Masks for the masses: local crafters use skills, supplies to create cloth face coverings

MEEKER | The narrative around wearing a face mask has changed dramatically since the early days of COVID-19 — just weeks ago, in the U.S. It’s unclear whether the early guidance that masks weren’t recommended for the general populace was based on known shortages of personal protective equipment for medical providers or fears people would try to hoard medical-grade masks the way they were hoarding toilet paper and hand sanitizer. As the virus spread through the United States, guidelines changed, and as they did, local crafters and quilters went to work.

Pattie Terp has been sewing for 50 years. She’s not a quilter, she says, but she’s been sewing for a long time and is a proud member of the Walbridge Wingnuts craft and sewing group that makes and sells handmade items to support the residents of the Walbridge Wing.

When Amber Goodenow, a nurse at the Wing, reached out to Terp and asked for cloth face masks for staff to wear, Terp and fellow Wingnut Elaine Jordan made about 25 masks each in response.

Then she posted something on Facebook.

Since then, Terp has made 525 pleated cloth masks for friends and family, and donated to local businesses like the grocery, the drugstore and the bank.

“It’s my way of giving back to the community,” Terp said.

“Do what you can, and stay safe,” Terp said, acknowledging her concern about people who aren’t wearing masks when they go out.

Terp and Jordan aren’t the only ones who have stepped up to their sewing machines to do something positive and proactive in the face of a pandemic. Jan Keller, Peggy Shults, Melinda Parker, Sue Irwin and Hannah Turner have all been making masks, along with Twila Morris, Susan Bellamy, Linda Jones, Viney Bowman, Pat Daggett and Christine Halandras, along with multiple others.

Jan Keller and Peggy Shults made 100 masks to send to Hopewest hospice volunteers in Grand Junction to start.

“Then I made 10 for the Hopewest volunteers here,” Keller said.

When someone mentioned having masks available for people coming to the food bank at the Methodist Church, Keller and Shults made dozens more to be handed out, for free, to people going through the food bank’s drive-through pick-up, as well as making some for their own family members and friends.

“It feels good to be able to do something to help,” Keller said.

Keller, who is a quilter, said she dug into her fabric stash, and they raided the collection of fabric donated for the “comfort quilts” the quilting group makes.

While “quilters always have thread,” and the group combined their supplies, they had to get creative when it came to elastic for the ear loops. They’ve used hair ties, and T-shirt “yarn.”

Keller said making the masks has made her more aware of what she touches when she goes out, and that she’s planning ahead more for trips to the store and such.

At this time, all Colorado residents, including those in Rio Blanco County, are urged by public health officials at the state and local levels to wear a cloth face covering whenever they’re out in a public setting — shopping at a store, going into the post office, or anytime they can’t maintain social distancing.

If you live in Rio Blanco County and need a mask, please contact the Herald Times at 970-878-4017 or message us on Facebook.