There’s no place I’d rather be than in my sewing room quilting. That was before the coronavirus pandemic pushed the pause button on life as we know it.
A week and half ago, I put aside my latest project — a cheerful crazy quilt for a friend who is battling breast cancer — and started making washable face masks. What started as a small effort to mask my family soon accelerated to making masks as if I were a production-line sewer.
“ ‘I don’t need the money, but I do need my friends and family.’ ”
At the end of a book-club meeting over Zoom ZM, +5.56%, I asked if anybody needed a washable face mask. Pretty soon, I had a bunch of text messages from friends telling me their hobbies, favorite colors and pets, so I could add a personal touch to the face masks I was making for them.
I texted my Friday Walkers’ Group. Instead of arranging our weekly meet-up, I arranged times for them to pick up their masks off my front porch. I posted a picture of my son on Instagram FB, +2.91% in a garish golf-balls mask, and all of a sudden my text messages blew up with neighbors saying, “Rumor has it, you are making masks…”
More than one person has asked me how much money I want for my masks. I say the same thing each time: “I don’t need the money, but I do need my friends and family.”
The other day, I left the house to donate blood and a fellow donor asked where I got my great mask. I told her I made it and she begged me to please make her a mask too. Her neck scarf kept falling down. And, oh, by the way, she liked cats. Cat-themed masks have been my most-requested creation.
Dispatches from a pandemic: Letter from New York: ‘New Yorkers wear colorful homemade masks, while nurses wear garbage bags. ‘When I hear an ambulance, I wonder if there’s a coronavirus patient inside. Are there more 911 calls, or do I notice every distant siren?’
Some of the ‘ugly’ masks that Laura Snow has been making on her Singer sewing machine.
I personally love to make masks with a travel-themed fabric that asks, “Are we there yet?” I’ve also been pulling out all my largest print florals, my boring mistake grays, teal and pink baby fabric and the too-bright cupcake patterns. Even ugly fabric makes a great face mask.
I donated my first batch of 90 masks from my doorstep in Burbank, Calif., where I attached a baggie full of masks on a clip magnet to our mailbox. There are currently another 115 masks on my sewing table. I sent masks to friends and family in New Orleans and Virginia. I’ve promised to deliver another 95 masks to the assisted living facility where my mother in-law lived. I have to deliver those myself to the director, as the door is locked and no visitors at all are allowed.
“ By staying so busy, I don’t have to think about when we can fly family in to hold a funeral for my mom. ”
The iron burn on my hand and the sliced finger glued back together don’t deter me from my mission. In fact, by staying so busy, I don’t have to think about when we can fly family in to hold a funeral for my mom, who passed away on March 13 from complications of a broken hip. I don’t have to think too deeply about our business — a niche manufacturing company called ProtecTarps, Inc., which has supported our family for the last 18 years — and how we shut the doors last week.
Instead, I’m grateful. We were able to visit with mom until the end. We have the resources to pay our employees’ salaries, at least this month. I put my head down and sew and think the rest of the world has the same fears and anxieties. We will all get through this.
I know the few hundred masks I will end up making and donating is just a small assist in this chaotic and uncertain time worldwide. I look forward to the days ahead, when we can hug our greetings instead of waving and talking behind masks six feet apart.
Grateful friends have left supplies of elastic and fabric, a bag of homegrown grapefruit, a platter of homemade gefilte fish and horseradish for our Seder plate, and even cash from the fellow blood donor, “just for supplies,” as she said in her thank you card.
For now, my greatest reward is that I get to say hello to friends as they pick up their stash of masks from my doorstep.
Read also:‘When somebody is president of the United States, the authority is total.’ Can President Trump save the U.S. economy and save lives from coronavirus? ‘It’s appalling to attach a dollar number to a human life — for noneconomists’
This essay is part of a MarketWatch series, ‘Dispatches from the front lines of a pandemic.’