Prompted by the COVID-19 threat, my sister sent a face mask pattern. She said that face masks reduced the spread of a virus outbreak in Asia. She stitched a few masks for herself and friends. I looked at the email. I printed out the pattern. I left it on the sewing table.
My son asked if I would make a few face masks for himself and some friends. I gathered fabric, elastic and a simpler pattern to make the masks requested. I even made face masks for my husband and myself.
Then I stopped. Few people wore masks. It felt suffocating. Debates sprang up over the efficacy of masks. Masks helped. They didn’t help. They made things worse. I did not feel compelled to sew anymore until I received an email, “The nursing home requested face masks for residents and staff,” I sewed. I passed along the request to others with sewing machines and skills. We made a couple of deliveries.
A newly initiated Facebook page “Sew You Care” popped up on my computer in March. The page coordinates fabric, elastic, and volunteer sewists with requests for masks.
“I finally completed 100 masks in one day.” I read with astonishment.
“I am so tired, I am taking a break for a day and sewing a quilt.”
Pictures showed ironing boards lined with neatly stitch masks with elastic loops or hanging ties.
Fabric offered in New York was shipped to a seamstress in New Orleans. The finished masks returned to New York to protect elderly members of the Seneca Tribe.
Eight weeks into the project the administrator of Sew You Care announced the official tally. “We have completed 100,000 masks.”
In Lancaster, Pennsylvania near my son’s home, he said, “I saw a road side stand selling face masks on the way to an appointment today.” His daughter told him of two others.
Someone asked, “When will we have enough? When will the crisis be over?”
I wondered the same for Union County. Cheryl Splawn at El Dorado Connections fielded additional requests for clinics and nursing homes. I made up another batch of face masks. My husband delivered them.
Not everyone can afford to sew and give away hundreds of dollars worth of fabric. Lauren McGarrh at the Union County Home Extension Office announced fabric had been donated specifically for volunteers to use in making face masks.
Not everyone could afford to work for free. With lay-offs, folks with the skill and machines, stitched and sold colorful face masks.
A friend asked for a couple face masks. No problem. I knew the drill. I finished the masks in an hour. I felt good about my speed until I watched a video of man sitting at an industrial machine whipping out a mask in less than five minutes.
Individuals depleted their personal stashes of fabric working away on machines day after day. They Celebrated their secret power, “I can sew face masks.”
A tired seamstress posted, “When will the need end?”
“When the clothing industry realizes the need,” I wrote.
Within days I read reports of a national chain store selling its stock of face masks at one store in 15 minutes. Ads began popping up of other clothing stores offering face masks for minimal cost.
So while the COVID-19 may last for another year or two, I anticipate an increasing availability of inexpensive cloth face masks. Those sewing at home can see a glimmer of a light at the end of the tunnel of stitching. It’s not here yet. It’s coming. For now, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your labors and keep on stitching.