Crocheted 'Iso hug' hot water bottle cover made by Jane Manallack in May 2020 - one of many different types of hot water bottle covers she crafted for friends and family to keep them warm from a distance during the first Covid-19 lockdowns in Victoria in the autumn of 2020. With social distancing rules in place, Jane made gifts and commissions of these crocheted pieces.
Maker Statement by Jane Manallack (nee Webb)
I taught myself how to crochet in my early 30s. As an objects conservator I was fascinated with how things are made. As a historian I am still fascinated by Nanna Technology - jam making, preserves, hand crafts..anything that results in a practical object for everyday use. For the past few years I have been weaving on a frame loom.
I've been crocheting the occasional baby blanket for friends and last Christmas I made hot water bottle covers for 5 of my friends (each with their initial). I designed the cover and spent weeks working out how to transcribe cross stitch lettering into crochet. I worked out that one X in cross stitch is 2 double crochet stitches wide. Most tiny cross stitch patterns work but usually I have to design my own.
I spent the first few weeks weaving. As time went by I found lockdown more and more isolating. I have no family in this country except my 2 sons. My friends are my family. I made a friend's partner a silly hot water bottle cover with a guinea pig on it for her birthday. I sent it to her and told her it was a hug in isolation. Then I made one for the friend - couldn't have him jealous now could I - and I missed his hugs. Then another friend and another. I started running out of wool and money is tight so when a colleague asked me to make her one I said did she mind "paying as she felt?". I didn't expect much - just enough to save up to order more wool. Since lock down I have completed ten and have commissions for 4 more. The money raised paid for more wool and a sweet treat from Glicks for my sons and I on Mother's Day. I want to make one for my parents in Ontario Canada but there is no postal service at the moment. I'll make them and wait until I can send them.
My favourite one says Grumpy Old Man (for a friend) and the Guitar pattern for my youngest son Henry (17). People keep asking for strange things, squirrels, dogs, cats, shamrocks, but mainly they want Iso Hugs. I have never made two the same and I have to figure out each one in my head.
I sit in my courtyard or on the sofa working away as my son plays guitar or I watch some silly sci fi on Netflix. I'm finding isolation difficult but making these totally silly covers makes me feel closer to people and gives me something to do. I've had people text / call me to say they are all toasty warm and hugging their bottle.
I'll stop soon - but not yet, I like doing this and I keep thinking of people I miss and should make one for."
Crocheted hot water bottle cover in dark grey wool with orange wool used for the text.
Stitched text: 'ISO / HUG'
Type of item
2D Dimensions - Object
210 mm (Width), 360 mm (Height)