‘Sewing army’ at the ready
19th Ward quilt shop among those on mask duty
By Steve Metsch
With Illinois residents required to wear masks when out of the house – per the order of Gov. JB Pritzker – but you might have a hard time finding one for sale in a store.
With that in mind, it may behoove some to make their own mask, a task that isn’t too difficult, according to two women at a Southwest Side quilting store.
Their “sewing army” has created more than 3,700 masks. You can make your own by getting a pattern on their website www.thequilterstrunk.com.
Chicago Ald. Matt O’Shea (19th) has donated fabric to make 2,400 masks to fight the corinavirus pandemic. Lisa Wilberding, left, and Katie Nathwani of The Quilter’s Trunk said their “sewing army” is busy. (Photo by Steve Metsch)
Katie Nathwani and Lisa Wilberding, owner and manager, respectively, of The Quilter’s Trunk, have teamed with Chicago Ald. Matt O’Shea (19th) to make masks more accessible for more people. O’Shea is donating fabric for 2,400 more masks.
The masks – sewn by members of the community – are donated to first responders and medical personnel.
A tub filled with fabric and kits for masks is outside the front door. Another tub is for completed masks that are later distributed.
“It’s just a couple of rectangles. You do some longer rectangles. And that’s it. Nothing to it.,” Wilberding said as she used a sewing machine to produce another mask.
“You turn it inside out, fold it to make the pleats, sew it all the way around,” Wilberding said. “We’re out of elastic. The pattern we have uses (fabric) ties.”
“It takes Katie and I about 20 minutes (each) to make a mask. It’s not bad at all,” Wilberding added.
Nathwani is happy that O’Shea, whose office is literally across the street from the store, has stepped up.
“They’re subsidizing the cost of the fabric that we’re making available. So far, we’ve provided a fabric to make 3,700 masks and another 2,400 on the way thanks to the generosity of Matt,” Nathwani said.
“Then we’re relying on our really generous customer base to sew the masks … Our customers collect the kits we leave in a tub by the door, take them home. There’s a free pattern available on our website.”
The Quilter’s Trunk knows a few things about sewing. It was just named the top shop in the country by Better Homes & Gardens Quilt Sampler magazine.
The Quilter’s Trunk is on the cover of the Spring/Summer 2020 edition that was released in April. The store opened in September 2015.
“It’s important that we all wears masks and it’ important that we look good. And I think I look pretty good in this,” O’Shea joked, his smile hidden by the fabric mask over his nose and mouth.
“I would argue The Quilter’s Trunk is an essential business, by providing nearly 4,000 masks to hospitals, police stations and senior nursing homes on the Southwest Side. It’s much needed and we certainly appreciate their ‘sewing army’,” O’Shea added.
Quilter’s cotton has a high thread count and is an effective covering, Nathwani said.
If you don’t know how to sew but want to support the effort, O’Shea said “everybody can support” the cause by making a financial donation.
“I’m proud to report that overwhelmingly, people are adhering to the stay-at-home order,” O’Shea added. “Stay at home, save lives. But also, as we’re here today discussion, they are wanting to help out. If we continue to stick together, we’re going to get through this okay.”
The sewing army is widespread, Nathwani said. Some even use their own fabric and drop off masks they have sewn, Wilberding added.
Meanwhile, a Countryside woman who works at a physical therapy assistant at a skilled nursing facility and long-term care said she and co-workers have been making masks for several weeks.
The woman said she and co-workers went through several models before settling on a simple design that uses a cotton pocket to hold a filter, typically a dried-out unscented baby wipe.
Twine is used to tie the masks. Elastic, she said, is in short supply thanks to the high demand.
Asked if a scarf would do the trick, the woman said, “you want to be protected best you can.”
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