Local mask makers help keep communities safe
Wed, 10/21/2020 - 11:59am caleb
With mask accessibility and need still growing local mask makers shine
Kinzie Nena | Staff Writer
While much of the country adopted wearing masks and face coverings with worry of limited personal protective equipment, there are some in our community that have gone above and beyond to make sure that face masks are readily accessible.
Homemade masks designed with color, comfort, care, and protection have become a staple around the community. A few local women have been responsible for many of the homemade masks that are easily available.
Eva Bedell Andrews has been making masks since the call for more masks was put on the public to those who could sew and stitch.
Eva Bedell-Andrews is a full-time dietary healthcare worker at Munson Healthcare Grayling Hospital and started making masks early on for her coworkers and family.
“When the pandemic first hit and we knew we had to wear masks, they asked if I would make some because they knew I loved sewing. I am a quilter and I have a whole room dedicated to fabric in my house,” said Bedell-Andrews.
Bedell-Andrews has made about 1,500 masks and about 400 have stayed within Crawford County as she has sent them further around the country to her friends and family. Many of the mask makers ran out of materials like elastic and with different times at lock-down were unable to purchase materials at fabric stores.
Bedell-Andrews was able to make about 200 masks before she needed materials and began using t-shirt material to create the ear loops and ties, which came with its own comfort benefits. She frequently sells her homemade masks at local farmers markets.
“I’ll keep making masks for as long as they keep telling us we need to wear them,” said Bedell-Andrews.
Seamstresses like Mary Jo Forrester, co-owner at Northern Michigan Escape Rooms, who is also an avid quilter, ended up sending more masks to other northern Michigan counties in need.
Forrester along with her mother, Jo Ann Hawkins, made about 1,000 masks that they donated around Benzie County. They accepted materials and donations to purchase materials but did not charge for their masks, according to Forrester.
“We had plenty of fabric but getting elastic was tricky. All the fabric shops were closed,” said Forrester.
When the pair encountered the same issue that Bedell-Andrews did in being able to purchase the necessary materials, like elastic, they also got creative and began making their masks with hair tie elastics that could fit over and around ears easily. Forrester is still making masks as the need continues.
More dedicated women like Bonnie French and Cora Flowers lost count of how many masks they’ve made. They are two women in the community known for their seamstress work and commitments to the Grayling High School Players theater productions over the years.
“You just start making them and you just keep going,” said French.
French and Flowers also found that getting elastic for the masks was difficult and had to come up with creative solutions.
“You couldn’t even get elastic at Wal-Mart, everything was blocked off,” said French.
Sue Louchart, the former owner of Stitches by Sue, began making masks when Karen Leslie, the STEM teacher at the Grayling Elementary School, came to her back in March with a mask pattern and a request to help make masks for students.
“I’ve made about 1,300 masks,” said Louchart.
Louchart was able to get most of her supplies delivered but still could not get elastic, and instead made masks with ties. Louchart’s first 100 masks were given to the hospital, and so far another 600 were donated throughout Grayling schools, primarily the Grayling Elementary School.
“I figure I can make about 100 a week,” said Louchart.
While some mask makers sell their masks to help fund and pay for matierals, Louchart repeated that her masks were all donated and never sold. She has accepted materials and fabric over the past months to help her keep making them.
“It helps to keep me sane,” Louchart said.
Due to being high risk for COVID-19 Louchart and her husband have maintained strict social distancing to protect their health. Louchart intends to keep making masks for as long as the need exists.
Orders from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services on October 9 state that masks or face coverings are required for gatherings of two or more people.