How viewing Earth from space inspired NASA’s new line of astronaut fabrics


Recently retired NASA astronaut and artist Karen Nyberg shares her favorite views of Earth from space with a new line of fabrics called “Earth Views” in collaboration with American fabric company Robert Kaufman.

“To see Earth from this vantage point, to see the darkness around it and to realize that Earth is really this lone entity hanging out there in space and everything on Earth is one entity and everything is connected “, Nyberg said of his experience looking at Earth from space.

This profound moment for space explorers is known as the flyover effect.

Nyberg spent more than 180 days in space during two missions aboard the Space Shuttle and the Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

The veteran astronaut is no stranger to fabrics and craftsmanship. During her last stay on the International Space Station in 2013, Nyberg brought her quilt supplies and became the first to create a quilt square in space, initiating the Astronomical Quilt Challenge.

His time in space made him realize “that Earth is a special place, and it’s a place that we need to be very mindful of to conserve for future generations.”

She selected 13 photos of earthscapes she took while in space for her new line of fabrics available in April 2022. The line includes 30 different color schemes called colorways.

According to the Crafting Industry Alliance, there are between 10 and 12 million quilters in the United States. However, some of the most excited for Nyberg’s new line of fabrics are space program seamstresses, like Jean Wright, at Space Coas in Florida.

Recently retired NASA astronaut and artist Karen Nyberg shares her favorite views of Earth from space with a new line of fabrics called “Earth Views” in collaboration with American fabric company Robert Kaufman.
astrokaren/Instagram

“A lot of people have no idea how much hand sewing or quilting you need for the space,” Wright said.

Wright was part of the team responsible for making the space shuttle’s thermal blankets. Former seamstresses of the shuttle era refer to themselves as the “Sew Sisters”.

Wright and his team were responsible for hand-sewing thousands of space fillers to hold space shuttle tiles meant to withstand extreme heat during launch and reentry.

“It took us about 17 hours or so, for two of us, to sew all 12 of them together,” Wright said of the thermal barriers that line the shuttle’s wheel wells.

Houston is known as the home of NASA astronauts, but it’s also home to the International Quilt Festival, the largest quilting event in the world.

Nyberg and Wright both presented at the festival in 2014 after the astronaut returned from space.

“We joke that Karen talked about the quilt block she made in space, and I talked about the quilts we made that covered the exterior of the shuttle,” Wright said.

For Wright, the Earth Views collection is a looping moment.

Recently retired NASA astronaut and artist Karen Nyberg shares her favorite views of Earth from space with a new line of fabric called "Views of Earth" in collaboration with the American fabric company Robert Kaufman.
In 2013, Nyberg brought her quilt supplies to the International Space Station.
Robert Kaufman/Vimeo Fabrics

“Astronauts see at least 16 sunrises and 16 sunsets,” Wright explained. “She sees all this beautiful echo culture, the snow-capped mountains, the seas and the oceans. For me, it’s natural. You have the beauty of the Earth which would result in doing something for the fabric.

Nyberg described looking out of the space station’s cupola window and capturing the images used for the new fabric line. She said she would carefully frame each photo before shooting as a work of art. When it came time to choose some for the fabric line, she again carefully considered her options.

“What I did was pick out some of my favorite photos and not just my favorites, but I think the ones that show different textures of Earth and different ecosystems on Earth,” Nyberg said.

The Earth Views fabric range includes sunsets, rivers, lakes, deserts, farmland and oceans. One is an image of clouds that Nyberg describes as looking like popcorn.

“I’m really excited to see what people create because I think there’s going to be a huge variety of things,” Nyberg said. “I can’t wait to see the imagination and what people come up with.”

NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg, Expedition 37 flight engineer, enjoys the view of Earth from the windows of the International Space Station's cupola.
NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg, Expedition 37 flight engineer, enjoys the view of Earth from the windows of the International Space Station’s cupola.
Nasa

It’s even more impressive for Wright that the collection is made of 100% organic cotton. The process of producing all-organic fabrics is not just about dyes, but also about the amount of water used and keeping environmental impacts as low as possible.

Nyberg said it was important that the fabric was printed on organic cotton.

“It’s important that we are at least aware of these things and how much water we use and what kind of chemicals we use when making the fabrics.”

In the United States, the cultivation of organic cotton is regulated by the National Organic Program. With this method, farmers cannot use synthetic fertilizers or artificial inputs. Yet organic cotton is only about 1% of the plant produced in the United States, according to Cotton Inc.

The retired space explorer hopes showing Earth’s beauty through fabrics will inspire people to protect our planet.

Recently retired NASA astronaut and artist Karen Nyberg shares her favorite views of Earth from space with a new line of fabric called "Views of Earth" in collaboration with the American fabric company Robert Kaufman.
The Earth Views fabric range includes sunsets, rivers, lakes, deserts, farmland and oceans.
Robert Kaufman/Vimeo Fabrics

“One of the main things is to bring attention to the beauty of the Earth and to get people thinking about it,” she said.

As a guide at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, Wright explains to guests how the art of sewing can be used in spaceflight and says some are often surprised to learn of its role.

Similar to Nyberg, she wants people to be inspired by the space to create.

“I just try to make the space accessible to everyone,” Wright said. “I was good at math and science, but I’ve always been creative. That’s why I think it’s so good that Karen mixes science and technology with creativity.

New York Post

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