Quilters patching holes in mask production

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Local group sewing masks for hospitals, nursing homes

  • Sunshot by Michael Hall — Annie Dunn, owner of Annie’s Pretty Pieces, shows off a mask in progress at her store last week in Hartwell.
    Sunshot by Michael Hall — Annie Dunn, owner of Annie’s Pretty Pieces, shows off a mask in progress at her store last week in Hartwell.
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Visitors have been far-and-few-between for the past few weeks at Annie’s Pretty Pieces in Hartwell, but a steady stream of quilters have been coming through to pick-up supplies for a local effort aiming to ease the shortage of masks during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Annie Dunn, the store’s owner, has been sewing masks herself during her spare time to aid in the locally driven effort started by Quilters from the Hart. Her store is one of the only shops in town where the materials required for hospital and nursing home satisfactory masks can be found.

“Everybody should have to do what they can and whatever little bit, whether it’s checking on your neighbor or whether it’s making masks because you have the ability,” Dunn said. “I’m not going to have the materials for 20 more people to start making masks because it’s not available for me to order right now, so I think we all just have to do what we can do.”

Even though supplies are beginning to run low, members of Quilters from the Hart have now quilted more than 100 masks to go to local hospitals and nursing homes free of charge since starting the effort on March 26. Dunn said numerous individuals have come in to get supplies for quilting masks as well. 

While the masks won’t protect against the novel coronavirus, local hospitals and nursing homes are still accepting the masks to be used in everyday situations other than dealing with a possible COVID-19 patient. Individuals are purchasing the masks too, considering the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, such as the grocery store.

Quilters from the Hart has been around for more than 20 years, sewing about 100 to 150 quilts per year for veterans, nursing homes and a children’s hospitals as well, member Lynne Shaw said.

Shaw said the process of making the masks is tedious, taking her about 30 minutes to complete each mask, but definitely worth the time and effort knowing it’s helping people.

“The replies we’re getting are just so exciting,” Shaw said. “Because they didn’t know what they were going to do and they were running out. So they’re very, very appreciative of whatever we can do.”

The cost to make six masks runs around $9 to $10, Dunn said. But for Quilters from the Hart, the Hartwell Rotary Club chapter is helping by purchasing the batting needed for quilts and masks, Quilters from the Hart President Joanne Gordon said.

“We make our own quilts, but we also want to contribute to the community in any way we can,” Gordon said.

The masks are made of quilter’s cotton, bleached or unbleached muslin fabric that is finer and doesn’t allow as many particles through, a non-woven fabric that the CDC recommends as a filter in the middle and elastic, Dunn said. 

With materials in low supply, though, Dunn said she’s looking at different designs in an attempt to keep making masks even though they can’t order critical materials such as elastic right now.

“I figure someday that there will be enough (masks) available in the actual medical-grade stuff that we won’t have to do this quite so much,” Dunn said. “But I don’t know when that will happen either.”