Pamlico quilters making thousands of masks for migrant workers

Published 4:38 pm Thursday, May 21, 2020

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Instruction to stay at home during a global pandemic has prompted folks to find ways to be productive and members of Pamlico River Quilters’ Guild have been just that: creating an assortment of different masks to deliver to migrant workers in Beaufort County.

The masks come in different colors, patterns and themes from smiley faces, college teams and common patterns such as plaid and gingham. Some even include little pockets, according to Pamlico River Quilters’ Guild organizer Jan Hindsley.

“It’s been fun. The designs have been fun. It’s just been such an amazing thing to be a part of,” Hindsley said. “This is in addition to all the other things these people do. They’re making blankets, lap quilts and on and on for nursing homes, hospitals and all these different things. There’s really an art to it — I call it the ‘art of the mask.’ They’re just absolutely amazing and unique. It’s pretty cool.”

Most of the masks are made from cotton, and there’s a certain level of thickness that the masks must have.

“A lot of the ones I have made are four layers thick. So, I have an outside, an inside and then I’ll put an interfacing in it so it has four layers,” Hindsley said. “We have to use HEPA filters, or we may use material from surgical rags that can go into them. Many of these masks have little pockets that you can slide things into, like coffee filters. I encourage people to use coffee filters on the inside to keep (the masks) clean.”

Hindsley suggested folks have three to four masks, so when one is used, it can be put away for more than 72 hours before using it again. She also said that oven-baking the masks can kill germs.

“Leaving them out in the sun can help kill the virus. There are just all sorts of fascinating things that I’ve learned about it to help keep them clean. You can even put them in the oven at 200 degrees for half an hour to kill the virus, as well, ” Hindsley continued.

Reaching 1,000 masks was a big milestone for Pamlico Quilters. Hindsley said that the migrant workers they were donating to are looking for 23,000 masks, but they were ecstatic to receive 1,000 from Hindsley and the other quilters.

“When I sent (our contact) an email she was like, ‘Wow! That’s amazing,’” Hindsley said. “I think this is a way that our guild members — many of which are older — have a way to give back.”

All of the quilters have been working from the safety of their homes and turning in masks to be delivered. Somewhere between 4,000 to 5,000 masks have already been made, and the quilters will continue producing masks until there is no longer a need for them, according to Hindsley.