Activism & Advocacy

Crafts to the Rescue!

A group of artists in New York’s Catskill Mountains have joined the war on Coronavirus by making facemasks for healthcare staff: the Catskilled Crafters.

This group of artists in upstate New York have shifted from creating art projects (see the Senior Planet story about them here) to stepping up during this pandemic.  In just two weeks the Catskilled Crafters have provided 140 masks for Cooperstown-based Bassett Health Care, as well as making more personalized ones for families and friends.

Sheets, pillowcases….and bikinis??

After dusting off sewing machines and taking YouTube tutorials, they have used cotton sheets, pillowcases, vintage fabrics and even bikini tops to make the shields, experimenting with different elastics and cotton-covered wire to provide ear loops and extra protection around the nose and eyes.

The group set up a box at a village supermarket to exchange supplies and drop off the finished masks. Then Kathy Green, a 70-year-old retired medical social worker, makes the three-hour round-trip to Cooperstown to deliver them. “I could post them but it is a reason to get out of the house,” says Green, whose non-sewing neighbors have started cutting up fabrics to give her more time to stitch them together.

Green stresses that the masks are not surgical grade so will not be used by doctors and nurses treating Coronavirus patients. Instead, they are being given to healthcare workers and community staff.  

Long days on the Singer

Retired jewelry designer Gail Freund, 63, (below) spends most days from noon to 6pm making up to 10 masks. When she wants a change, she breaks off to embroider personal ones for her family and friends. “The first mask took me about an hour to make because I had to keep stopping to watch the YouTube tutorial suggested by Bassett Health Care,” she says.

“Now I am doing assembly line production,” she says. “First I launder and iron the cotton, then I cut out the pieces before I get out my old 1971 ‘Fashion Mate by Singer’ machine to make them. And the beauty of 2020 is that anything I need I can look up on the internet. Trying to find supplies is getting harder but I found cotton-covered wire on Etsy and I contacted the owners of two closed fabric shops to set up appointments to collect material.  I am experimenting using vacuum bag filters to add more protection to masks,” Freund adds.

The Catskilled Crafters – featured on Senior Planet in 2018 when their “Ties That Bind” art project was exhibited at Baltimore’s American Visionary Museum – also took advantage of a major thrift store donation at the Pine Hill Community Center.

From bikini’s to masks

Two years ago, someone dropped off bags of fashion-sample bikini tops and the women used some of them for art projects. Now yoga instructor Pamela Martin, who used to run a vintage textile company, is turning the remaining ones into ear straps for the masks. 

“The bikinis are made of synthetic fabrics, so they are not good for the actual masks but the elastic straps work well to loop around the ear lobes,” the 55-year-old yoga instructor says. “I have a mini sweat shop here now and it’s a nice distraction to get away from the news.”

For more information on making masks go to:

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash   



6 responses to “Crafts to the Rescue!

  1. I would like to know if there is any way possible for me to receive a donated sewing machine.
    I would like to do as these women are doing for my neighborhood.
    Please feel free to contact me at the email address below.
    Thank you,
    Ms. Malaika Abdul-Rafi

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