One of These Blocks Was Made on the Space Station

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The Rest Are From Around the World!

In 2013 NASA Astronaut, quilter, and artist Karen Nyberg spent five months aboard the International Space Station. During that time she made a quilt block, which makes her the first person to quilt in orbit.

Her creation, a 9-inch square red, white, and blue star, served as the inspiration for the 2014 International Quilt Festival’s “Astronomical Block Challenge (AstroBlock).” Quilters from around the world were invited to submit a block for a global community quilt.

Astronaut and Quilter Karen Nyberg

Karen aboard the Space Station with her completed block. Photo from

In response to the challenge, NASA received over 2,400 star-themed blocks from quilters all across the globe. The blocks were sewn into 28 king-sized quilts by a team of NASA and Johnson Space Center volunteers.

“Quilt blocks from Ohio and California were put next to blocks from Australia and Japan. A New Orleans block was placed next to a block from Russia and the UK. The panels spanned the globe and the completed quilts represent a truly interconnected world.”

Karen Nyberg

The quilts were then put on display at the 2014 International Quilt Show, where quilters could meet Karen as well as enjoy the quilts.

Astronaut and Quilter Karen Nyberg

In the following video, shot aboard the space station, Karen discusses some of the challenges of creating a quilt block in zero gravity.

According to an article on Collect Space, Karen launched into space with a spool of ivory thread, five needles, and three fat quarters of fabric. What she could not bring were scissors or a rotary cutter. Learn more here.

Click here to watch the video at YouTube if it doesn’t play on your device.

While this amazing series of events may seem like old news to some, it’s fun to present this to a new generation of quilters. It’s also a great opportunity to remind us all that we are indeed part of a much larger global community with much in common.

“With a project like this, what I think is really cool, is that you can take somebody from every part of this world and find something that you have in common with them. And we really do have something in common with people from everywhere.

Karen Nyberg

Astro Block Quilt

One of the 28 Astronomical Block quilts.

Learn more about Karen, piecing a quilt block in space, and the AstroBlock Challenge at the following links:

  • Learn more about Karen the artist, quilter, and astronaut at her website.
  • Read about Karen and other female space station crew members here.
  • Learn more about the 2014 International Quilt Show and see the Astronomical Block quilts here in an article by Cindy Campbell. You may need to click on the image links to get the quilt photos to load (they’re large so be patient).
  • Get more details about the challenges of creating a quilt block in space here and here


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