The Quilting Mask-Makers

The Quilting Mask-Makers

The following article by Anthony Zilis appeared in The News-Gazette on May 31, 2020

'Not perfect ... but it has so much meaning behind it'

It isn’t technically the most perfect quilt Debbie Larson has ever stitched together. After all, several first-time quilters were trying their hand. But to Larson, the quilt the CU Mask Makers put together for Cunningham Children’s Home’s Quilt Festival was stunning.

“You put all the colors together and it’s just gorgeous,” she said. “It’s just beautiful. It’s not perfect, because you have people doing these squares that are doing it for the first time possibly, but it has so much meaning behind it.”

The meaning, Larson has discovered, is what makes a quilt special, not necessarily its warmth or its outer beauty. That’s what she’s learned over decades of quilting.

“Pretty much everyone who I know that quilts, there’s a lot of heart and symbolism that goes into it,” she said.

The CU Mask Makers are a Facebook group comprised of 287 members. The group receives requests from various organizations around town and organizes them via Google Docs.

Larson had never sewn clothing before, but she jumped at the opportunity to make masks. So far, she’s made over 450, which she said is average for the group.

“What I’ve found when I’ve gone through this this last year is, I spend all my spare time making masks,” she said. “It helps me when I’m feeling helpless about what’s happening with the pandemic. It just helped me feel like there was something I could do.”

Each year, Cunningham Children’s Home has a quilt festival, a fundraiser for the facility that serves children with emotional, behavioral and special educational needs.

This year’s show will be online, and it’ll feature over 100 quilts to be sold, starting Monday at 9 a.m. The home asked the CU Mask Makers to take part.

Thirty-four members of the group made squares out of scraps of fabric left over from making masks. Those squares represent around 8,000 masks made by those 34 participants.

Larson collected the squares and used her long arm quilting machine to attach it to the backing fabric. When she looked at the finished, vibrant quilt, she saw the good that a difficult situation has brought out in her community.

“I think it’s symbolic of the fact that the community at large has come together to support each other,” she said. “We’ve responded to a need that allows us to use our skills to help not just this community, but beyond the community.”