A stitch in time would save more than nine 

  • Residents are now making their own masks to donate to medical professionals. Courtesy

  • —Courtesy

  • Linda Gilbert, vice-president of the Concord Woman’s Club, works on making masks at her dining-room table on Monday. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Debbie de Peyster broke out the sewing machine her mother gave her 50 years ago so she could begin making masks. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Debbie de Peyster's cat Gus sits at the window of her School Street home as she works on making masks on Tuesday, March 23, 2020. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Linda Gibert, vice-president of the Concord Woman's Club, works on making masks at her dining room table on Tuesday, March 23, 2020. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • One of the masks made by Carlos Jauhola-Straight of South Congregational Church in Concord Courtesy—

Monitor staff
Published: 3/23/2020 4:43:48 PM

Debbie de Peyster pulled off the woven blanket, given to her by her mother more than 50 years ago, and reached out to an old friend.

Her sewing machine.

Fortunately, the thing worked during this reunion last weekend, at a time when masks are needed to fight the coronavirus. As though the two longtime friends had reconnected and picked up right where they’d left off, back and ready to work together and make masks, masks and more masks.

“It seems to be working,” said de Peyster, director of communications for the Woman’s Club of Concord, a driving force behind the effort. “Twenty years since I used it. It’s the culture of the Woman’s Club. We fill niches in supporting our community. We are a niche filler. This one is perfect.”

And needed. The club introduced the Red Cross here and sold war bonds during World War II, a pair of giant milestones on its resume. But is anything bigger than this? The club has joined forces with a roster of people here and there, morphing into a bigger grassroots project since its start, which wasn’t until last Friday.

“Lots of others involved,” said Linda Gilbert, the club’s vice president. “The Woman’s Club decided it would do it and other communities are doing it. Word spread.”

Gilbert has devised some creative ways to keep her life normal. For example, she spent 2½ hours with her son recently, walking trails and admiring the Atlantic Ocean at a state park on the seacoast.

They bumped toes to say hello, kept 6 feet apart during the hike, then did what Gilbert called a big-heart bear-hug to say goodbye. They never touched. Beyond their toes.

“Strange,” Gilbert said. “That was my son.”

A bumpy ride greeted the first wave of soldiers as they began fighting an unseen force. Concord Hospital had liked the idea proposed by de Peyster, so a trial run was held last weekend. Soon, though, it became clear that a basket outside her home, used to collect homemade masks, needed a cover to stay dry. But that would have added a Petri dish into the mix: that bad old cover waiting to ambush an unselfish citizen.

Solution? Simple. A big, uncovered plastic container sits at Barbara Ruedig’s home, nice and cozy under a covered porch. There’s been a shortage of elastic as well, but a breakthrough was made Monday, with availability loosening up some.

As of press time, about 50 masks had been made. Officials want to have 100 before the conveyor-belt of help continues. The masks will be taken to Concord Hospital, which will sanitize the masks before they’re used.

That raised a question: Aren’t there strict standards when manufacturing masks, some sort of process to separate the bad masks from the good ones?

Apparently not. Directions to create masks are all over the internet. The video I saw lost me in a matter of seconds, but no one ever called me Betsy Ross.

Gilbert explained that the key to making an effective mask is simply by following directions. She highlighted why this formula is easy and serves as an excellent force field.

“You have to use 100% cotton material,” Gilbert noted. “You have to double it and put interfacing in the middle of it. That protects it more from germs, and they’re making them all over the United States.”

It’s not clear how the whole thing started nationally, but Gilbert and de Peyster said the club thought of the idea independent of any other organization. These types of goodwill gestures always seem to start here and there, grassroots all the way, then pop up everywhere.

Now, it’s spreading, hopefully faster than that stupid virus we’re all concerned with. It’s not a great idea to gather with old friends. Not during this crisis.

Unless, of course, you’re a sewing machine.

“I fired it up,” de Peyster said. “And it worked.”

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