St. Paul fabric store gives away mask-making kits to help fight COVID-19

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As COVID-19 continues to spread, there are reports of doctors, nurses and other health care professionals having to reuse masks or improvise with pieces of fabric.

Outside the Treadle Yard Goods fabric store in St. Paul, volunteers lined up to do something about it. 

“Our health professionals are really kind of scared out there,” said Gloria Lefebvre, who waited outside for an hour. “They don’t really have the protection they need.” 

And if giving is the fabric of life, then this store, with bolts of fabric everywhere, has the material to work with. Inside the store there was a kind of controlled chaos.

"It has not stopped ringing all day, I had two people having to answer the phone continually,” says Michelle Hoaglund, who’s owned the store for nearly five years.

The customers at Treadle Yard are a crafty lot. So Hoaglung thought, why not put those skills to good use in the battle against COVID-19?

“There were not supplies available, and there are doctors and health care providers seeing patients without masks,” she said. 

After consulting with Sew Good Goods — a non-profit that makes clothing for people in need — and several health care providers, Hoaglund scraped together fabric and elastic, passing out free mask kits. 

“We had 50 kits available today when we opened,” she said. “Those were gone within minutes. Each kit would make 28 masks." 

Seeing a small sign on the store’s front door that said, “We are making test kits now,” customers began asking questions, and started lining up. 

"I think everybody was excited to do something good and actually careful to keep a good distance,” Lefebvre explains. “I’m a sew-er, so I thought I could put those skills to use.”

Even after the kits and some fabrics ran out, some volunteers took materials to make masks at home.

“My hope is people will be diligent and sew these up and donate them to health care providers,” Hoaglund says. 

Maureen Panke says she was inspired to volunteer by her granddaughter, who’s now in isolation with a heart condition, and by her mother, now in hospice care. 

“My sister contacted me last night, and she said ‘this is for you,’” she says. 

Hoaglund said she has 1,000 yards of elastic on order and wants to keep supplying materials for the volunteers for as long as she can. 

Giving and caring in this fabric of life, one thread at a time. 

"It is amazing my sewing room can make a difference,” Panke said. “I mean, that's crazy. It's crazy, the world we're in right now.”