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The Pandemic is Nearly Sewn Up... in a Quilt

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Christopher Blank/WKNO-FM
Curtis C. Jackson in his "sewing room" turning fabric used for pandemic masks into a quilt.

Curtis C. Jackson spent his hermit year sewing masks for nursing homes. Now, the leftover fabric will keep him wrapped in comforting memories.

Curtis C. Jackson has invited me over, in person, to see his sewing room ("which is also my office, which is also—oh, wait—my bedroom," he says.)

There's no staying six feet apart in here, so thank you vaccines!

He soon gets to work.

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Christopher Blank/WKNO-FM
Curtis C. Jackson pieces together the panels of his COVID quilt.

The machine whirrs. Fabric marches under the presser foot; sections of a quilt are coming together.

And like any quilt worth its stitching, this one has a history.

In the beginning of the pandemic, there was a shortage of masks in nursing and assisted living facilities. A Facebook group was formed by folks with sewing machines. Volunteers starting making masks at home using donated fabrics. Jackson joined the effort.

“For the past year, I have been sewing masks,” he says. "No less than 80 to 150 week."

His total was ultimately more than a thousand, all just to donate. As a stage actor, the labor took his mind off the complete shutdown of his profession.

“Making the masks, it gave me something to do with my hands," he says. "It let me be creative.”

A few weeks ago, he went into his closet and started pulling out the leftover fabric—all different colors and patterns, remnants of curtains and bedsheets. And he thought of his grandmother, Minerva Ann Darnel Jackson.

She was the quilter in the family. He remembered how she used to work in sections.

"And so she showed me how to do it, and that was another thing about sewing because it just gave me time to think, realizing I was doing something that my grandmother taught me how to do and helping people, which she used to do all the time also," he says.

Turns out, being stuck in the bedroom making mask after mask wasn't so bad.

"It became a lot of fun," he says.

Curtis Jackson is now nearly finished with his COVID quilt. He doesn’t expect it to become some morbid reminder of a bad year. Rather, it makes him happy, brings back good memories of staying busy and helping others.

For him, the fabric itself kind of makes this quilt a real-life security blanket.

"When I'm cuddling up I know I have a mask — that I know I don’t have to worry about anything," he says.

And how many people can say their own pile of old COVID masks has the same effect?

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Christopher Blank/WKNO-FM
Curtis C. Jackson's quit is coming together.