Introducing The 70273 Project

the 70273 project card for instagram

You’ve cleared your space – your physical, mental, emotional, and digital space – making way for something new, for possibility. You’ve pondered, journaled, and meditated . . . you know what you want your 2016 to look like. You know what you will do. You will lose weight, finish books, make 3 quilts. You’ve made your plans and are prepared to stick to them. You are in control of your life for the first time in I don’t know how long, and it feels good. Real good.

Then one night in mid-January, you stitch Nancy’s drawings while watching a multi-part documentary with your husband and your daughter, and just like that – within a space of 4-7 minutes – out go the best laid plans, the slate is cleared, your life is changed . . . 

Between January 1940 and August 1941, 70,273 physically and mentally disabled people – men, women, teens, boys, and girls – were murdered by the Nazis. Though they never even laid eyes on the disabled person they were evaluating, the Nazi doctors read the medical files and, if from the words on the page, the person was deemed “unfit” or an “economic burden on society”, the doctor placed a red X at the bottom of the form. Three doctors were to read each medical file, and when two of them made a red X on the page, the disabled person’s fate was sealed. Most were murdered within hours.

I will commemorate these 70,273 voiceless, powerless people who were so callously and casually murdered by gathering 70,273 blocks of white fabric (representing innocence and the paper the doctors read), each bearing two red X’s (representing one person), and I will stitch them together into quilts. 

The Engineer’s first comment? “I don’t think you realize how big that is.”

My response? Oh yes I do. I want this to be so big, so immense that people cannot look away, cannot say they didn’t see it.

Am I crazy? Maybe. But Bones say I can’t not do this. I can’t change history – can’t unring that bell – but I can commemorate the lives of these 70,273 disabled people in this small way.

Now I’ve done the math, and there’s no way I can do this by myself, so I’m asking for your help. You don’t have to have ever held a piece of fabric except to button or zip it. Over the next several weeks, I’ll be posting instructional posts and videos to show you different techniques you can use to make a block.

There are all sorts of other ways to get involved besides making blocks. Head here to read and get idea kindling. If something else comes to mind, please let me know.

This is a project that will unfold as it unfolds, and it will unfold here, at this digital address. I’ll be adding ideas, instructions, and inspiration. I’ll be profiling people who’ve stepped up to collaborate. I’ll run into something and ask for help. I’ll be showing the blocks as they come in and the quilts as they are stitched. If you don’t want to miss anything (and trust me: you don’t), subscribe to receive the 70273 project updates (note: if you’ve already subscribed to the blog, there’s no need to subscribe to receive project updates because you already receive anything that’s posted here, so you’ll get them.)

How can you jump in and get started?

  1. Share this post in all your social media outlets. (And please don’t just share it once. Share it as often as you will.)
  2. Make a block and send it to me.
  3. Subscribe so you don’t miss a single thing.

And hey, see those social media buttons in the upper right sidebar? Click on them to find me around e-town and keep up with project updates there, too.


  1. susantblake

    Hi Jeanne, I have two more Thoughtfully Asked Questions. Approximately how many quilts do you estimate will be made from the 70273 pieces? (I know it will depend on the sizes people choose.) And what will you do with the quilts when they are completed?

    • whollyjeanne

      Very good question, Susan. Thank you for asking. As for how many quilts, you’re right: it depends on the size of the blocks that are sent in. I just have absolutely no idea at this point. We had to come up with some guesstimate for the crowdfunding page, but we didn’t think in terms of actual number of quilts. I’ll get back with you when I have a better idea.
      As for what we’ll do with the quilts, I hope to send them out into the world far and wide. Into museums and well, where ever folks will see them. If the space is large enough, I envision them being hung from the ceiling or suspended on framing built of pvc forming a maze that people can actually walk through, giving the sense of transitioning this world into another.

      Thanks for the questions. Keep ’em coming cause not only can I not make the blocks all by myself, I can’t think of everything all by myself. I’m going to add these questions to the TAQ page right now. x

  2. Bonnie Dubbin Askowitz

    Hi Jeanne, I am very sympathetic to your project and impressed with the scope of it and your desire to do it. Please understand, however, my need to tell you that “Crystal Night” the night Jewish businesses were trashed and Jews murdered occurred in 1938. Marginalizing and disenfranchising began even earlier that that so in reality, the Holocaust, which includes the murder of disabled persons, began much earlier.
    ps. I can’t tell if this already got to you. I’ve signed up.

    • whollyjeanne

      Thank you for taking the time to comment, Bonnie. I have read so many different accounts, so many different dates, heard so many different stories – it is not my intention to overlook or misrepresent or otherwise dismiss any people. Because I am a lifelong champion of disabled people (and because I have to quantify it some way), I’m choosing to focus first and foremost on these 70273 disabled people (most likely represemting a spectrum of religions) who were murdered in this particular program instead of the dates. My fury is much broader than these 70273 people, though, please know that. I hope you will choose to participate and make one or more blocks. Again, thank you.

      • Bonnie Dubbin Askowitz

        Yes, I will most likely participate and I do understand your focus. It was just the date that got me. I wish you many, many blocks and many quilts. Also, I hope you have lots of help putting them together.

        • whollyjeanne

          Thank you for understanding and for giving me more information. I can never get too much of either. I’m going to think positively and say I look forward to receiving your block. I only launched a week ago, and already the response has been phenomenal. (And yes, I hope to have help making the quilts, too! Especially cause I’d love to see this project finished in my lifetime!)

  3. Shasta Matova

    What is the name of the documentary that you watched? I would like to see it too.

    • whollyjeanne

      Hey Shasta, It’s a well-done, comprehensive, multi-part documentary called Auschwitz: The Nazis and the Final Solution. The few sentences about this atrocity appears about 2/3 of the way through the first episode of the first season. (They don’t mention the number 70,273. That came from my subsequent research.)

      If you look at the top of my blog and tap on “70273”, you’ll see a drop down menu. Select Thoughtfully Asked Questions, scroll down, down, down and you’ll see this very question. If you click on the name of the documentary there, it will whisk you there.

      • Shasta Matova

        Thank you Jeanne. I thought I looked there but apparently didn’t scroll down enough.

        • whollyjeanne

          You’re welcome. I’m glad you asked. It’s a chilling documentary. The book I’m readings do will start writing lists about soon is even more disturbing.

  4. Baquin Chantal

    Hi, Jeane, I just see this amazing project, on french blogs ” Cécile” and ” la Ruche des Quilteuses” , as I am a longarmer, in France, I offer you to quilt …I don’t know how you organize things after collecting blocks … Can you send me an e-mail … Happy quilting ! chantal

    • jeanne

      What a wonderful, generous offer, Chantal – thank you. Sending you an email right now!

    • jeanne

      Oops – sorry for calling you by your last name in my previous reply, Chantal. Can’t blame that one on the auto-correct feature! I’ve got it now, though, so I apologize and promise to get it right form now on.

    • Chloe

      Chantal, thank you SO much for offering your services to the Project, I can’t begin to say how very grateful Jeanne and all of us are that you and so many people in France have welcomed this Project with such enormous enthusiasm! I will be in touch with you as soon as possible to arrange quilting with you, thank you so much xxx

  5. Fred Quilt

    Hi Jeanne, I’m in!
    Just a question about crosses and blocks: is it possible to piece them or have they to be appliqued?

    • Chloe

      Salut Frèderique! I hope you don’t mind me replying on Jeanne’s behalf 🙂

      The blocks can be made any way you wish at all; appliquéd, pieced, patched, or painted with fabric paints. The sole criteria are that:

      a) They are one of the three specific sizes listed

      b) That the backgrounds are white or off-white to represent the paper medical records by which the victims mental and physical health was judged

      c) That each block has two red crosses of any size, contained within 5 mm of the block edge to allow for piecing together.

      No writing is allowed anywhere within the block face: if you wish to dedicate a block to a specific person, you can write their name on the REVERSE side, within one of the cross shapes so that it is not visible from the front.

      That’s it!! So glad to have you all with us! Bises xx

      • Fred Quilt

        Bonjour Chloe ! Thanks for the details, good to know.

        • Chloe

          You are very welcome! Je vous en prie! À bientôt, bon weekend xo

  6. Kevan Lunney

    Maybe there is too much traffic? But I can’t sign on to the blog. It keeps asking me to enter a web page even tho I did.
    I am interested in helping. I will complete a quilt.
    One thought about estimating quilts is to just do it by calculating surface area, so many blocks equal so many square inches, then decide how many square inches is your desired quilt. Will they be uniform or as different as the victims?
    My experience in joining a quilt from a group taught me to always ask for at least a one inch border beyond the required size or you will get things you cannot use or will need to fill in gaps with white. And blocks ravel.

    • whollyjeanne

      Hey Kevan,

      Sorry Disqus (the commenting system) is being difficult. I’ll check into it tonight and see if there’s a problem I can fix by myself. If not, I’ll contact the support team and get them moving. Even though you entered the url for your web site, it didn’t come through. But never fear, I found your beautiful site and your beautiful work! I’m on the road today, landing later tonight, and when I do, I plan to spend some time there treating myself to a leisurely look at the photos and reading about all you’ve done.
      Thank you for offering to do a quilt. I’ll email you more about that when I’m at my computer. Each quilt is a different size because, like you say, each one is as unique as the victims, plus I want to have a quilt to fit any size exhibit venue. These goal of The 70273 Project is raise awareness of disabilities and special needs by commemorating those who died, celebrating those who live, and educating all who will listen.

      More later tonight (or tomorrow if I’m too bleary-eyed when we get there). I’m grateful and excited that you’ll become part of The 70273 Project.

      • Kevan Lunney

        Jeanne, what a lovely, warm response! happy travels.

      • Kevan Lunney

        I keep trying, still won’t work.

  7. rosieroses

    You mention possibly having the
    finished quilts displayed in museums. Have you contacted the U.S. Holocaust Memorial and Museum in Washington, D.C? There are other places that remember the Holocaust that are scattered around the U.S. (Texas, Indiana, Missouri, etc.) and the world (Israel, United Kingdom, etc.). It would be nice if they knew about your project and supplied information about displays.

    • whollyjeanne

      I haven’t contacted the Holocaust Museum yet, but they’re at the top of the list. People who live near the smaller museums are reaching out to them. If you think of anywhere else, please let me know.

  8. Mary Hollowell

    I’m glad Alison introduced this quilting service project in class. We enjoyed sewing squares for such a good cause. Good luck!

    • whollyjeanne

      Thank you, Mary, for letting your class make blocks for The 70273, for inviting me to sit in on your class one day, and for your kind, supportive words here.

  9. Lyn Ayres

    I am looking forward to making a patched piece to add to the quilts. I tried to download the Provenance Form but just keep getting an Error note!

    • whollyjeanne

      Thank you for helping us commemorate these victims, and thank you for letting me know about the trouble with the Provenamce Form. If you see this, would you let met know (if you remember) where you tried to download? I need to check all the links anyway, it’s not a big deal. I don’t just like to start with that link. Again, thanks for taking the time to let me know.

      • Lyn Ayres

        Hi, I tried to download the Provenance Form from the blog. I went into the blog on my iPad from Facebook. Regards, Lyn Ayres.

        Sent from my iPad

  10. Barbara Williamson

    What does the term “middling” mean?

    • whollyjeanne

      HI Barbara! A Middling is what we call a quilt made from a fat quarter (a piece of fabric measuring approximately 18″ x 22″.) Other guidelines include:
      Middlings must be sent to me as complete quilts.
      The base must be white or off white.
      A completed Provenance Form must be sent with the quilt.
      You can place as many red x’s as you want on the Middling, as long as all are presented as obvious pairs because two red x’s represent one person. On the Provenance Form, you tell me how many people you’ve commemorated (so I don’t have to count!)

      There’s more info here:
      And if you scroll through the blog posts, you’ll find several posts about Middlings. Let me know if you have other questions!

91 Pingbacks

  1. Presenting Block 2 of The 70273 Project
  2. The 70273 Project: Fabric Info & Sizes of Blocks
  3. The 70273 Project: And On We Grow
  4. Blocks Stitched, Painted, and Stenciled
  5. The 70273 Project: First Week Recap
  6. Any Day Now . . .
  7. Nancy Does Her Part for The 70273 Project
  8. The 70273 Project: Off and Running
  9. So You Want To Make A 70273 Block Without Sewing
  10. The 70273 Project: Week 3 Recap
  11. Talking Points For The 70273 Project
  12. Wordless Whispers
  13. It's A Family Affair
  14. Week 5 In Review
  15. A Week of Milestone Markers
  16. Week 6 in Review
  17. Weeks 8 and 9 in Review
  18. Take Your Readers to Work Day, part 1: Receive
  19. Pop Quiz (but You Get to Check Your Own Paper)
  20. Take Your Readers to Work, part 3: Numbering & Scanning
  21. Week 10 in Review
  22. Differences and Commonalities
  23. Week 11: April 24 – May 1, 2016
  24. Week 12 of The 70273 Project (May 2 to May 8, 2016)
  25. Weeks 13 and 14 of The 70273 Project
  26. A Cold Molasses Kind of Day
  27. Mail Call for The 70273 Project
  28. What’s Behind the Design of the Quilt Blocks
  29. From the Book Shelf
  30. Week 19 in Review (June 20-26)
  31. Inside Envelope 14
  32. Week 21 in Review (July 4-10, 2016)
  33. Inside Envelope 37: Alida Palmisano
  34. Making Blocks at the Cashiers Library
  35. Aktion T4: Correspondence with Families
  36. A Peek Inside Envelope 103 from Margaret Williams Herself
  37. Week 25 in Review (8/1-8/7 2016)
  38. Week 26 in Review (8/8 - 8/14 2016)
  39. Week 27 in Review (8/22-8/28 2016)
  40. An Adventure for September 2016: Let's Collaborate
  41. Inside Envelope 64: Bev Haring
  42. Why I Catalogue Every Single Block
  43. Weeks 28 & 29 in Review (8/22-9/4/2016)
  44. Berlin Memorial Dedicated to Victims of Aktion T4
  45. Inside Envelope #35: Eleanor Macmillan
  46. What happens to the quilts once they're made?
  47. An Afternoon with Roxanne Lasky
  48. Mail Call: Envelopes 9, 10, 11, and 12
  49. Transporting The 70273
  50. An Adventure for October 2016: Collaborate with Your Sibs
  51. Big News, Y'all
  52. Week 33 In Review (9/26 - 10/2, 2016)
  53. It Touched a Tender Spot In Me
  54. Meet Maker Pam Yates
  55. Meet Maker Corinne Micropoulos
  56. Week 36 in Review (10/17-23, 2016)
  57. Gifts You Don't Have to Dust
  58. Word's Getting Out: International Quilt Festival Quilt Scene 2016 Magazine
  59. Week 37 in Review (10/24-30, 2016)
  60. November Adventure: Men of The 70273
  61. A New Way to Support The 70273 Project
  62. Snowy Range Academy Students Doing A+++ Work
  63. The Channel Islands, UK Comes on Strong for The 70273 Project
  64. Week 38 in Review (Oct. 31 - Nov 6, 2016)
  65. Meet Serena Bross and Her Mom
  66. Week 39 in Review (November 7-13, 2016)
  67. Une Lettre de Mon Ami, Katell Renon . . .
  68. Living Gratitude
  69. The 70273 Card Shop Is Now Open for Business
  70. Week 43 in Review (Dec. 5-11, 2016)
  71. Quilt #29 of The 70273 Project
  72. Monthly Mixer January 2017
  73. A Handmade Christmas
  74. December's Adventure: Family Quilts
  75. Gatherers and Groups: Another Way to Make Quilts
  76. Week 22 in Review (July 11 - 17, 2016)
  77. Impact
  78. There's Gonna' be a Stitch-In in Harrisonville, Missouri on 1/28/2017!
  79. February's Monthly Mixer
  80. A New Way To Make Blocks and Quilts: Middlings
  81. Quilt #33 Made by The Coxhoe Quilters
  82. Week 48 (1/9-15/2017) Recap
  83. Happy One Year Anniversary
  84. The 70273 Project Goes Out on the Town
  85. A New Way to Make Quilts: Introducing the Long, Skinny
  86. Meme: The Smallest Things
  87. A 70273 Project Challenge – Pieceful Thoughts of My Quilting Life
  88. 70,273 Project Update – Pieceful Thoughts of My Quilting Life
  89. The 70,273 Project | CQ4Fun
  90. Propozycje udziału w konkursach międzynarodowych – Stowarzyszenie Polskiego Patchworku
  91. Time for Stretching Art 20 | knitNkwilt

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Hey, Sugar! I'm Jeanne Hewell-Chambers: writer ~ stitcher ~ storyteller ~ one-woman performer ~ creator & founder of The 70273 Project, and I'm mighty glad you're here. Make yourself at home, and if you have any questions, just holler.

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