Quilting story photo

Using strips cut from t-shirts and sewn by machine, Elizabeth Granberg-Jerome sews fabric fabric masks which will be donated to those in the community who are in need, but who don’t have access to surgical or N95 masks.

After weeks in quarantine and with extra time on their hands, retired quilters Elizabeth Granberg-Jerome and Mary Boucher decided to use their decades of quilting knowledge to give back to their communities.

While they both live separate quilting lives, they now find themselves united in the fight against the spread of the coronavirus.

They decided to make face masks. 

Granberg-Jerome, 66, worked for six years at the Hall Center for Humanities and at the Spencer Research Library. She has made 175 masks for friends, family and others in need.

Granberg-Jerome was a member of several quilting clubs over the years that gave back to her community in Baldwin City, Kansas. She is also a member of the Sew it Forward initiative, a Facebook group that unites quilters from across the country to make and donate quilts to families who have lost their homes to house fires.

Boucher, 73, said quilting has been her passion since age 10. As a member of the Kaw Valley Quilters guild in Lawrence, she and other quilters have shared their creations with people across the country. Now, she makes up to a dozen masks each day.

Life at home was nothing new for Granberg-Jerome who, as a member of the high-risk community, decided to stay home with her husband well before the official order was given. 

As a quilter, she wanted to keep herself busy and start a new project, but also wanted to do something that could support workers and nurses on the front lines.

“This was natural for me given the great need and my willingness, and ability, to give back to my community with the skills that I have,” Granberg-Jerome said.

Boucher said she was inspired when her daughter, a nurse practitioner, sent her a post on Facebook asking for masks she could use for work. Soon she made masks for all 21 of her immediate family members and continues to make more every day.

“A good mom and grandma has to take care of her own,” Boucher said.

Granberg-Jerome said she was also inspired by her daughter’s Facebook request asking if she could make masks for her work at a senior living community. Since then, she started making masks to protect the most vulnerable. 

A few days after she made her first masks, she was contacted by a nurse at Olathe Medical Center who asked her to make some for the hospital. She said hospitals have stricter requirements like requiring fabric ties as opposed to elastic.

However, the masks she makes also fit over the common N95 and surgical masks, which can help preserve their usability.

Both Granberg-Jerome and Boucher said the mask-making process takes some time, but through online tutorial videos and their years of quilting experience, they have been able to make hundreds of masks for the community and beyond.

Granberg-Jerome said she learned the ropes and began experimenting with various techniques. Pretty soon, she amassed 60 masks, washed and bagged up for delivery.

She made her own "essential trip" to deliver the 50 masks to her daughter and her coworkers.

The other ten went to a Lawrence friend who works with people in need. She said she wants to deliver more as soon as they’re made. 

Through talks with friends and family, she received several requests from across the country. She’s since made dozens of masks for high school friends as far away as California.

She said since starting her endeavor she said she's found, “as many ways to put them together as there are people making them.” 

Boucher made at least 150 masks with a variety of patterns and styles in one month. Sometimes, she includes special fabrics which "inspire thoughts of happier times."

“I try to make each one suitable to the tastes of the wearer or significant to them in some way,” Boucher said. “I am able to express my creativity while doing something good for others which is a win/win situation.” 

She uses cotton fabrics from her “stash,” and all she has to purchase is elastic, now a rarity in many stores. 

Boucher said as she learns new techniques, she posts about her progress online to share tips and photos with people learning to make masks themselves. 

Granberg-Jerome and Boucher both said they will continue making masks until the stay-at-home order is lifted.