TAYLOR STEINBERG: A Thousand Masks Later

What Lorraine Did to Help Others During the Pandemic.

Arriving home in early February 2020 after being out of the country over two months, Lorraine and I had no idea what we were getting ourselves into as the pandemic news was spreading faster than one could imagine. This brief article shares Lorraine’s story of helping all of our friends, coworkers and anyone else combating the virus.

It all started in 1992 when we built our third and smallest home, hopefully in which to retire and designed to fit our senior needs. We designed a bonus room over the garage, 12’ by 24’ and Lorraine immediately wanted to turn it into her closet. After consider negotiation, we finally decided on a sewing room with a 5’ by 9’ sewing table.  We installed the sewing machine and serger near one corner and low enough to allow their working levels to be on the same plain as the table.

Lorraine looked at all of those commercially built, single layer, dull looking masks, all with the same color, the same general design and the light bulb went off with a very creative idea. “I can do better than that” and she was off to creating designer masks by making over one thousand and still counting. Yes, there were bumps in the road with the mask design to fit multiple head sizes including men, women, teenagers, juveniles and younger children.  She tried several over the ear retainers that did not work to her expectations and finally settled on one adjustable design available in numerous colors. Once she was up to speed, the senior sewing machine gave up and replaced with a new state of the art machine with more bells and whistles.

Designer masks need to look good, must be comfortable and keep all of the virus germs away. The search was on for the right material with comfortable breathability and a pattern from which to start and of course modify to fit all of those individuals. The replaceable and washable filter selected had six layers of protection plus the external and internal material that secured the filter in place. Insuring a snug facial fit, she turned to those colorful and fuzzy pipe cleaners with a small center wire easily adapted to fit all of those different faces and keep your glasses from fogging.

Material options were enormous with every pattern and theme one could ever dream. Patriotic designs for Memorial Day and 4th of July, your favorite sports team, both college and professional were popular. Disney character masks were a big hit for the youngsters, historic farm equipment, cows, chickens and farm scenes were popular. There were masks for the seasons and holidays including Thanksgiving and Christmas. Images included in the article are a small sample of the unique materials used in Lorraine’s designer masks.

During the early stages of the pandemic, masks were hard to find so Lorraine donated hundreds to area nursing homes, the Quincy Veterans Home, friends and families, both local and around the country. For the greater part of the last year, she continues to provide a supply at our church and free to anyone needing a mask. For those individuals that wanted to give her something, she would accept no more than $5.00 for her masks from which she purchased more materials and supplies.  A week never went by without material, filters, pipe cleaners and elastic retainers arrived in packages of several hundred. She easily made over ten masks per day while the search for unique designer materials is ongoing.

Lorraine’s question for all readers. Which of the designs do you like best? And… What did you do to help others during the pandemic?