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story.lead_photo.caption Photograph submitted Chelle Tillman models one of the face masks she made using some of her "stash" of fabric. She said she made 94 masks in the first phase of her project.

There's a silver lining to every cloud and Chelle Tillman found one to the self-admitted fact that she's a fabric hoarder.

"It's a good thing I'm a fabric hoarder," Tillman said, laughing, as she explained how she realized she had more than enough fabric on hand to make face masks for others during the health scare of the coronavirus pandemic.

"I had thought about it a little bit, what I could do to help," she said. "When I was younger, I wanted to be a nurse and thought how much more helpful I could be right now if I were a nurse."

As she thought and prayed about the problems people were facing during this time, she said she Sheawoke finding that two people had tagged her on a social media site about home sewn face masks.

"I realized -- this is IT!" she said, explaining that she researched how to make the masks which were recommended to be made of tightly woven 100% cotton fabric, of which she had plenty. "Someone asked if they're medical grade. I have no idea, I would imagine not, but, I'm making them more for people who just need that little bit of protection -- anything is better than nothing.

"If I can make someone feel better about getting out in world," that's worth it. She said although she'd never made any, they're fairly easy to whip out.

"I love to sew," she said. "It's literally my therapy."

She cut out more than 150 within a couple of days and made 97 in her first sewing session. She said 40 have been spoken for. She can make about six masks from a yard of fabric.

She said several people have contacted her wanting masks and someone offered to trade fabric for finished masks. So far, the only supply she's run out of is the 1/4-inch elastic. "It's getting hard to find," she said.

She said learned to sew from her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother who were all seamstresses.

"My mom went to college in Las Vegas for fashion design," she said.

Spending summers with her grandmother, Tillman learned to darn socks when she was about 4 years of age from her great-grandmother.

"She taught me how to embroider on tea towels, to crochet," she said, adding that she doesn't think her daughter wore store-bought clothes until she was about 6 as she loved making her clothes.

"I learned to sew when I was young from my Granny, who taught me to darn socks," she reiterated, adding that her my Gramma Hyer "taught me I could do anything I put my mind to. She also taught me I didn't need a pattern."

"My Mom, who had so much patience helping me continue to learn and my Grandma Mead, who was blind but could sew Barbies' clothes," Tillman said, remembering that her brother Roger and she would sort her fabric in stacks, face up and by color for their blind grandmother when they visited her.

She said her father also taught her different stitches to make things more durable, a skill which "came in handy sewing belts at the chicken house!"

"I've made everything from wedding/prom dresses to burp rags but this is a first for masks," she smiled.

"It's a lost art -- sewing," she said. "In this quarantine business, I've been going back through my patterns and found one that I made Kolby Wade for his first birthday. I keep all my patterns and write on them. I can't believe these kids are half grown."

Ironically, she said she didn't learn how to machine sew a button hole until recently.

Over the years, Tillman, who worked at Mercy when she married Timothy Tillman, transitioned to home transcription service after her son Jackson was born, worked one year at the school, then helped husband in running chicken houses raising laying hens and collecting eggs until retiring from that a couple of years ago.

Chelle and her husband Timothy have four children and will soon have a grandchild. Eldest child, Katelin Holland, is married and a teacher at Pea Ridge Intermediate School. Son Jackson is a sophomore at college and twins Samual and Cooper are juniors at Pea Ridge High School. Chelle also keeps two toddlers -- Hazel and Hayden -- during the days.

General News on 03/25/2020

Print Headline: Fabric stash sewn into face masks

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