SALINAS VALLEY — Members of the Valley Heritage Quilt Guild have created more than 4,000 washable masks during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, and they plan to continue to make masks for people who need them.
The guild consists of 70 members, mostly from Monterey and San Benito counties, who help their communities by making comfort quilts for people going through rough times, whether it be a health issue, emergency or loss of a relative. The onset of the pandemic and a need for masks shifted their creative endeavors.
“There was this period of time when we needed to wear masks, but there were no masks,” said Suzanne Krause, co-president of the guild.
Krause noted how quilters across America began to make masks, including the guild members. But, the rush on supplies caused more than just a shortage of masks at first.
“In the beginning, we couldn’t even get elastic, it was in such short supply,” she said.
Members had to make masks with shoestrings, cording and bias tape.
“Finally we got in the elastic and a lot of the gals ordered their own elastic,” Krause said, adding that she even sent out more than 700 yards of elastic to others. “We made more than 4,000 masks. I’m still hearing of gals that are making masks.”
The masks were distributed to friends, neighbors, family members and numerous businesses in the area, as well as local school districts and clinics. Krause said the group sent 150 masks to the Salinas Valley Fairgrounds, as well as to Mee Memorial Hospital in King City.
“We’ve had several people make them for rest homes,” she said.
The large project was something the guild felt it could do to contribute, Krause explained.
“I think of guild members as being superheroes with their sewing machines,” she said.
Months after shelter-in-place orders went into place locally, supply has caught up to demand and people can purchase vanity masks with logos or boxes of disposable masks. The demand for hand-made masks has dropped off, but they are still desired and needed, which is why some guild members continue to make them.
“Once people got their hands on the disposable masks, that starts to get expensive after a while,” Krause said. “And, it looks like we’ll be wearing masks for a while.”
The masks made by the guild were mostly made from 100 percent cotton, with batik material, a close-woven cotton, used until supplies ran out.
Once created, guild members either brought their masks to Krause to distribute them, or took them to people in need themselves.
“We were just trying to cover the need for masks out there,” Krause said. “It was a big community project.”
With sewing skills having been essential in creating masks, Krause said she wondered about the future of sewing and how much people foster those skills in the modern age. She noted one speaker who said quilting is a $3 billion industry.
“Quilting is one of those things where we don’t know if it appeals to the next generations coming up,” Krause said.
The guild began 23 years ago and has monthly meetings on the second Monday of each month, with guest speakers. They also host classes to learn techniques and patterns throughout the year.
While Covid-19 has shut down their in-person meetings, Krause said they are readying for when they can meet again. Those interested in the guild meetings or in quilting in general can contact Krause at 831-385-4408.
“Our quilt guild is very friendly,” she said. “We’re a fun and close group. Everybody helps everybody else.”