Meet the people who sewed masks for Calvin

Over Easter weekend, Liz Waid and her nine-year-old daughter set up their sewing machine to make face masks. Like many others with connections to the Calvin community, they were answering the call to create 500 masks in just five days to protect the students and staff still on campus. Calvin issued the request for homemade masks after the CDC changed guidelines to suggest that asymptomatic people should wear them. The quota was easily filled, and the extra masks will be donated. 

Waid’s inspiration for the sewing project was her mother, who was a manager for the Calvin campus store for over 20 years until her unexpected death in 2009. “I used some of her sewing supplies and sewed them in her memory,” Waid said. She and her daughter donated about 20 masks to Calvin. 


Photo courtesy of Jenna Hunt

Jenna Hunt, who works as an administrative assistant in the Calvin history department, sewed masks with her husband Laurence Blackledge. Ordinarily, they use their sewing skills to make costumes for their Star Wars cosplay hobby, but in early March they started making masks for the greater Grand Rapids community. The history department supported them with enough funds and fabric to make over 300 masks. When the request for masks at Calvin was sent out, Hunt and Blackledge quickly made 50. “I find it both relaxing to have something to do with my hands, and really comforting to know that I’m making something that will help people safer,” said Hunt about the sewing process. 

Currently, they are working on a batch of masks for a hospital in southeast Michigan, where Hunt’s mother was receiving medical treatment before she passed away several weeks ago. A nurse working there shared with the couple that they were desperate for even hand sewn masks. Hunt and Blackledge have created an Imgur photo tutorial of their sewing process for anyone who wants to learn how to make masks. 

Photo courtesy of Liz Waid


Sylvia Wevers, Class of ‘56, was also sewing masks prior to the Calvin announcement. She had donated some to Raybrook Assisted Living in Grand Rapids, and some to the hospital in Indiana where her granddaughter, a doctor, works. When Calvin put out its request, she and her daughter teamed up together and made 30 masks. They set up an assembly-line like system to maximize their efficiency. Wevers said that the masks were easy to make and that it was rewarding to be sewing for a good cause. 

When Calvin sophomore Faith Schultz told her mom, Jill Schultz about Calvin’s request, she was excited to have a project to do during the family’s strict period of self-isolation (They have been following the CDC social distancing guidelines extra carefully since Jill’s 90 year-old mother lives with them). Jill and her mom sewed together, and created 10 masks for Calvin before they ran out of elastic. Schultz said that the project was “a nice time with my mom” and gave her a sense of contributing to the community while they are isolated.