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 face 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. One friend and her husband live in a meatpacking town that made national headlines for being a coronavirus hotspot. My retired Air Force friend has scarred lungs from the burn pits in Iraq. I sent masks overseas to my uncle and cousins caring for my chronically ill aunt and to my university professor friend in the Netherlands. When our governor mandated masks for children, I thought of my friends with kids, and I found small mask patterns.
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.
So I sewed.
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 and sewed.
Then I dropped off and mailed. And prayed for God’s safety in the midst of coronavirus chaos.