By Debbie Adams
The Thrasher Quilters have been meeting on Tuesday mornings for many years at Thrasher Memorial United Methodist Church, creating quilts and other handmade items for those “that need a bit of loving care.” The group was organized by Jan Dickens in 2012. Some members are expert quilters, seamstresses, and crafters. Others, even if they don’t sew, come for the camaraderie and fellowship and to help with the backup jobs that need to be done— cutting fabric, tying knots for quilts, and other necessary tasks.
The group has made quilts for countless local organizations.
The quilters have recently taken on another vital task in these disturbing times— making face masks to protect the community from COVID-19.
The Thrasher Quilters and other church members have made and distributed over 450 fabric masks in the past three weeks. A number of agencies needing them have received them. Requests are still coming in. The Thrasher Quilters are working from their homes and individually bringing them to a collection point— the picnic shelter at the church.
Dickens heard from another church member, Carol BeVille, about the need.
“So, I passed the word, and Voila!” said Dickens. “Quilters are doing another mission!”
“Now we have a problem, though,’ Dickens said. “There seems to be NO 1/4″ elastic left in the world. But some of us are making them with ties. Then, we hear that there are problems with the suitability of some of the fabrics used, so some stopped temporarily.”
Some are making their own ties (17 to 18 inch pieces to fit around the head with an added bow allowance from fabric), some using narrow bias tape, some cross grain ribbon (satin ribbon proved too slick), modifying as needs are developing. The ties actually seem to be more comfortable than the elastic. Some are adding a small metal piece for the nose, some with pockets for those who want to add a filter.
“I suggested everyone use sheets since they are more closely woven, obviously washed and bleached, for the inside, then 100 percent cotton for the outside and ties.
“There’s a boatload of tutorials on Facebook, and people use what works best for them,” she explained. “I’m making some for family members– a nurse and doctor– who actually need them for their work and can’t get them. I think we just need to see what comes next. There are many participants from many ministries. Some masks have been shared with Thrasher folk and some with families.”
Dickens received an email from her nephew’s wife, Debbie, in Falls Church, who said, “Reaching out to see if you could make me some face masks. I am given a mask at work to wear for multiple days. I do not want to wear it in public. I would wear it in the grocery store to protect other people around me (I have been working with COVID patients) and should I get sick, I can try to keep everyone at the house from getting sick. I will wash them in the washing machine. I would like eight– two for each member of my family. You are the only real sewer that I know.”
Jan’s response was, “I made a bunch for medical personnel around here but ran out of elastic! If you could stand the ties, I can do them. I use old (of course, washed and bleached) sheeting for the inside, so they’re a little more closely woven than ordinary cotton.”
There are other groups across the valley making masks as well. The Makers Task Force-Southwest Virginia formed just a few weeks ago on Facebook. Courtney Tolley, a William Byrd graduate and Bedford County resident, and a couple of others formed the group after they saw the need.
According to Mary Beth Layman, who is a member of the Facebook group and has also made masks for Thrasher, the Makers Task Force currently have requests totaling 1,100 for fabric face masks. Many have been made and distributed already.
“Over 700 people are part of the Facebook group making masks, scrub caps, and printing shield parts on 3D printers,” said Layman. “They have several collection points in the valley for the folks to drop off completed items. They have an organized a Facebook page for routing requests, maker directions, answering questions, fabric and supply donations, etc.”
Dickens says she and her husband Denny are staying home and staying safe. Her husband had a severe case of pneumonia last year, so she is trying her best to keep him inside— although he’s an avid golfer and that’s been tough.
“He really misses golf and played last week for the last time,” she said. “I had to almost tie him to the chair to keep him home this week.” That’s a cabin fever feeling many can identify with.