Today I followed my urge to sew some face masks. I know they don’t guarantee I’ll survive the pandemic but it does give me something to do in a situation where otherwise I feel quite helpless.

I asked Terry to bring up my sewing machine and two tubs of sewing supplies from the basement where they landed when we moved here last July. 

What a treasure chest of delights! 

Some of the colorful gems are mine, items I bought with some forgotten project in mind. 

I am competent and experienced at following urges to create things. I’m still working on completing those urges, and time will tell how I do with mask making. Although mask making will quickly be something I do for others once I’ve made some for us. And that attention to helping others is historically the key that unlocks the familiar barrier that blocks me from bringing things to completion. 

More about the treasure chests! 

I found a mix of my mother’s sewing supplies and her mother’s sewing supplies. Two generations of women with sewing skills in my bloodlines. 

I can imagine my mother cheering me on as I plan these masks. She loved to sew, especially to make things that would brighten the day for others. And she was a nurse who glowed when responding to illness. What a great way to honor her, walking close to her path in this time of global health crisis. 

I can imagine her mother gracing me with a small smile and an even smaller nod of her head in approval. If she could step up during WWII to run her family business when her husband re-enlisted as a pilot, I guess I can sew a few masks. 

Gems from my grandmother: scissors, thimbles, darning eggs, lace, and silk thread. One dainty, ornate pair of scissors still has her name and address attached. Do you suppose she lent them out and wanted them back? Or maybe this pair was at the retirement home with her, labeled to ensure they passed along to her living family as she passed along at 99 to her heavenly family. (Based on family stories my mother used to share, I fear this grandmother is mighty lonely up there.) 

Gems from my mother: scissors, thimbles, and darning eggs. Plus ribbon and Velcro and elastic, and more scissors and more ribbon and zippers and bias tape and stitch rippers and sewing machine needles, buttons, snaps, and hooks and eyes. Does anyone use hooks and eyes anymore?

You may have noticed the sewing supply not yet mentioned. The most crucial sewing supply of all sewing supplies: thread. 

I sit here and allow my eyes to roam over the table spread with my sewing inheritance. My eyes land on the thread and I count seventy-six spools of color. And there are more in the tin of spools. And more in the little fabric-covered containers of sewing supplies from my grandmother. These particular spools challenge me to envision how I’ll ever use those. They were not designed for sewing machines. Their size and daintiness go well with those little scissors. Perhaps remnants of a traveling sewing kit from the early 1900s. I will save those spools for hand sewing – the hand sewing in my dreams. 

I’m grateful I didn’t give away these items from my mother and her mother. I had no idea when or how I’d ever use them but I carted them around from home to home over the decades. Right now it’s clear what purpose they can serve. With these ancestral gems I inherited, I can serve others. I might even repurpose the fabric of my grandmother’s Damask table linens.