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Finding Purpose: Facemask Making

The Covid-19 Shelter-in-Place order means that we are home … all the time. Some of us are working more than ever, some of us are barely working and some of us have lost our jobs. Some of us are taking classes or helping our kids take classes. Some of us are parenting a lot more than we are used to. Some of us are lonely.

Many of us are looking for ways to help.

Two people with ties to Covenant are doing that by making facemasks. Covenant member Maria Raper and Covenant preschool teacher Julie LaChance quickly hauled out their sewing machines, rounded up fabric and got to work.

Rekindled Friendships, Positive Responses
Maria said she was depressed when businesses started closing. She was scrolling through Facebook when she saw a post from the Hospice Austin volunteer coordinator asking for volunteers to sew facemask covers for hospice clinical staff.

Maria said, “I thought, ‘I can get the word out on this request.  I can sew and I have fabric that would work for this.’”

So Maria went to work. She found patterns online and DIY videos. She joined a Facebook Group, Care Mask Covers for COVID-19. She started making washable masks that have fabric ties, channels for elastic, a pocket for an insertable filter and a nose channel built-in. “This mask takes more time to construct than some of the other patterns, but I am hoping that when this virus passes, people will continue using them, whether it’s for yard work, allergies or keeping the dust out of your nose and mouth when cleaning out the attic."

When Maria started making masks, she had leftover quilt fabric, her mom’s sewing machine and a big box of sewing notions. She reached out to neighborhood groups, and several people donated fabric. Maria started making masks by herself in a bedroom, has since moved to the family room and is now enjoying the help of her college-age daughter, Alana.

In the beginning, the plan was to sew enough to give to Hospice and makeamaskaustin.com and stop.  As the virus continued to turn our world upside down, my husband asked if we could make a few for his employees who had to still interact with the public. Then I learned that my god-daughter and niece and other friends were having trouble getting n95 masks and were trying to find fabric masks to cover them to make them last longer. So, I mailed some to Houston and Midland. Then I started worrying about my older friends in the church and sent a few more out.” 

Maria has now provided masks for family, high school and church camp friends, immune-compromised friends and even an Oregon friend she met through their mutual love of the Basenji dog breed. “There has been joy in sending these but even more joy in the friendships that have been rekindled as a result of these masks,” she said.

Meaningful Task, Meaningful Fabric
Meanwhile, across town, Covenant preschool toddler teacher Julie LaChance and a good friend started researching facemasks; the two happened upon madeeveryday.com. The blog, written by a Georgetown seamstress, talked about making masks for hospital employees. Julie and her friend knew they could help. Not only were they proficient seamstresses, but Julie had worked at a sewing shop, so she had an ample supply of fabric.

Julie initially planned to provide masks for healthcare employees at Austin Regional Clinic, but after some back and forth, the clinic determined that it needed higher quality masks. So Julie emailed her parents and her family, and she offered masks to her neighbors and others who lived nearby. She started with her older neighbors, then emailed the entire neighborhood and posted the offer on her Facebook page. “I put a box on my porch and told people to come and get them. I made them for John’s coworkers, my coworkers, even the employees at Twin Liquors. I made them for basically anybody that we knew.”

Julie said there was a short break in demand, but the day we talked, Austin had just ordered everybody to wear a facemask outside their house.

“It’s slowed down a little bit,” Julie said. “I thought I was caught up, but with the new stay-at-home and masks rules, I’ve gotten more requests.”

All told, Julie has made 220 masks (although that number has certainly grown since we chatted). The first weekend, her husband cut fabric and she completed 50 masks. She now averages between 10 and 20 a day, depending on how her three kids’ school assignments are going and other things, like cooking, that come up.  Julie sews in the bedroom. Her daughter hangs out with her, turns the fabric inside out and irons. They watch Glee while they work.

Julie says making facemasks has been a positive outlet. "It helps with my own anxiety about all this for me to be busy. I feel like I'm being useful.

“It’s fun to use the fabric that I’ve had for a long time,” Julie continued. “I’ve used scraps from the first quilt I made, and for a dress I made Lucy when she was little. All this fabric is meaningful for me, and I love it that it’s going out into the world and being meaningful for someone else.”

Do you have a story about how you’re lending a hand during the Covid-19 shutdown? We want to hear it. Email us and tell us what you’re doing.

Posted by Stephanie Schultz at 10:23 AM
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