HASTINGS — Residents practicing social distancing guidelines in response to COVID-19 have been hard at work making handmade face masks for health care workers. One resident, Chelsea Morgan, has turned it into a family affair.

"I'm pretty crafty by nature," Morgan said. "I enjoy doing things like sewing, crocheting and drawing."

Even before hospitals sought donations, she was already wanting to help since she used to work in the medical field and knows what it's like.

"I understand the need for personal protective equipment," she said. "... I saw some patterns floating around in some of the crafting groups I'm in, so I posted on my personal (Facebook) page asking my nurse friends if this is something they'd be able to use."

A completed batch of facemasks hangs on the door of Chelsea Morgan's house ready to be picked up. Photo courtesy of Chelsea Morgan.
A completed batch of facemasks hangs on the door of Chelsea Morgan's house ready to be picked up. Photo courtesy of Chelsea Morgan.

The feedback received was an overwhelming yes, so she enlisted the help of her husband and daughter. Her husband picked up all the materials she needed.

Blue Cross Blue Shield and Allina Health released their patterns for face masks, which she said was perfect timing for everything. It wasn't long before she began receiving requests.

"Right now I have 192 requests for masks," Morgan said. "It is a very tedious and time consuming process. Thankfully some people have reached out to try to help, and we're still coordinating that. My husband and daughter have been great helps as well."

Her husband works on measuring and cutting the fabric and elastic, while her daughter helps with everything else. Once Morgan has finished some masks, they are washed and ironed with gloves on in order to minimize contact.

After the ironing is done, Morgan bags the masks and leaves them on the porch for those who've requested a pick-up. She does it that way so people can limit their exposure but also so she can limit her contact due to having a baby in the house.

Facemask materials sit on a table inside The Spool House before they're bagged up and placed outside. Dolores Pemble asks that whoever picks up and completes them to donate them to hospitals in the area. Photo courtesy of Dolores Pemble
Facemask materials sit on a table inside The Spool House before they're bagged up and placed outside. Dolores Pemble asks that whoever picks up and completes them to donate them to hospitals in the area. Photo courtesy of Dolores Pemble

However, due to the work that goes into prepping and sewing, there's been a limit on what her family has been able to finish. As of Tuesday, she has about 50 completed out of the 192 requests she's received.

Morgan posted on the Facebook group Hastings MN COVID-19 Community Needs & Resources asking for help in the prep work, specifically with pinning the elastic and cutting fabric. She also only has enough supplies for the requests already received, so more fabric will be needed if new requests come in.

If anyone is interested in helping with the prep work or donating fabric and elastic, contact Morgan at chelseamorgan1989@gmail.com. If you decide to donate fabric, it needs to be 100% cotton.

"It's pretty incredible how much is needed," Morgan said. "I know the National Guard handed out a pretty big donation of medical supplies, but there's more than 100,000 active nurses working in Minnesota right now, and what they donated was very needed and appreciated, but it's not even enough for one nurse per day.

"Hopefully we can get it under control sooner rather than later, but there is a tremendous need. If people are willing to help, it would really be appreciated," she added.

Community of mask makers

Morgan is not the only one hard at work making face masks. Dolores Pemble of The Spool House in Hastings has been working almost nonstop putting together bags of face mask kits for people to sew.

Her shop in Hastings usually has a large stock of extra fabric and elastic, so when a few of her friends were interested in making some masks to donate, she put together some kits full of materials.

"It just went crazy," Pemble said. "I probably had around 250 yards of elastic in the size they suggest using and as any other sewer, I had a hoard of fabric. I've been cruising through that pretty good."

After giving out a few kits to friends, she posted a photo on the same community Facebook page since she had some extras.

"Well holy moly! I just couldn't hardly keep up with the requests," Pemble said. "I just bag them up and put their name on it with how many they requested and tape them up to the front window of my shop."

Bags full of packaged facemask kits hang outside of The Spool House in Hastings. Dolores Pemble has been hard at work packaging materials to make facemasks for people to finish and donate to hospitals. Photo courtesy of Dolores Pemble
Bags full of packaged facemask kits hang outside of The Spool House in Hastings. Dolores Pemble has been hard at work packaging materials to make facemasks for people to finish and donate to hospitals. Photo courtesy of Dolores Pemble

As of Monday afternoon, her shop has distributed over 550 face mask kits to people in Hastings. The problem now is she's out of elastic.

"Elastic is the new toilet paper in town because you can't find it anywhere," Pemble said.

If you're interested in donating elastic, it has to be either and 1/8 inch, or a 1/4 inch. The Spool House is located at 108 Fifth St. E.

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