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Guild members switch focus as requests for colorful face masks come pouring in

Members of the Plumas County Quincy Crazy Quilters and the quilting guild are busy creating face masks for medical personnel and the public. These are intended to help individuals keep their hands off their nose and mouth when they’re out and about. Since March 23 members have been going through their stashes of fabrics and creating masks they in turn give away. Photo submitted

Some leftover fabric, a bit of elastic and some sewing talent are being used right here in Plumas County to assist others in need of face masks to help keep the wearers just a little safer.

And it all began with a need and an idea. “Many of us were watching the COVID-19 news on March 22nd and we saw that care workers were needing face protection,” said Donna Meyers, president of the Quilters Guild.

People were so desperate to protect themselves that they were tying bandanas around their faces because they had no protective masks, she added.

That news was coupled with an article that Meyers just happened to run across about other quilter guild members making masks. This was followed up with an email from guild member Leanne Watkins asking, “Would we want to make masks?”

“I immediately shot an email to all guild board members and got an answer of ‘Yes!’ from all of them,” Meyers said.

With the proposal in the works, Watkins then sent Meyers an email for the Deaconess cloth face mask. “We Googled it and there was a video and pattern,” Meyers said.

“We realized these were simple to make and started on them,” she added.

Along with information about the pattern, guild members discovered 18 pages of establishments requesting masks. “One member, Carolyn Kenney, picked an ambulance crew in Alabama requesting masks,” Meyers explained for the group.

Just as soon as she’d whipped out a few, she sent off her package.

And then it was Meyers’ turn to help a group. “I heard from a member that her daughter was a nurse in an elder care home and was using her last mask,” she said.

With a name and a destination in mind, Meyers had a solid connection to others in need.

But that wasn’t the end of the requests. Soon someone else at another care facility in Chico put in a request. “All heck broke loose after that!” Meyers exclaimed. “It became fast and furious and I could not handle it all.”

Members were begging to help so I shot texts out to Katherine Kinne, another to Kenney and one to Mona Hill. “I stated what needed to be done and we all grabbed a job and off we went,” she said.

We have had so many Quilters jump into the project because of the stories we’re hearing of how we have made a difference in their lives,” Meyers explained about this process.

“We had a couple get three for their son in Berkeley whose employer could not get face masks.”

A daughter worried about her mother who is in the hospital wanted one for herself and mother, Meyers learned.

Reno Public Works ordered 45 for their workers because they are unable to find masks.

A local office was able to open because we found an N95 for them and offered some of our masks,” Meyers said.

In these times of isolation we do our part to help.” Meyers explained that they have an email linked to each guild member. We send mask updates to each other all day and night.”

Members, experiencing their own isolation with the governor’s stay at home order can share funny stories and picturesof mistakes they have made in their mask making.

We now have a mask for a person with three ears and a mask for a person with no ears!” Meyers said about occurrences.

We’re all connected and have agreed to continue making masks until we can get out to give each other a real live hug! And there will be a party when we’re done!”

As an aside, while the Plumas County Public Health Agency has some concerns that any homemade face mask won’t be enough protection, Meyers agrees. These masks keep someone’s hands away from the nose and mouth. They will not prevent COVID-19 from making someone sick.

With requests flooding in, Meyers said that members had made 436 masks by March 30.

Which was all part of a team effort and the guild members had a strong sense of purpose. While making one-of-a-kind creations is the original intent of the quilters’ guild and the sense of accomplishment those efforts bring, this was something new, exciting and had an importance all its own.

“I could not have done it without these gals!” Meyers said

Members are now working out of their own homes, with their own sewing machines and favorite scissors. And they’re using up pieces from their own personal fabric stash from other projects. If anyone one knows anything about a true quilter it’s that those stashes can be smaller and contained in a box or a bag. But more than likely there are closets and drawers filled with not just bits and pieces, but yards of a fabric that was just too good to resist.

While fabric seemed to be plentiful, the quilters turned facemask makers, ran into a new need. “We immediately started to run out of elastic for the ear pieces,” Meyers said. “So I put a call out on a Graeagle Facebook page. Mona (Hill) put a call out on Quincy Peeps FB page.”

More donations kept the members sewing for a time. But the threat loomed that members would soon need new suppliers.

“We also had many requests for facemasks,” Meyers said about the foreseeable issue.

It was a no-brainer that members needed a to order large amounts of elastic. But the issue wasn’t isolated to Plumas County. Other guild members caught up in the same spirit of giving also found they too needed elastic. “A member linked me up to a lace company in Idaho,” Meyers said. “I called and called. No answer.”

When they called Meyers back the following day she ordered one spool with 144 yards of elastic. “That didn’t last long,” she said.

“By this time a ¼-inch elastic had become the new toilet paper (of the sewing world), and was nowhere to be found in the U.S.”

Returning to the Idaho lace company for more elastic, Meyers learned that she had an in with the person she was ordering through. Meyers learned the woman used to vacation in Graeagle when she was a child. She said those were the best vacations ever! So happy memories could mean good results.

When this contact called back she didn’t have the quarter-inch needed, but she did have 1/8-inch elastic. “Do we want it?” she asked.

While members of the quilters’ guild were calling medical places to see who needed and wanted this home-created mask, Meyers said that Plumas County facilities seemed to be in good shape. But a Renown hospital contact in Reno requested 100 for their clinics. “They are just gearing up for the shortage,” Meyers said. And because they didn’t need them immediately guild members took on the challenge.

While the Renown spokesperson wanted essentially the same masks the women were already making they had a special request. Meyers said they wanted theirs fitted. Their masks were also lined with two pieces of interfacing for additional protection.

While creating 100 masks seemed like a challenge, Meyers said that they are assembled quickly — in about 10 to 15 minutes each. The guild also makes them for men, women and children.

“We’re donating our time, love and fabrics,” Meyers said about the process.

Some people who have heard about the program have made their own contributions. Many of these donations come from people who want to be involved, but health prevents that. “We have heard their donation makes them feel better and they are helping too,” she added.

If anyone would like one, they can contact any Quincy Crazy Quilter, or call Donna Meyers at 836-0844 or Mona Hill at 283-1736.

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