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Helping others with home-sewn offerings

A local group of quilters responded to the COVID-19 health guidelines in a colorful way, by making face masks from quilting fabrics.

“We had a cousin in Michigan who was working at a hospital,” said quilter and quilting teacher Miriam Brake, of Sardis. “She had to wear the same mask for six shifts. So, I sent her a group of masks.”

Brake has taught quilting classes in Moundsville, West Virginia, and, more recently, in New Martinsville, West Virginia. When the coronavirus came to public awareness, Brake shared information about mask-making with her quilting students.

Since then, students have made masks for hospitals and nursing homes in Marietta, and Glen Dale and New Martinsville, West Virginia.

“I think the hospitals are better supplied with masks than they were at one point there,” said Brake.

Brake emphasized that their masks are not medically approved, N95 masks for patient care. But when traditional medical supplies were in short supply, Brake said, the staff at care facilities were glad to get their home-sewn offerings.

“One of my quilters was making them in batches of 20 and sending them down to Marietta Hospital,” Brake said of those early days. “The minute the nurse who picked them up, dropped them on the counter, they were gone.”

Early on, Brake distributed a pattern from a sewing church group from Rockville, Connecticut, that was sent throughout the United States.

Like many quilters, Brake made masks using her stash of quilting fabrics.

“I went to YouTube, and I got a pattern,” Brake said. “But new patterns are coming out all the time.” Masks should be made from 100 percent cotton quilting fabric, which is a little tighter woven and easier to breathe through than a synthetic fiber.

Hospital workers like ties that can give a snug fit, Brake said. Those she made had a pocket sewn in to hold a filter material like surgical draping.

For a personal or family mask such as to wear shopping, Brake recommended using T-shirt fabric cut into one-inch strips for a more comfortable tie. But she still emphasized that the masks must be multi-layered.

Using a different fabric for the inside also makes it easy to remember which side goes toward the face. Masks for children and teens also must be smaller to fit the face.

The urgent need has slowed, but the quilters continue to sew for local shops and charities. For example, Brake made masks for the employees at Rejuv 4 You, in Sardis.

“Up until this time, with all the other masks that I made,” Brake reflected, “my daughters or somebody was waiting for them. They were going to pick them up, and I was just sewing frantically to get the last mask done. The other ones just went out the door.”