TORRINGTON – Two women at Eastern Wyoming College have taken it upon themselves to make directives requiring people to wear facemasks while on campus a bit more fun.
EWC President Dr. Lesley Travers and Judy Brown, coordinator of the college GEAR UP program, spent part of the two-month shutdown making reusable cloth masks.
The requirement that people wear masks on campus was part of the agreement with state and county health officials in a variance that let the college reopen on a limited basis last week. Just about any kind of face covering – simple bandanas or dust masks available in bulk from a variety of sources – would do. Any mask that covers the mouth and nose will adhere to the letter of the requirement.
The college could have gone out and bought almost any masks – in fact, masks are currently on order for students in the fall – and that would have met the requirements of the variance agreement. But these aren’t just
These have a character all their own.
“I’ve got beer bottles, lemonade, cigars, candy, barbecue,” Travers said last week, describing different fabric patterns. “There’s dice, bingo, zebras …”
“For cosmetology, we tried to find fabric patterns for the girls there,” Brown said. “We looked for welding-themed for the welding department.
“We tried to find happy colors,” she said. “We thought, if you have to wear one, let’s make it fun – as fun as possible, anyway.”
Travers and Brown both have a background in sewing – specifically quilting. About two weeks into the shutdown, which started in March, Travers said she had the idea to make the masks to show the folks at EWC she cares.
“I thought, how can I show my people at EWC that I care about them and I’m very serious about safety?” she said. “That was just one of the things I thought of.
“If you tell people you care about them and you care about their safety – I thought, ‘what can I do to let them know this is important?’” Travers said. “I can make masks.”
Making facemasks is very different than quilting, though some of the basic skills needed are the same, Brown and Travers said. They started out, finding a workable pattern online, then Travers ordered flannel material to go between the cotton front and back pieces and elastic ribbon to make the ear loops to hold the masks in place.
Using the patterns, Brown and Travers got together at Travers’s home and started cutting material. They dipped deeply into Travers’s stash of fabric set aside for quilting.
Once the basic pieces were cut out, the two took a portion of the collection each, headed to their own sewing machines and got to work, piecing them together.
“The toughest part – it was funny,” Brown said. “Dr. Travers already had a system in place. As quilters, you have your own way of doing things.
“I came up with a different idea that worked for me,” she said. “They came out the same in the end, but we both put our own personalities into them.”
It averages between 10 and 15 minutes, once the material is cut out, to sew a complete mask. It’s something people around the country are doing – just take a look at social media – and one woman says she can sew a mask in about five minutes.
“That’s pretty good sewing,” Travers said. “It just depends – sometimes you run into a little snag.
“The real problem is they’re small,” she said. “When you’re turning them inside out, you can see, my fingers are chewed up a bit. They get tired.”
Starting May 18 – the day EWC reopened to allow students in welding and cosmetology programs to complete their hands-on work for graduation and certifications – Travers’s office looked a bit like a fabric store, with masks spread out across a large conference table. Staff were invited in to pick out the mask which captured their fancy.
While talking with The Telegram about the masks, Travers was briefly interrupted by another staff member, coming to make their choice.
Upon taking her first look at the variety of masks, Kerry Weaver, the animal caretaker in the Veterinary Technician program at EWC, had just one thing to say.
“This is awesome,” Weaver said. “Look at all of these.”
Brown, too, has seen people around campus wearing the masks she and Travers produced. She ran into one co-worker who’s first reaction was that the masks were a good idea, but the one they’d selected was a tad bit crooked.
“I made that one,” Brown said she told the person, who immediately qualified their first observation, noting “the mask was fine once he put it on,’” she said. “But it makes me feel awesome.
“This is something we have to get used to for who knows how long,” Brown said. “We thought if you’re going to have to wear a mask, wear something bright. It’s just crazy fun.”
Working together also gave Brown a better insight into her boss, one she said she is grateful to have had the opportunity to find.
“Every 25 or so I finished, I’d take them to Dr. Travers,” she said. “We go through all the ones we’ve done and get excited about the different colors.
“It was a great time to get to know her better on a personal level,” Brown said. “It was so much fun, how we giggled about them – we were like little kids.”