It was as if it came from a distance, and became clearer the closer it came. At first it was nothing to worry about, it was far away, and it was under control. Then it was bigger and closer, but don’t worry, you don’t have to do anything, then it was well, it’s a problem, but we’re taking care of it, and sure, they wear masks in Asia, but that’s not us; then it was save the masks for the medical workers, don’t wear a mask yourself. And one of my expert sewist friends started making masks, and posting them online, and I thought, but why? Then Italy became a nightmare, and the sirens started sounding in NYC, and I thought of the sewing machine I had bought last year and not used yet.
I played the DVD that came with the sewing machine--even the idea that it came with a DVD had seemed daunting when it arrived--the basics were covered in the first ten minutes, and the rest of it were frippery, frillery which I would never do, anyway. I sent an email to the local shop which carries fabric and asked them to put together a package of fabric, their choice, bright colors. I picked it up the next day, and ordered more supplies online.
After a brief Google search, I found one or two or thirty thousand mask tutorials and YouTube videos, and I dutifully printed out templates, and tried out a few of the simplest. Then Basilica Hudson advertised a live mask-making Zoom tutorial with the Masketeers, and I watched as the sewist zipped through the work, she made it look so easy, so fast. The rhythm of the machine seemed almost soothing. I could do this, I thought.
At that moment a video popped up on my phone of my faraway baby grandson, taking his first steps. He toddled unsteadily a few feet from one parent to the other, and back again, squealing with joy, half-walking, half-falling into their arms.
And I started making masks like that, one step, then the next. Cut the fabric, thread the machine, pin, fold, press. One step, fall, get up, do it again. The second one was so much faster than the first, and so on. The first batch went into envelopes, to friends and family. I couldn’t hug them, but I could help keep them safe.
-Julie DeLisle: "Accidental" Masketeer