Masks On the Line!

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.

Bags from Bags

Have you seen the cool, re-imagined bird seed bags? Shopping bags made from plastic 25 lb. bird seed bags! Grain and feed bags work well too. Brightly colored and made from woven plastic “cloth,” these big bags can be wiped clean and sewn into attractive shopping bags, using the Sewing for Change pattern.

They may not last as long or feel like cloth bags–and they are made from plastic–but re-use is one important way to divert pounds and pounds of perfectly useable material from landfills, at least until they fall apart.

A green shopping bag with brown handles and a Tufted Titmouse image, with the words, Song Maker, sitting on a table.

Save your birdfood and feed bags to up-cycle into grocery bags. Tweet that!

Alternatives to Plastic

We want to help you refuse plastic and reduce waste

Try these easy alternatives to plastic bags:

Waxed paper sandwich bags from the grocery store.

Net bags for veggies and fruit (available online or at Coop grocery stores)

Re-use glass jars or find canning jars at hardware stores and tag sales

Check out online stores for ideas for “off the grid living

Use re-usable cloth food wrap, made from beeswax in Vermont, for keeping fresh food fresh in the fridge.