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Sewing to save lives
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Sewing to save lives

ELKO — Needles pierce stockpiles of cotton and flannel and sewing machine motors whirl as an all-volunteer group works to stave off the spread of coronavirus infection, one face mask at a time.

Jennifer Morreale started “Covid 19 Mask Makers” on Facebook, a small army of seamstresses that has already grown to at least 200 members.

“I am more of a craft sewer,” said Morreale. “I used to sew for “Days for Girls.”

DFG is an international nonprofit group that distributes reusable sanitary pads for menstruating women.

“That’s where I started doing high quantity items,” Morreale said.

Morreale saw that Deaconess Hospital put out an online call asking people to sew CDC-compliant face masks for their staff.

“The ideal is to have disposable masks, and under normal circumstances our health care providers use a different mask for each patient and throws them away,” Morreale said. “But there are not enough masks to go around.

“Then I got an email from Days for Girls and Jo-Anne Fabrics within 10 minutes of each other that calls for everybody who knows how to sew to make these.”

Morreale said most people who sew have flannel and cotton in their stash, especially if they are quilters.

“My business got shut down Wednesday because I am non-essential,” said Niki Taylor. “I needed something to do to keep me busy and help. I am really concerned about those who are immune compromised.”

Taylor’s mother worked for Catalina, a clothing manufacturer in California, and handed down the sewing tradition to her.

Taylor shared the pattern she is using with friends and with Morreale, and Covid 19 Mask Makers was born Friday.

Morreale said the group is producing masks for health care providers, the immuno-compromised and first responders only. The group cannot provide masks for personal use.

“We are trying to keep the masks from going through as few hands as possible,” Morreale said. “Whoever is sewing drops them directly to whoever needs them. I made masks for Bald Mountain Rescue where I work. I dropped them directly at the mine rescuer coordinator’s house.”

Morreale said the recipients are advised by the CDC to wash the masks in hot water and detergent before distribution.

“What’s wonderful now is that the group has a thread where caregivers can post needs. A seamstress will respond by self-coordinating to make the masks,” Morreale said.

Morreale, an accountant, is keeping a spreadsheet to maintain a record of the transactions.

“It’s so inspirational to see everyone coming together to use their talents for good,” Taylor said. “I know between me and my friend Sally Merrill we have done over 100 [masks]. We have dropped off to mine rescuers, grocery stores, doctor’s offices and so many with compromised immune systems.”

According to Morrealle and Taylor, cloth supplies seem to be holding out pretty well. What they do need is eighth- and quarter-inch elastic and interfacing to help line the masks. They can also use more volunteer seamstresses.

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