technique. Do not finish the edges, and sign the front with a permanent marker, including name and location. Mail to: Star Block Challenge Attn: Rhianna Griffin, 7660 Woodway, Ste. 550, Houston, TX 77063.

Nyberg arrived at the space station in May and is scheduled to return to Earth on Nov. 10.


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