While the COVID-19 pandemic itself caught me off guard, as an artist, quilter and sewist, here are 6 other things I never expected to happen.

1) Be inundated with requests for fabric face masks.

Never in a million years (I have lost count as to how many times I've said or thought that!) would I have expected so many people and places to need anyone with a sewing machine to help protect against COVID-19.

From friends and family to nurses, hospitals and everything in between. And we answered the call! My social media feeds are flooded with photos of people sewing night and day to help.

(Need a free pattern? CLICK HERE)

2) Have flat elastic be harder to find than toilet paper.

As the reality of what was coming settled in, there was a run on toilet paper, water, wipes, pasta, rice… all the things people grab to prepare for a snow storm. There was no snow coming but there was a fear of being told not to leave the house for weeks if someone got sick, so the US stocked up.

Within days of the first call for anyone with a sewing machine to make fabric masks, flat elastic became harder to find than TP!

3) A shortage of thread – especially white.

I suppose it shouldn't have come as a surprise, what with all the mask sewing going on, but it was. I was surprised when I started hearing and seeing people mention that they had run out of and couldn't find thread – especially white.

We take things for granted – like the ability to find white thread when we need it. No more. This is another thing that nasty virus has stolen from those of us that sew!

4) Sewists discussing the pros and cons of interfacing, vacuum bags and furnace filters as the best to add to face masks.

We became scientists overnight. Not only did we sew, but we took it seriously. While some would use our fabric masks for a quick trip into the grocery store or to use over a medical grade mask so it would last longer, we knew that others might need added protection.

Sewists became researchers and debated the pros and cons of various filtering materials on social media. What size particles would it stop and would it prevent the wearer from breathing? The world has turned on it's head and we wanted to protect and help as many as possible!

5) My husband asked to learn to sew!

I about fell off my chair when my husband said, “I think I need to learn to sew so I can help make masks.”

Until then, I had trained him to turn the masks right side out and iron them before I added the pleats. It was helpful and more than I ever expected him to do. (He's not a handy or crafty man…)

My husband sitting down and sewing was proof that this was new territory and that people were willing to try new things!

6) That I'd notice (and discuss) how a face mask brought out the color of my eyes.

Even in the most unsettling times we search for some glimmer of hope or normalcy in the little things. The day I made this mask I not only decided I looked fierce sporting a big bear across my face (hopefully fierce enough that no virus would come near me!) but noticed how it really brought out the green in my eyes. 🤓

What stood out to you? What was unexpected? I'd love to know – please share your experiences in the comments!

If you are reading this and we are still in it – stay healthy and do whatever it takes to keep your sense of humor!

Tara Reed

Want to make face masks? CLICK HERE for a free tutorial (with lots of photos!) >