Bethel volunteers gather for weekly mask-making sew-a-thons

These volunteers have been busy sewing masks on Saturdays at the Bethel Search and Rescue building. From left are Martha Guest-Beaver, Teddi Worrock, Susan Worrock, and Carolyn McLaurin. photo by Greg Lincoln

by K.J. Lincoln

Mask-sewers in Bethel have been working hard to mass-produce face masks in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. A dedicated group of ladies have been getting together every weekend for the past four weeks to sew cloth facemasks.

Each weekend they mass produce approximately 100 masks to be donated to businesses and to where they are needed.

“We can give them away for free, if anybody needs them,” said Teddi Worrock, a founding member of the sewing group.

A few weeks ago the Bethel Search and Rescue group opened their doors to provide the sewers a safe space to sew with lots of room, which they were very appreciative for. The cloth they use are from donations, some is purchased from local shops.

“Thank you to Bethel Search and Rescue for letting us safely sew to produce these masks for our workforce that is still going to work every day,” wrote Worrock on an online post. “This BSAR motto on the wall is exactly what this project is all about. ‘Working together so others may live.’”

What started as a three-person project to sew masks for City of Bethel employees has now grown to a team of several volunteers, said Worrock. Now they are sewing and giving them away for free in hopes that people will continue to use them in the midst of this pandemic.

“We were hoping to get the word out, so people can know these are available,” she said.

And they have a message. You have to keep wearing your masks. Now is not the time to let up, said sewer Carolyn McLaurin.

“When this pandemic started everybody was wearing masks and really being on top of the guidelines of wearing masks. But lately it seems like in the last few days, especially when the Governor spoke with some of the restaurants opening, seems like people are getting more and more lax. We are seeing more and more people not wearing masks,” McLaurin said. “I don’t think that should be happening. Everybody still should be wearing masks, we are having a pandemic. People are dying. People should continue to keep wearing masks, whether they are going to the store, in public. We have elders and children we have to protect.”

Last Saturday the ladies were busy again. Each person was sewing at their own pace at their stations and all were doing so with practiced precision, their hands and fingers creating something that could save lives.

“If anybody does have a sewing machine and wants to continue helping, we have this huge area so everyone could set up safely spaced apart,” Worrock said.

For those who would like to learn more about using a sewing machine and also how to sew face masks with a sewing machine, the Kuskokwim Consortium Library and the UAF Cooperative Extension Service have teamed up to present a series of sessions via Zoom on a variety of different hobbies. Intro to the Sewing Machine taught by Sharon Chakuchin (Thursday, May 5th from 12-12:30pm) is coming up and also Sewing Face-masks 101 taught by Teddi Worrock (Thursday, May 7th from 12-12:30pm).

“We just want to really get the word out that these masks are free…if you can save money by not buying mask and just picking them up from us, we’d be happy to sew them and make them,” said Worrock.

Mask dimensions, courtesy of Teddi Worrock:

We make our masks 10” wide by 7” for adults and 7” wide by 5” tall for kids. The easiest way to cut is to measure a 10” by 14” piece or 7” by 10” for kids and cut. Then fold the fabric over long ways so that it’s doubled without having to cut out two separate pieces and sew together.

Thank you for your service!