Creative thinking and a moment to share some gratitude for a someone who paid it forward

Hello dear crafty friends! I hope this post finds you and your family happy and healthy. I want to tell you that I wrote a blog post the other night and then decided not to send it. But I had a couple of very kind things happen yesterday that made me think that maybe I really should send out a blog post hello. This post is a bit longer than usual but please bear with me.

I know it has been some time since my last blog post but is not for lack of trying – my current workload has been busy and has not left a lot of time for creativity moments in my craft room. Right now, we are all in uncharted waters – most of us are subject to stay at home orders and we worry that the slightest sniffle or sneeze might mean more than those pesky, seasonal allergies. The news is filled with reports of numbers of cases, graphs with sharply rising lines, and families have lost loved ones without really having a chance to say goodbye.

Like many of you, I am subject to a stay at home order and although my job is considered essential, I try to do what work I can at home but still travel into work several days a week. While it seems that my social circle has shrunk to about the number of a poorly attended dinner party, I still come into contact with others in our community. It’s hard not to have contact with other people, right? Whether I get petrol for my car, go to the grocery store, get curbside pickup from my local scrapbook store Simple Pleasures, order takeout at a local small restaurant, take the puppy for a walk, or even to get the mail, our governor has strongly recommended wearing a mask.

As many of you know the decision by the CDC regarding masks changed late last week. Friday to be exact. And I know that the recommendation comes with some disagreement but I’m a Type A and that means I’m a rule follower. Once I saw the recommendation come in from our governor, I hopped on the internet to see what our state was recommending and checked out the Colorado Mask Project site. After reading the recommendations and watching a few videos, I set on a task to see what I could do. I knew I already had some Tim Holtz Eclectic Elements fabric. I checked multiple online stores for elastic and, alas, none. And given my sewing skills, I was not looking forward to making bias tape for ties. I also wasn’t enthusiastic about tracking down a couple yards worth of ribbon to use as the ties. So, I figured I would have to come up with something, but I had no idea what. I guess the last resort was ribbon.

Sunday evening, as my beloved was cooking dinner, I decided to just get moving on my mask-making project. The next 45 minutes could best be described as a comedy sketch peppered with some choice cuss words as I wrestled with my sewing machine. See it was one of those times when I really wish I had stuck with it when I learned to sew. My first sewing machine was a Singer that my dad bought for me at the flea market that had its own lovely cabinet. I learned enough sewing to obtain my Girl Scout sewing badge and while I learned the basics, I was pretty horrible (i.e. lead foot) with the whole darn thing. So, I started off this little project with a bit of skepticism and a whole lot of hope.

Fast forward 30 years or so from my days as a girl scout and we’re in the middle of a pandemic and my state governor decides we should all wear masks. Great. Where is that new Singer sewing machine I bought on super sale a couple years ago for stitching on paper? Oh yeah, my craft room closet.

Nothing like a little advanced notice regarding the necessity of masks, right? And considering there is a whole stockpile of medical grade masks, toilet paper, gallons of hand sanitizer, and bleach wipes at my local grocery store, I’ll just toodle on over there and pick some up when I go to grab some fresh fruit to make a pie. Not. Happening. At. All. We all know that our grocery stores are a little light on some items these days and masks are being reserved for those heroes who are working the front lines – the nurses, doctors, paramedics, firefighters, police officers, and many others who have stepped in to help. They need those medical grade masks much more than I do.

Thus, I started working on my homemade masks. I used this post on the Sarah Maker website for direction and guidance. I started thinking I would see how the first one worked came together and figure it out as I went along – kind of like doing a mixed media project. I cut the fabric from one of the lighter-colored choices from my Tim Holtz fabric stash since the recommendation is to use lighter colored fabric so you can more easily see if a mask becomes dirty. I grabbed the only thread I have besides DMC thread -- Tim Holtz’s Eclectic Elements Craft thread by Coats and made my bobbin and threaded the machine. I then used my Tim Holtz ruler and marked my stitch lines on the fabric. After fighting with my sewing machine for about a half hour (my stitch tension was all messed up), I finally got going on the sewing part. I was desperately hoping that now that the government has given me a license to drive a car that maybe, just maybe, my foot pedal action for my sewing machine would be more controlled. And voila! I managed to make a mask and it’s not the worst sewing job but I certainly won’t be winning any prizes!

Elastic with tabs

Elastic with metal tabs

And, then came the big question – how to attach it to my face. Well, nothing like a little bit of creativity, thinking outside the box, and digging around in my craft room to find something that would work. We’ve all done it right? We’ve used something in our craft rooms for something not “crafty.” I found this little plastic bag with a “Club Scrap” sticker on it that had the elastic bands with metal barbs on the ends that we use to close folios that we make. I remembered that I bought them for a project I have planned for my scrapbooking group. They seemed to be about the right size in length so I figured I would give it a try.

Eyelets for the masks

Eyelets for the masks

I grabbed my Crop-A-Dile and some eyelets and punched holes and put in the eyelets. The good thing is that the elastic ear loops can be moved to another mask – this will be great when one gets washed and I need to use the other in the meantime. And, the washing machine won’t break down the elastic as soon.

Large and small masks

Large and small masks

Here is the first one and the other two that I made from the Tim Holtz fabric. The larger one is for my beloved. Mine is the smaller one because the “adult” size was a bit too big so I had to size it down a titch. The elastic bands are just the right length because it’s not too stretched but it’s also not too loose. I did not put in a wire or pipe cleaner for the nose clip – for those of us who wear glasses those things just don’t work. The next step is to cut the furnace filter and put it inside my mask as recommended but for today in my rush to get to work on time triple folded paper towel did the job. Again, all I have to do is transfer the elastic with barbs back and forth between my homemade masks.

I decided Sunday night I would just make more masks and give them to our neighbors, my co-workers, friends, or whomever. Obviously, I’m limited by how many I can produce but I figured it was worth a try. Yesterday morning I ordered more elastic from Club Scrap and hoped that they would arrive by the weekend and then I went about my day. Late in the afternoon I received a text from my husband asking me to call Tricia at Club Scrap about my order. My first thought was that they were out of the elastic cords. When I called Tricia, we shared a very kind, lovely phone call and she inquired whether I was using the elastic for masks. When I told her yes, she told me she was going to donate the elastic cords to the cause. One of her very observant and amazing employees, Beth, called the order to her attention – probably thinking I mistyped the amount of items I needed but she quickly figured out that I was probably going to use them for masks. Beth’s careful attention to my order and Tricia’s desire to help out is what connected the three of us. I am very humbled by her kindness. It is just another way that shows that the crafting community is full of kind, compassionate people who reach across divides of language, borders, and politics to come together to take care of people. Please stop by Club Scrap and order one of their kits, some paper, and/or embellishments and thank her for her act of kindness. I have paid it forward and made a donation in the amount I would have spent on my Club Scrap order to Kidpower and to Pikes Peak Region Peace Officer’s Memorial. Both are great small non-profits in my community, both of whom have had to cancel their annual fundraising events due to COVID-19.

I do hope that all of you and your families stay healthy and safe. Take some time to make a card to send to a loved one or someone you know who doesn’t have a loved one near, put together a scrapbook page of pictures of you and your friends, or think of a happy memory and transform it into a mixed media project. A little creativity and art can be good for the soul and the brain. And, please keep on supporting our small crafting companies and small crafting stores. Many of them are deeply woven into the fabric of our communities and right now need our continued patronage and support.

Please observe the stay at home orders and follow any other recommendations and guidance provided to you by your local and state health departments – they are working tirelessly to determine the best course of action in your communities. It’s important that we all do our part. Every little bit of help counts. Please be kind to each other, check in on each other, and please take care of yourselves.

Full mask making kit

My full mask making kit!

Now, back to the sewing machine… Wish me luck!

Finished mask - banner

P.S. Dr. Leon Kelly, the deputy health director of our County Department of Health and elected Coroner will be posting a video on mask etiquette and I will update the blog when I get the link. For now, here are the recommendations for wearing masks and how to care for them. One should always know the proper etiquette for wearing a mask.

A message from Dr. Leon Kelly, Deputy Medical Director of the El Paso County Department of Health:

The CDC and your local public health department are asking you to wear a mask to help stop the spread of the pandemic coronavirus.

We know that the COVID-19 virus is spread through small droplets that exit your mouth and nose during talking, sneezing, or coughing. So, the purpose of the mask for most of us is to keep those droplets and virus particles inside your mask so they can’t infect other people. We also know that some infected people have no symptoms or can spread the virus up to 2 days before symptoms appear so it’s important that even those of us that feel well wear a mask when we’re around others.

You can help protect your friends and neighbors by wearing many types of homemade or cloth masks instead of true surgical or respirator masks which need to be reserved for our doctors, nurses and first responders. Our healthcare workers need those special kinds of masks because they have to protect themselves from even smaller droplets containing virus that are created during medical procedures or when caring for people who are very sick.

The CDC and other websites have clever and easy examples of masks you can make at home even without sewing or buying new fabric including bandannas or old t-shirts. Many of our talented and crafty citizens are making beautiful masks for friends, family, and our first responders.

The most effective types of homemade masks are made of tightly woven fabrics like cotton that can be layered and tied over the head or secured behind the ears. They should be worn well-fitted around the face covering both the mouth and nose without gaps around the edges.

However, even well-made masks, if not used properly can risk spreading infection. It’s important that while wearing your mask or taking it off or on you don’t touch the front or inside where droplets or virus particles may be. This may spread germs from your mask to your hands or from your hands back to your mask. To remove your mask, always untie it from the back of the head or pull from behind the ears. Don’t lay it down when not in your home and always fold it so that the inside is always protected from contamination.

Cloth masks should be washed in your washing machine or sink with detergent and warm or hot water once per day and never reverse without washing it first. Make a couple of masks so you always have a fresh one ready or to match your outfit.

The most important thing to remember is that wearing a mask is not a replacement for staying home, avoiding gatherings or social/physical distancing. These are the best ways to prevent the spread of disease. But when you must go out to get food, care for someone else, or exercise or if you work in an essential job where you can’t be sure there won’t be other people around, a mask is another simple but heroic action you can take to help us in our fight against COVID-19.

Stay healthy, stay safe, and stay home.

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