SEQUIM — Many hands may make light work, and with the right hands, they can make quality stitch work.
During the past two months, members of the Sunbonnet Sue Quilt Club have worked to create thousands of masks and hundreds of other items like gowns for health workers.
“Being quilters, we have stashes of fabric like you can’t believe,” said club member Marilyn Williams.
Their call to action came from Avamere Olympic Rehabilitation of Sequim to club president Sharon Clayton for 100 masks because their personal protection equipment was running low as regulations began to grow to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Clayton reached out to fellow club members on March 17.
A week later, more than 200 masks were donated at a special drop-off location.
Williams said Clayton contacted more facilities, and word-of-mouth caught on about the club’s efforts.
As of May 18, 52 club members had created 4,627 face masks, 112 gowns, 75 mask extenders, eight surgery caps and 962 kits cut for masks or gowns.
“This was a really neat project to do,” Williams said. “It felt good to be involved in the community. It’s part of why I’m a Sunbonnet, because we give back so much to the community.”
One health facility administrator told Clayton she would have given her a big hug, if she could have.
“They sure appreciated the masks, and we got to reach a lot of people we normally wouldn’t have,” Williams said.
Philomena Lund led the effort to make kits after she heard Clallam County officials ask for medical masks. She issued a challenge online and via email to make 1,000 masks.
Using her own fabric, Lund made kits with 10 masks each and put them at the end of her driveway. Kits included pre-cut fabric and elastic, as well as directions.
She made 50 kits the first day, and people kept coming. She’s averaged making five kits per day.
Many people have donated supplies and sewing too, she said.
While she was working at a brisk pace, Lund accidentally cut the tip off a finger with a rotary cutter, but she said it’s healing.
The kits keep getting made and picked up by community members, she said.
“It has been a community effort for sure, and it has been incredible to be part of something so rewarding,” she said.
Lund said she feels people became so involved because they might have been scared and wanted to do something to help.
“Making masks was something many people felt comfortable enough to do,” she said, “so making masks was good for the makers as well as those who wear the masks.”
Joy and bells
Loretta Bilow, another Sunbonnet Sue Quilt Club member, said she quit counting how many masks she made after finishing 60.
“It has meant a lot to me,” she said. “I haven’t stopped making them. I still make a couple a day for family, friends and neighbors.”
Bilow continues to make Joy Quilts with others through the club, too. The small quilt wraps a stuffed animal to go to first responders and medical professionals to share with children who experience trauma or unwelcome transition in their lives.
“I’ve been with the club for 20 years, and (Joy Quilts) is one of the best things that has happened in my life,” Bilow said.
She delivered 42 Joy Quilts three weeks ago to local agencies.
Along with sewing masks, Joy Quilts and working on quilts for her newest great-granddaughter, Bilow has kept a tradition of ringing a bell every night at 7 p.m. to honor people who help the ill.
Her son, granddaughter and several neighbors participate, too.
Hold on efforts
Williams said the club placed a hold on creating more masks for the time being as they await word on a potential second wave of demand for face masks if COVID-19 concerns escalate again.
Sunbonnet Sue Quilt Club has not been meeting in recent months at the Sequim Masonic Lodge with its temporary closure and because many of their members are at higher risk of being severely affected if they get the virus, they said.
For their efforts, club member Toni Kline found and shared a pattern for long-sleeve medical gowns.
Initial donations of fabric came from the Community Quilt group, and Irene Snodgrass and Williams.
Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at [email protected].