In March 2020, with the advent of Covid-19, Sewing For Change began making cloth masks for wherever they were needed, starting with over 207 for Addison County (Vermont) farmworkers distributed through the Open Door Clinic. Since May, the group of 23 women have sewn additional masks for Middlebury area organizations, including: Porter Medical Center/Helen Porter  (via Round Robin), H.O.P.E., Eastview (Masks en Masse),The Meadows Senior Housing, The Commons of Middlebury (VSHA), Middlebury Natural Food Coop, Addison Mutual Aid, and the Bristol Library, as well as for family and friends. We’ve sewn over 1,000 masks so far.

Then, in June, 2020, Bethany was driving in town and noticed the lack of community art and felt the need for color and sharing hope during these dark, uncertain times. So she called the group together for our first – for some of us since the stay at home order – outdoor gathering at her house. Sitting in a wide circle, with masks on, we talked about how we could collectively share some joy through creative mask making. We met again a few weeks later, each bringing an oversized art mask. We tied them together and hung them from two posts across the picture windows outside.

Our first stitching art masks.

They looked like Tibetan prayer flags waving gently to and fro. We talked about the ritual and meaning of traditional prayer flags, their symbols, prayers, and mantras blowing in the wind, conveying hope and peace. It was a happy day.

For our project we decided to sew big, colorful, bright masks and display them around town, something to lift people’s spirits and bring them to downtown Middlebury (currently enduring a huge rail construction project). The businesses we reached out to all welcomed having a display of mask art. The project took shape. We call it Masks On the Line!

The 139 “Masks” for this art installation were created from the fabric we had around: colorful repurposed clothes, scarves, dyed cloth from international travel, quilting leftovers, linen napkins, tablecloths, sheets, and curtains, some from thrift shops or found in the attic. 

The artists used sewing techniques including raw edges, appliqué, and cloth weaving. They are tied together in lengths of 6 – 10. The masks will be hung at different downtown locations, both in and outside beginning August 1, 2020. We hope they will inspire creativity, brighten people’s hearts, and support the continued, critically important, wearing of masks and physical distancing.

“We’re all in this together, and wearing masks show that I care for you and you care for me,” says Fran Putnam.

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