Living in the Age of COVID-19: The President Should Sew Masks


I finished 60 masks and took them to the Jackson Friendly Home last week. This was a fun project and one that I have an emotional motivation for. First, I believe that having cloth masks will become increasingly important as people start moving and mingling more. Second, I have warm memories of the Friendly Home and an appreciation for its heritage.

When our children were young we picked up a lady who lived at the Friendly Home and took her to church every Sunday. We became friends and our daughter shared a memory of Miss Thatcher when I told her where I took the masks. Sharon visited Miss Thatcher and when they went to her room, she brought out a “big” box of greeting cards she had received over the years, gave Sharon some scissors and paste and told her to have fun. Sharon says she was so excited and was contently busy for a looooong time – and then they went around to visit Miss Thatcher’s friends. Sharon loved seeing what each woman had in her room, walking around looking at everything as the friends chatted a bit.

The Friendly Home is a low-cost housing for women over 65 with meals and some assistance with tasks of daily living. My husband says it was started for widows of the Civil War. I’m going to have to research more of its history.

I still have some masks in various stages of development for the local Big Brothers/Big Sisters program. I’ve set them aside for a little while so I can focus on a wall hanging I’m making for our Florida residence. Piecing quilt tops provides me with the delusion that I am in control – I become obsessed with getting colors and composition and construction perfect.


This is when I had 3 1/2 inch blocks laid out on a felt board – when I was studying it and changing blocks, then studying it a little longer. I slept on it and changed a couple more in the morning. When I thought I was satisfied (it was perfect) I started sewing the blocks together in rows, making it a little closer to being whole. With the sewn rows back on the felt board I sat and looked some more and added another row of pieces to the top and side so the pattern created a balanced composition. Adding new blocks to the pattern resulted in some small pieces that were no longer working in the already finished parts. Some of the blocks that weren’t working were already sewn in a row. Sometimes making things right means that I have to take apart a section and rearrange it.

I wish I had the same power over my country as I have over my quilt projects. This virus seems to making the broken parts more glaring. I see reports of how society isn’t working, and I feel the pain and fear over and over as new populations are impacted and ill informed people in power are making really stupid decisions and doing really stupid things.

My disdain for the parts of our country that values greed is growing. My disdain for people who are self-centered and mean is growing. I long for a world that works for all people. This pandemic hits everyone so some people believe it is a leveler. They believe that with the covid virus no one is special and privileged. Look, it has even struck the White House.

But this isn’t what I am seeing. As I am making sense of the carnage of the virus I see the disproportionate number of people who are afflicted both medically and economically are those who have always lived on the way outer edge of privilege. They are the people who the government feels may need to die for our economy to be healthy. These are the people who serve others, who take care of the privileged. These are the people least likely to have health care, or trust the system enough to go for help. These people are considered ‘those people’ over there, on the edge, not worth helping because they can be replaced.

Yes, the president says that some people may need to die for us to rebuild a strong economy before the next election. That’s what he needs, and he needs it fast. Maybe he needs to learn how to quilt, or sew masks for the people who work in the White House.

Living in the Age of COVID-19: 3/28/20


White Rainbow Root, 2008, Steve Tobin (Naples Botanical Garden)

I have been moved and angered by the lack of personal protection equipment (PPE) for the people who are working in healthcare, trying to test people who think they have been infected and are scared, and people who are treating and trying to save people who are really sick because of age and pre-existing compromising conditions. I have been feeling helpless so decided to make masks after the leader of our sewing group at church circulated a pattern. Actually it hasn’t been that straight forward.

I became paralyzed as I read comments on the website for the pattern. There was a lot of discussion about what material could be used between the two layers of fabric and other links to follow for information. One site ( gave results of some research they did on different fabrics/materials that are readily available for improvised masks. When breathability was factored in they determined that pillow cases and cotton tee fabric were the best choice. Note: this information, like most information passed around the internet, didn’t provide enough information and there seemed to be holes in their research. But this is a crisis and sometimes we just have to do something, because something that may be flawed is usually better than nothing at all if there aren’t good options available.

The pattern suggested double layers of fabric with some kind of filtering in between. I have lots of quilt fabric, most of it very good, finely woven fabric, so I was ready to go. I tested double layers and found I couldn’t breath through it so I decided on a single layer. But then I wondered whether there was some way to hold another layer (coffee filters were suggested somewhere).

This is where I made a seismic shift. I decided to stop thinking and just do it. I have always been a thinker more than a do-er but they need masks now – not after I get all my thinking done. I am moving ahead using up all appropriate fabric that I have in Florida and will find people who can use them later. So far I have made about 20 of them this week and gave 10 to friends in our condo community. These don’t protect against COVID-19 as is but will definitely keep us from touching our face when we shop for essentials.

This project is good for me. As I have been sewing I have thought of the women who rolled bandages for the Red Cross during the Civil War and WWI. I have thought about victory gardens and rationing. I have shifted my thinking from how to make a perfect mask to how to be a good citizen. I have stopped myself from going out to public places because staying home may be hard for me but it is good for society. I have quieted my fears that leads me to buy more than I need this week because I want there to be enough for everyone to have some. Someone at the pool (observing social-distancing) said I should be selling the masks – but this isn’t the time to be making extra money I don’t need, its the time to be helping people. We are fighting a battle against a silent but deadly enemy that is so different that it is changing who we are in ways that we won’t understand for many years. I am wondering whether the health of our society requires we give up some of our personal rights and privileges for the “common good.” I’m think on this.

Let’s keep those rainbow roots watered.