Timely Tales from Time On The Planet...

Behind the Masks
Two Women Who Sew


Sew What?
The Prelude
by GSW
They began sounding the alarm in late February of 2020: A new virus. A co-ro-nah-virus. Covid 19. Very contagious. People dying. Don't touch anything. Don't touch each other. Don't breathe on each other. Don't stand too close and breathe on old people, or the very young. Wash your hands. Sanitize.
Wear a mask. Not the surgical kind. Those you can't find
in the States, and if you do, save them for the frontline workers, the nurses and doctors, the paramedics. And grocery-store clerks. Wear 'em in solidarity with those mandated. Hate them, if you must, but wear 'em. And many many people did...and a year later still do...and some do it with glitter.

By Melee K. Valett
November 2020

Early in March 2020, a dear friend asked me, “Can you sew masks?”  As an avid sewist, my reply was, “Sure, all I need is a pattern.”

Lo and behold, I had found a tangible project for my profound grief. I knew this could be an outlet for the loss of a loved one due to Covid-19; for the human species; and for my Country while its people suffer so needlessly...

I perfected one of the provided patterns and began letting folks know that I would send them face masks, if they wanted them. My parent, siblings, nieces and nephew, cousins, coworkers, friends and acquaintances across the country reached out. I’ve brought masks to my dentist’s office staff; my housecleaners; the 93-year-old mother of a friend; teachers I know and some I don’t; a rural library; and the residents and caregivers where my Mom lives – using appropriate social distancing measures, of course!

I started this adventure with fabric from my own collection. Then, I found my Mom’s stash of quilting fabric, a treasure trove of colors, patterns, and options. Mom has started to quilt again, so I couldn’t be too greedy. Plus, much to my delight, of their own volition my friends boxed-up leftover fabrics and sent them to me. What true gifts at this time of isolation.

One hundred masks later, the sewing machine I'd used for 20 years gave up on me and my project. This made me sad. This was my grandmother’s 35-year-old Husqvarna sewing machine. I love this machine and so, there I was in my home, self-isolating (not something I do for fun) and I have no sewing machine.

Pictured: Melee's new Covid-Stimulus-Financed
"dream" sewing machine. Her grandma's quit
after decadesof

Then inspiration struck. I did have in my possession a government check…to be spent locally. On a small business here in Missoula, Montana! Stimulation indeed!

Enter the third generation Bagnell Sewing Center, and my new Sapphire 930, a dream machine that will do everything I ask of it and lots more. This is the third machine I’ve owned, but the first machine I’ve ever purchased…in the 50 years I have been sewing!

Like many, during the Stay-At-Home order, I worked from my home. But my favorite fabric store was tucked miles away in a shopping complex in the heart of our river town. Vicki's Quilts Down Under soon became  ESSENTIAL TRAVEL. I could go to Vicki’s (she required masks on everyone to enter her store) and talk about the mask-making cottage industries popping up -- all the while filling up my soul and my eyes with beautiful fabrics in all colors and designs.

Note: My mask recipients had been very generous sending me money, so I bought fabric and thread and paid for postage. I even joined Venmo as my younger friends don’t use check books.

Wandering among the fabric shelves is a soothing pastime, almost Zen…meditative. I am seeking out lovely fabrics to handle and enjoy. Seasonal motifs have morphed with the changing days. I just made 30 Halloween-themed masks. I have some yardage waiting that can only be described as Holiday fabric. I’m close to 1000 masks now; there are probably 100 in various stages of development on my sewing tables, yes, tables. And, because I don’t see the pandemic going away any time soon, masks are with us for some time yet and I will continue to make them.

My theory on masks is this, you need at least five:

• one for wearing
• one to leave in the car
• one for the office
• one for the wash
• one that is lost in your sweatshirt


by Marlene Hutchins
March 2021

Was it February of 2020 when we all became suddenly aware that Seattle was experiencing an insanely high number of deaths from Covid-19?

My son lives in Seattle. I called to check in on him and to see if he was staying safe. His employer, Amazon, sent everyone out, to work from home. But he was still going to the local market on a weekly basis, wearing nothing more than a bandana for protection.

My incentive to make cloth masks was thrust into panic gear.

I had already begun researching recommended materials and patterns for a homemade cloth mask. I knew I was going to make some for myself and family--just a few--because it had been ages since I used a sewing machine. Some patterns were no-sew. Many two-layer patterns were easy to make, and one three-layer pattern was terribly difficult but the most protective.

That was the one I chose, and challenged myself, to make.

Fabric Patch videos helped Marlene learn how to perfect a face mask

The instructional video from the Fabric Patch kept me on track. I used high thread count sheets and pillow cases. I had silk scarves for a filter layer. In a week I made two masks--one for my son and one for his girlfriend. I was so proud of my achievement that I shared the results on my Facebook page. The comments from friends and clients were high-fives--and asks for custom masks.
Friends gifted fabrics and materials to me. I purchased better tools. I became more comfortable using mom's 1950s Singer sewing machine.


I think I've made at least 200 masks by now. Some were gifts, some were in exchange for goods or services, and always not for profit. And I'm not done; I keep improving the design to get a comfortable, snug and breathable fit.

Note: The purpose of wanting a custom mask is all about fit. When Covid started, we were directed to use cloth masks. As the pandemic wore on, we learned more about how a mask should be worn and how it should fit for the most protection. I watched instructional videos to see how others were achieving that goal. My design improvements were made over time: upgrading the nose piece, no-gap sides, elasticizing the bottom under-the-jaw edge, employing more comfortable stretchy materials for the earloops, designing made-to-order masks with over-the-head and behind-the-head straps.

I will make them as long as people are finding it hard to get a mask that fits them.

Marlene Hutchins performs during her Time on the Planet under Covid

Now, wanna' hear Marlene sing and play guitar? She's part of a group called Basses Covered!


Melee Valett, our first face-mask-maker to share her story (above) has a new project giving away hygiene products to the community....

"I learned about soap sacks," she says, "And I found a purposeful opportunity to perfect my crochet skills and strengthen my achy hands and wrists.

Supporting a Community with Kindness (Soap Sacks) - More info in new window

Soap Sack asks folks to crochet or knit cotton bags and put inside a bar of soap and then donate them to local resource providers in the name of Supporting A Community with Kindness: S.A.C.K. ( The cloth is both a container and a wash cloth. Melee delivered 72 soap sacks to the Missoula Montana Food Bank. She is currently making more.

Melee Valett lives in Missoula, Montana, but her heart always stands on the shores of Flathead Lake family property.

Email Time On The Planet
(Time On The Planet With Glenda @

All rights reserved. ©  2021.

NOTE: Any content you submit and is published here will remain as your content, removed upon your request.
Glenda S Wallace reserves the right to edit all content.

GSWrite Site