To wear or not to wear a face mask during the coronavirus pandemic, that is no longer a question. Studies of COVID-19, once believed to be spread only by droplets, now reveal transmission by aerosol and droplets. And that substantiates wearing a facial covering, as recently mandated by our Minnesota Governor Walz.
Even before face mask mandates, many people started sewing masks. I had not quilted in decades or sewn in years, but I pulled out my dusty sewing machine and searched YouTube for mask instructions. Thanks to Jenny the quilt lady and Pretty Handy Girl, I found easy instructions that even a rare sewer like me could follow.
My quarantine project expanded from sewing masks for my husband and me to family members, and then into a ministry for our neighbors and friends. Our neighbors care for their elderly bedridden mother/grandmother on hospice and wanted masks to run errands. My daughter’s coworkers needed masks for their return to the lab (before that state’s second lockdown). My college-age son and his apartment mates had no masks to comply with their city’s mask mandate.
A retired Air Force friend has scarred lungs from the burn pits in Iraq. One friend and her husband live in a meatpacking town that made national headlines for being a coronavirus hotspot. I sent masks overseas to my uncle and cousins caring for my chronically ill aunt and to my professor friend in the Netherlands. When our governor mandated masks for children, I thought of my friends with kids, found small mask patterns, and sewed children’s masks.
With apologies to lyricist Sheldon Harnick, this is my parody of “Matchmaker, Matchmaker” from the 1964 musical Fiddler on the Roof:
Make me a mask,
Cover my face,
Stop COVID catch!
Find some fabric,
And make me a perfect mask.
With fabric stores closed and elastic in short supply during quarantine, aspiring maskmakers became creative. I re-purposed table runners, shirts, pillow cases, and dish towels. My husband even gave up one of his dress shirts.
A seamstress I am not, but I worked hard at my new ministry. I fought with my machine. Taped a broken spool-holder in place. Looked through the machine manual and practiced settings on fabric scraps. Ripped open poorly-placed stitches. Broke sewing machine needles. Sewed over stick pins—some I missed, others I bent. Tore up seams after mistakenly sewing nose-pieces into chin darts. Scrounged my supplies for thread. I cut coffee-bag ties for nose-pieces based on one of the expert’s tips.
And I sewed.
A neighbor contributed friendship bracelets to use as mask tie loops. Another neighbor found wide elastic; I cut it into widths that wouldn’t pull the whole ear forward. I scoured the house for mask tie options like shoelaces and took the elastic from all my sweat pants and leggings. When I used up those mask tie options, I cut up strips of t-shirts.
And I sewed. Then I dropped them off to be mailed. And prayed for God’s safety in the midst of coronavirus chaos.
[Originally posted July 2020}