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Volunteers use sewing machines to fight virus

Sewing enthusiasts get to work to make protective masks

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PRINCETON — When news spread fast that the nation was facing an N95 mask shortage, sewers everywhere jumped on their machines in an effort to sew what they could to help fulfill the shortage.

Locally, many sewers in Princeton have put out messages on their Facebook pages letting people know they are making masks and giving them away for free to anyone in need.

Tabetha Morton of Princeton was lying awake one night last week not able to sleep when she stumbled upon an online video showing how to make CDC-approved masks. She shared it on her Facebook page so she could go back to it, and by the next day her close friend, Jenna Scanland of Princeton, was texting to see if she was serious about making masks.

Morton said she was, and they decided to team up and work together via phone calls, text messages and Facetime.

Morton said she had plenty of fabric on hand, and with the governor’s shelter-in-place order, she decided to make the most of her time at home.

The two women decided Morton would sew adult masks, and Scanland would sew masks for children. They’re hoping to sew at least 100 for each.

“I’m bored. I don’t have anything to do. Sewing is definitely one of the hobbies I enjoy, and I have a ton of fabric,” Morton said. “We just want to help.”

In just two days, Morton had 55 masks made and was just waiting on elastic.

With so many people rushing to the store to buy elastic for mask making, there’s a local shortage of it right now. Morton has found a pattern that allows for fabric ties on the mask, but Scanland is waiting on elastic for the masks she’s making for children as she was thinking about those children who can’t yet tie a knot.

Scanland was able to track elastic online and is just waiting for it to arrive in the mail.

When it does, she and Morton plan to finish their masks and start giving them away to whoever needs them.

“It’s important. People need it. They want it. I know there’s a shortage out there, and if we can make these for adults for just getting in and out of their car, it’s worth it,” Scanland said.

“It’s helping to stop the spread, which is what we want so we can get back to our loved ones. We all miss each other. Knowing we’re doing something to ease someone’s mind, even though it’s not going to prevent it, it’s helping.”

Right now, the masks being made by local sewers are being distributed by word of mouth or through their Facebook pages.

Scanland is also looking for a local place where the masks can be taken and given away safely so people do not put themselves at risk of being exposed to the virus.

“This is just for people’s comfort and safety. We know this is something that isn’t going to prevent COVID-19. It’s something for the families to wear if they have to leave the house,” she said. “We want to find a way to get them out without people being put at risk of being exposed.”

Jean Fossum of Princeton has been sewing for around 40 years, and when she heard about the mask shortage, she also decided to jump in and start sewing for people who needed one.

She said she has a lot of friends who are nurses and family members who are fighting cancer, and she thought of them when she heard there was a mask shortage.

She put the word out that she was sewing masks and even got feedback from people in need who live out of state. She’s also planning to drop off a supply at Perry Memorial Hospital.

“I hope they work,” she said. “It’s just fun. I love to sew, and I love to give where I can.”

Carin van den Berg of Princeton also got to sewing and put out a Facebook message that she would sew a mask for anyone in need. She also included in her message that her masks do not replace the N95 masks, “but in an emergency in health care, cotton masks are allowed because it is better than nothing,” she stated on her Facebook page.

“They will work for people who are immunocompromised or at risk, or who go out in public for their weekly shopping trip, work or an appointment, and they do not have a mask.”

Van den Berg also shared she has allergy-induced asthma, and the more the CDC tells people not to touch their faces, the more her hands involuntary go to her itchy face.

“(The mask) will put one more layer between my face and getting exposed if I go on my weekly shopping trip,” she stated.

“It is calming and a blessing to me to sew, so please accept this as a gift.”

When Morton became aware that it wasn’t just her and Scanland sewing masks in the community, she said “thank goodness.”

“There are so many others in the community, and if we all work together, we’re going to have a mass supply of masks to help when this or if this virus hits Bureau County,” she said.

“It’s not going to protect you 100 percent. It’s not a vaccine. You still may catch this virus, but at least the masks will help slow down the spread.”

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