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Making a Difference - Making Masks

April 3, 2020
By Jane Whitmore , Emmetsburg News

by Jane Whitmore

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, seamstresses have put their sewing talents to work. Faced with a shortage of medical face masks, those who can sew are making masks to fill the need.

For Elaine Sidles of Emmetsburg, sewing medical face masks is a project of love. "This is my way of giving back to family, friends and those in need," she said.

Article Photos

MEDICAL MASKS -- Elaine Sidles of Emmetsburg is one of many area quilters who are making medical face masks at home. To date, Elaine has made over 75 masks which have been given to Horizons Unlimited and Lakeside Lutheran Home, along with masks for family members. She is pictured (above and at right) sewing a mask. --JWhitmore photos

Elaine?is a quilter and knows her way around a sewing machine. She started sewing masks for nursing homes. So far, Elaine has made 32 masks for Lakeside Lutheran Home and another 40 masks for Horizons Unlimited.?Palo Alto County Hospital is now accepting home made masks, so she will be making masks for them, too.

"I started going through the fabric I had. It must be 100-percent cotton," said Elaine. "I wash the fabric in hot water, dry it in a hot clothes dryer and press it with a hot iron before cutting it into the right size pieces. Then the actual assembly can begin."

Elaine said she got the pattern/tutorial for face masks from her friend Teresa Kellenberger in Algona.

She walked through the process, starting with two 9-by-7-inch pieces of 100% cotton fabric and 6.5-inches of quarter-inch elastic. With right sides together, Elaine sews the two pieces together, inserting the elastic in the proper place and leaving an opening to turn the mask right side out. She presses the mask with an iron, then presses in folds to make three pleats. Elaine returns to the sewing machine to once again sew around the mask, securing the pleats and the elastic. Before she considers the project finished, she presses the mask one more time.

"I have quite a few cut out, but elastic is a hot commodity," Elaine said. "We can't even order elastic online. Everybody is out. I am going to keep making masks until I run out of elastic."

Elaine pointed out, "These masks are not for professional medical use. They are for people who are at-risk and have health concerns."

She explained that some home made masks have an opening to insert a filter, bringing it up to nurse grade.

Elaine Sidles has been quilting for over ten years with an ecumenical group at Bethany Lutheran Church. The quilters meet every Monday, with a group in the morning and a group in the evening. They make quilts for Lutheran World Relief and also work on their own projects.

"Normally we display our quilts at church the end of April and then take them to Minneapolis to be distributed all over the world,"?Elaine said. "We have over 300 quilts ready to go right now. I really miss my church and our quilting group."

Elaine s grateful for the donations of fabric and elastic she has received from friends as she continues to make medical face masks from home.

"I will continue to make masks until I run out of elastic," she said with a smile. "This is a project of love for me. If anyone needs a mask, let me know and I will make one."



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