The Quarantine Quilter - Up Close and Personal

You can’t turn on the TV or turn up the radio without hearing the latest about the global COVID-19 Pandemic, confining people to their homes worldwide. Or, in the case of Belinda Dill, a ship.

up close and personal

Belinda thought she was embarking on an ordinary holiday with her husband, Archie, aboard the Grand Princess Cruise Ship. Belinda thought she was having a bad dream when the entire vessel was quarantined off the coast of California. Just a handful of positive COVID-19 patients was enough to confine Belinda and Archie to their cabin for days on end - but in line with her positive spirit, Belinda was not defeated.

She decided to spend her time in quarantine doing what she does best.


Belinda has been quilting for just under three decades, but she could never have imagined that her hobby would one day turn her into a quarantined online celebrity (something she fervently denies!) Belinda may have been born deaf, but she’s never let that stop her from living a life of happiness and joy. She communicates by speaking and lip reading, and of course, quilting - the language of her soul.

We at MadamSew were lucky enough to chat with Belinda, who is a beloved and active member of our All About Quilting Facebook Group

We at MadamSew were lucky enough to chat with Belinda, who is a beloved and active member of our All About Quilting Facebook Group Here’s what we learned.

It all started when Belinda’s husband surprised her with the cruise as a gift. She had never been to Hawaii before, and was excited to explore the islands. Luckily, she brought her sewing machine along with her.

When she first told her husband that she planned on packing the machine, he tried to convince her against it, insisting that she wouldn’t need it. When she told her kids, they agreed with their father. They all called her crazy, explaining that she would have plenty else to do on the ship. But - Belinda was undeterred. Clearly, her inability to hear has no effect on her ability to think ahead.



So, Archie supported Belinda’s decision to pack the sewing machine. She opted for her little green 5lb Janome, instead of her heavy Bernina. According to Belinda, she did feel strange bringing the sewing machine on her cruise - but little did she know that it would soon be the most important item in her baggage.

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Before the COVID-19 cases were confirmed on the cruise, Belinda had a wonderful time in Hawaii with her husband. Just when they were en-route back to Mexico, Archie told Belinda the news. The coronavirus was on the ship, and no one would be allowed into the Mexican port. Belinda had no idea what to do, or how they would get back home to California. By Captain’s order, all passengers were to remain in their cabins for the next 5 days. This probably wouldn’t be a problem for the very-wealthy passengers with high-end suites, but poor Belinda and Archie were trapped in a tiny cabin with no windows, and no balcony.

For Belinda, the claustrophobia set in quickly.

She was filled with fear and panic, not only at the thought of being trapped in a cabin on the sea for so long, but also at the prospect of contracting the coronavirus. What if she already had it?

Belinda says her mind went crazy. She showered regularly to “wash the germs off” and cried herself to sleep - trying desperately not to let Archie hear her. It felt like a nightmare, and all Belinda wanted was to wake up.

It was one morning when she was subdued by solitude, and tired of worrying about COVID-19 pulsing through her body, that she quietly took out that little green sewing machine, and heeded the desk’s call. It told her to “come sew with me.”

And so, sew Belinda did. She quilted like she’d never quilted before, and for the first time in days, her mind wondered to something other than the virus. She thought of her family back home, and new ideas for quilting projects. She thought of her personal sewing room and how much she missed it. She felt strong. She had faith again. She prayed harder. The painfully-slow seconds turned in minutes, hours, days. Time moved faster. And that’s when she realized how long she and her husband had been symptom-free - there’s no way they could have the coronavirus! Their temperatures were tested twice a day, which also confirmed the pair’s good health.

Grateful and relieved, Belinda continued to quilt.

When she wasn’t quilting, she’d watch movies on Netflix, Facetime with her family, and enjoy the three meals they were served a day. Belinda and Archie made the best of the situation.

One day, Belinda decided to log into her property’s CCTV cameras - and that’s when she saw the snow. Her sister-in-law said everything was fine back home, albeit covered in snow. Belinda’s neighbor was still watching over their property - and the relief brought Belinda some long-overdue comfort.

Grateful and relieved, Belinda continued to quilt.

Still - she missed home.

Belinda’s quarantine felt like a lifetime. Beyond the 5 days on the cruise ship, she and Archie had to endure a further 15 days at the Travis Air Force Base.

Whenever someone calls Belinda famous, she denies it. It all seems so bizarre for her - someone who only wanted some time away with her husband. Who knew she would step off the ship as “The Quarantine Quilter”? Belinda sure didn’t.