Transcript Index
Search This Index
Go X

0:00 - Introductions / early Craft Experience

Play segment Segment link

Partial Transcript: I just watched them sew all my life and just sat down and decided I was going to do it. Followed a pattern, took off.

Segment Synopsis: In this segment, the interviewer Mandy Higgins and narrator Penny Grubb introduce themselves and go over some background information. Penny Grubb is from Ashland, Kentucky and learned to sew and craft through watching her mother and aunt sew. She made clothes, purses, diaper bags, and shirts with a Cricut machine before making masks during the pandemic. She is a special education teacher for the sixth grade in Ashland Middle School. She learned about COVID-19 through her school and started crafting during the pandemic while she was teaching virtually.

Keywords: Ashland Middle School; Cricut machines

Subjects: Ashland (Ky.); COVID-19 (Disease); Mask making; Masks; Sewing; Sewing machines; Special education; Teachers

2:59 - Learning about COVID-19 / Entry into Mask-Making

Play segment Segment link

Partial Transcript: I had one student that was on chemo. He took chemo just about every day, he had a brain tumor when he was younger, and they weren't able to get it all. So he was constantly on chemo. So therefore, I was scared to death for him. I didn't want anything to happen to him. But also, you know, just your students become your babies. So you don't want anything to happen to them.

Segment Synopsis: Penny Grubb was feeling anxious during the COVID-19 pandemic due to her elderly parents and one of her students who was undergoing chemotherapy. She started making masks for her cousin who worked at a nursing home, and the demand for masks increased from there. She made over 1,500 masks and used different sources for the materials as they became scarce, including fabric from her mother and elastic from dollar stores and donations from friends. She adapted her mask design to help a family member with hearing issues.

Keywords: Joann Fabrics; Remote Learning

Subjects: Chemotherapy; COVID-19 (Disease); Nursing Homes; Teachers; Teaching

10:06 - Mask makers quilt project

Play segment Segment link

Partial Transcript: How then did you learn about the Mask makers quilt project?

Segment Synopsis: In this section, Penny Grubb discusses how she made masks for various groups including students, healthcare workers, cafeteria workers, and resource center employees. She made the masks from donated materials and elastic, and also used fabric she bought herself. Grubb tells us that she learned about the mask makers quilt project through a Facebook group for mask makers. She submitted three quilt squares for the project, which were made from leftover fabric she used to make masks. The squares included patterns depicting University of Kentucky basketball and football, Minnie Mouse, Harry Potter, John Deere, and camo. Grubb sent her quilt squares to Gina Hudson, the project organizer, with a thank you letter.

Keywords: Cafeteria Workers; Gina Hudson; Kentucky Mask Makers Quilt Group; Mask Materials

Subjects: Boyd County (Ky.); Cafeterias; Facebook (Electronic resource); Mask making; Masks; Quilts; Sewing; Students; Teachers; Teaching; University of Kentucky

14:55 - Other materials sent by Grubb to the governor

Play segment Segment link

Partial Transcript: You know, I wasn't a first responder. I couldn't go into the hospitals and I couldn't take care of people that way, but this is what I knew I could do. So that's what I did.

Segment Synopsis: Penny Grubb mentions that she wrote a letter to Governor Beshear thanking him for his work during the pandemic. She also made masks for her students, including one for her mother who passed away from COVID. Although she knew of the mask maker's quilt being presented to the governor, she had not seen the quilt until the day this interview was recorded. She was very excited about the project and felt honored to be a part of it. The governor also wore a mask she made for him, with her school's name on it, and read a letter she wrote to him on air during a COVID-19 press briefing.

Keywords: Governor Beshear; Masks in schools

Subjects: Chemotherapy; Masks; Middle schools; Press conferences; Schools

20:10 - Thoughts on Team Kentucky

Play segment Segment link

Partial Transcript: Can you define team Kentucky for me?

Segment Synopsis: In this portion, Higgins and Grubb discuss the latter's experience participating in the Mask maker's quilt project and the impact it has had on her and the community. Grubb expresses pride in her work and the sense of belonging it has given her. They also discuss the community's reaction to COVID-19 and how people are still supportive of each other despite becoming less concerned about the virus. They discuss the concept of "Team Kentucky" and Grubb describes it as the idea that everyone is working together as one big family. Grubb mentions that the quilt project brought people together and helped her make new connections in her community. She is excited about the possibility of the quilt going on tour.

Keywords: Community; Mask makers quilt; Team Kentucky

Subjects: Boyd County (Ky.); Church; COVID-19 (Disease)


Mandy Higgins 0:00 All right, it is June 28th. Mandy Higgins interviewing for the Maskmakers' Quilt Oral History project in Frankfort. With-- Penny if you could state your name for us?

Penny Grubb 0:12 Hi, I'm Penny Grubb.

Mandy Higgins 0:15 And where are you from?

Penny Grubb 0:16 Ashland, Kentucky?

Mandy Higgins 0:18 Okay. So when did you begin to sew or craft?

Penny Grubb 0:24 I finally decided-- I grew up with my mom and my aunt's sewing constantly. My aunts made my prom dresses and my wedding dress. So when my daughter turned one, I decided I was going to make her a quilt. So that began it all and then I started sewing clothes for her throughout her years.

Mandy Higgins 0:46 And were you self taught? Did your mom teach you--how did you learn?

Penny Grubb 0:50 I just watched them sew all my life and just sat down and decided I was going to do it. Followed a pattern, took off.

Mandy Higgins 0:59 So you mentioned you made clothes. Are there other--what else did you make before you started making masks?

Penny Grubb 1:05 Purses, diaper bags. Then I got into crafting and making shirts--it's with the Cricut machine. I've made a couple quilts with my mom.

Mandy Higgins 1:23 Were you involved in any sort of group or craft community before the pandemic?

Penny Grubb 1:28 No.

Mandy Higgins 1:29 So no sewing circles or?

Penny Grubb 1:30 No, just me.

Mandy Higgins 1:34 Can you talk a little bit about where you crafted?

Penny Grubb 1:37 I crafted during the pandemic and I'm a school teacher. We were teaching virtually, so I had my sewing machine set up upstairs next to the desk where my laptop was; where I was virtually teaching my students. They would be online and all my stuff will be sitting next to me, so I could be cutting out while they were taking a test or things like that.

Mandy Higgins 2:05 And before the pandemic, where did you do a lot of your crafting?

Penny Grubb 2:10 I have a craft room downstairs, it has sewing machines, heat presses, fabric. I have fabric galore. Yeah, a lot of craft stuff.

Mandy Higgins 2:23 How did you learn about COVID-19?

Penny Grubb 2:27 Because I am a school teacher, we were kept up to date with things that were going on. And then when we were told we were going virtual, it was supposed to just be for two weeks around spring break. But then things got worse, and then, we were told we were going virtual for the rest of the year.

Mandy Higgins 2:46 So through the school?

Penny Grubb 2:47 Yes.

Mandy Higgins 2:49 And what do you do for the schools?

Penny Grubb 2:50 I'm a special education teacher for the sixth grade.

Mandy Higgins 2:54 In Boyd County?

Penny Grubb 2:55 in Ashland. Yes, Ashland Middle School.

Mandy Higgins 2:59 Can you talk a little bit about how you were feeling in March and April of 2020?

Penny Grubb 3:04 Anxious. I have--my parents are older, so I didn't want to... I actually stayed away from them because I didn't want to-- Because I was with students a lot, I didn't want to bring anything into them, so I stayed away.

Mandy Higgins 3:26 What about your feelings about your students? Were you anxious there as well?

Penny Grubb 3:31 Very, because I had one student that was on chemo. He took chemo just about every day, he had a brain tumor when he was younger, and they weren't able to get it all. So, he was constantly on chemo, so therefore, I was scared to death for him. I didn't want anything to happen to him. But also, you know, just your students become your babies, so you don't want anything to happen to them.

Mandy Higgins 4:01 Do you remember when you began to make masks?

Penny Grubb 4:05 Yes, I have a cousin who was working at a nursing home, and she had posted on social media that they were out of masks and that they had to wear the one mask they had-- I want to say maybe for a week-- before they could get a new one. So, I messaged her and I said, "listen, you know you all are first responders. I can't do much, but I can make you a mask. Let me know how many you want." And then, word got out, you know, her friends needed some. I have other-- I come from a huge family, so I had other family members that work for doctors offices, in the hospital and they asked if I could make them some. So, it just snowballed from there. I ended up making a heart doctor--his whole office, I made one hundred masks for them. He in turn donated them all to the cancer floor, so the patients would have masks. From there I made over 15,00 masks, and they were all donated.

Mandy Higgins 5:16 That's incredible.

Penny Grubb 5:17 Yeah.

Mandy Higgins 5:19 What pattern did you use? Or how did you figure out how to do it?

Penny Grubb 5:24 Um, I didn't use the pattern. I saw several online, Joann Fabrics came out with a pattern. But, I just made a square myself and just folded it up and put elastic in there. And just in the beginning, I put flannel in between so it would act as a barrier and that made them really thick, and they were washable. So, I had one doctor telling me that, you know, he stepped into his garage, stripped down, he washed the mask and everything every night before he went to bed and then then he put it back on the next day, until it was threadbare, you can hardly see it.

Mandy Higgins 6:07 Wow. You said early on you put flannel between, so how did you--did you change your pattern as things went on?

Penny Grubb 6:14 I used the same pattern, but I didn't use flannel, I started just using three layers of fabric, later on. Material and sources got scarce, you could hardly find elastic, I was buying bulk on Amazon, then that went away. I was going to our dollar stores around town, buying elastic headbands and cutting those up. Just put on social media, if anybody had some, and they would like to donate it to me or I would buy it from them. Yeah, I did that. And then you know, same with fabric. I had family members, or people I didn't even know that now have become friends say 'I've got a bag of fabric, come get it," And I did.

Mandy Higgins 7:09 So, you're finding what you could. Did you do anything like coat the elastic or change the way that the ears--the ear bands?

Penny Grubb 7:22 Um, no, I did not, not until the very end. I have a-- my husband's family member has a daughter that has hearing issues, and so she asked if I can make something that could go around the elastic in the back. So, I came up with like a just a small rectangle that had buttons on the end. And then, she could loop the elastic through the buttons, so it wasn't sitting on her ears.

Mandy Higgins 7:53 That's very creative. So you said you source supplies from wherever you could get them. Can you talk a little bit about your first sources, and then maybe how you modified that as you went?

Penny Grubb 8:08 My first sources were raiding my mom's fabric, and what fabric I had. You know, my mom is, you know, was a quilter all her life. And so I came home with bags and bags and bags, and I have a--she's nineteen now but at the time, she was sixteen--daughter, who sat and cut out squares with me. And we would take two or three days and just cut squares. And the next day, I would piece them together. And then the next day, I would add elastic to them. And yeah, it became an assembly line.

Mandy Higgins 8:47 Yeah, we've heard of that a couple of times. Can you talk a little bit more about what you were--what else was happening as you were doing those assembly pieces?

Penny Grubb 8:58 Yes, I was teaching. My laptop was set up and I was asking students questions, answering their questions, helping them with the work they were doing. Any assignments that they had--had questions on you know, the laptop was there. I was even making phone calls sometimes in the evenings checking on my students, if they needed anything. At one point, I made each of my students goodie bags and I made each student two masks, put those down in there and balloons telling them I missed them and just went to their house and set them on their porch. Because you know, I couldn't see them. Some of them would stand out at the window and wave at me and that you know, that made my heart happy because I got to see them but yeah, just an assembly line and my laptop and my telephone.

Mandy Higgins 9:52 And your daughter was doing virtual school as well?

Penny Grubb 9:54 She was yes, so she could sit right there next to her laptop and help me cut out.

Mandy Higgins 10:07 You mentioned that you made masks for students, for healthcare workers. Were there other groups that you made them for?

Penny Grubb 10:15 I made them for our cafeteria workers, our ladies do so much for the school that I made some for them. I made about one hundred and some for our resource center for students. When we were able to come back from being virtual, we had the option of if you wanted to stay virtual, you could, if you wanted to come in to the school, you had to wear a mask at all times. So, I donated about one hundred masks to our resource center. So, for the students who weren't able to have masks, they would have a mask every day.

Mandy Higgins 10:50 And you mentioned that all of this was donated?

Penny Grubb 10:52 Yes.

Mandy Higgins 10:55 Were you-- did folks donate material? What did folks donate to you?

Penny Grubb 11:01 A lot of folks donated elastic. At that time later on, local stores would have a plain mask, and where I have the Cricut, I would put designs on, especially with our school emblem and bring those into the school. But, a lot of them were the homemade--I even paid for this company to make fabric with our school name on it. So then, I could cut that up and make masks out of that. I bought University of Kentucky fabric and made masks with that, that was a big request, was Kentucky masks. Obviously, okay.

Mandy Higgins 11:45 How then did you learn about the Mask Makers Quilt Project?

Penny Grubb 11:50 On social media, I believe on Facebook, I had joined a group about mask making. And people were asking where people were getting supplies and things like that. And then one of the ladies mentioned, how about we make a quilt with some of our--if you have any fabric leftover from the masks you've made, would you be willing to make a quilt square? And she'd like to have one from each county, so I immediately wrote to her and said you know, "I'd be honored if I could submit one," and I ended up submitting three.

Mandy Higgins 12:28 Can you tell me a little bit about your quilt squares.

Penny Grubb 12:32 One quilt square is all Kentucky of course. Each square was a different type of fabric that I had, that had Kentucky basketball, football, the UK Wildcat on it. Those were obviously hot picks for people that were asking for quilts or masks. So, I had some of that leftover, so I made a nine patch out of that. And then the other quilt square that made it into the quilt was just miscellaneous fabric that I had--there was Harry Potter, I believe Minnie Mouse, I tried to pick when I was able to find different fabric--things that I thought people would like, something different than you know, just standard blue or, or black or white or whatever. I tried to pick, you know Minnie Mouse, flowers, Harry Potter, John Deere, camo. Camo was a was a big hit too.

Mandy Higgins 13:36 Do you remember anything about those particular fabric--about anyone who requested those particular fabrics?

Penny Grubb 13:45 My niece in North Carolina, is a huge Disney, and she wanted Minnie Mouse, so I got the Minnie Mouse for her. Camouflage, my brother is a nurse in another state, in Huntington. And so, I made him and my niece that lives in West Virginia, I made them like ten or twelve. And he got camo and Kentucky, of course, and my nephew loves Star Wars, so had to get Star Wars fabric.

Mandy Higgins 14:22 Can you tell me how you shared your square? Do you remember?

Penny Grubb 14:30 Um, how I sent it to her? I just, I wrote a letter and I sent it to Gina thanking her for the project and would be honored if, you know, one of my three blocks would make it into the quilt and represent Boyd County.

Mandy Higgins 14:49 Did you also write a letter to the governor?

Penny Grubb 14:53 I did.

Mandy Higgins 14:54 Can you tell me a little bit about that?

Penny Grubb 14:55 Yes, I wrote him a letter, thanking him for all that he had done for our state at the time. And... I'm trying to find if I have a copy of it. I wrote to him saying that I was a middle school teacher, special ed teacher, and when I wasn't helping my students during virtual time, I was making masks. And yes, I'd rather be in the classroom, but I understood that we had-- and I was thankful for the technology that we had to be able to help our students virtually, and encourage them to stay healthy at home. And if they would need to go out into public, that here was a mask that I made them and to please stay safe. Especially my student that was on chemo, you know, he still had to go to doctor's appointments and things like that. So, I especially wanted him to be safe, and I just thanked him again for a great job that he was doing. And I was proud to call him my governor, and I just thanked him from the bottom of my heart.

Mandy Higgins 16:21 Can you describe for me the feelings that you had being involved in this project?

Penny Grubb 16:25 Oh, my gosh, I was so excited. And my mom was so proud of me too... she passed away from COVID. My Mask didn't save her. She did wear the mask that I made her. Sorry--

Mandy Higgins 16:45 You don't have to apologize.

Penny Grubb 16:49 But she was so excited too, and was proud of me for being a part of this. You know, I couldn't--I wasn't a first responder, but, this is what I knew to do. And this is how I knew I could help people. I said I wouldn't cry, but I was just so excited to be a part of the whole thing. Again, you know, I wasn't a first responder. I couldn't go into the hospitals and I couldn't take care of people that way, but this is what I knew I could do, so that's what I did.

Mandy Higgins 17:39 Can you tell me a little bit about the time when the quilt was delivered? So about October 2020?

Penny Grubb 17:49 Oh, yes. Again, we were still all in quarantine. And I was watching updates from Gina on our social media page. And just so excited and just especially when she sent a video to us showing that the governor had gotten it and you know, all the pictures that she took and I would zoom in and look to see--in one picture it almost looks like he's pointing at my square, which you know, everybody wants to think that too. But, it was--it was so awesome, and so, it was a great feeling to see him being excited over the quilt and Gina made us masks, I'm not sure if she told you, she made masks that has the quilt on it and his quote. And I almost forgot to bring mine today, but yeah, it was--it was definitely made with love.

Mandy Higgins 18:59 So, it was presented?

Penny Grubb 19:02 Yes.

Mandy Higgins 19:03 But you had not seen it?

Penny Grubb 19:04 No.

Mandy Higgins 19:05 What was it like seeing it today?

Penny Grubb 19:07 Oh, it was awesome. It was a great feeling to see all of it come together.

Mandy Higgins 19:26 We're going to transcribe all of these and there's going to be a part of every one of them that's like 'and then Mandy gets emotional.'

Penny Grubb 19:33 'And Penny cries.'

Mandy Higgins 19:37 Did you make anything else for--that was shared with the state officials?

Penny Grubb 19:42 I actually sent a mask to the governor with our school, Ashland Middle School, on it and I wrote him a letter that day too. And he read it online, yeah, he read it on air and wore the mask that day. Ah, that was really cool. So I had my fifteen minutes of fame at school.

Mandy Higgins 20:09 Why did it--why was that cool? What did it show you?

Penny Grubb 20:19 What did it show me? That I can make things, that I am able to, you know, make things that I am proud of. And I was definitely proud that he wore it that day

Mandy Higgins 20:49 How have you seen the community continue to support each other? Have you seen the community continue to support each other? Let's reframe this question.

Penny Grubb 21:02 I think where I'm from, that the community is-- they're still aware that COVID is still out there, but they are not as concerned as before. I think we're getting a little more lax on on the rules and things like that. But yeah, I was-- I'm a rule follower, so, you know, I'm like, "now let's step back, we need our masks," and things like that. But yeah, there's still community support. I don't think there's you know, if we see people with masks on we respect them.

Mandy Higgins 21:44 Yeah. Can you define team Kentucky for me?

Penny Grubb 21:52 That there is no I--it's all we, and we're all in this together. And we're our one big family.

Mandy Higgins 22:06 How do you think that the quilt contributed to the idea of Team Kentucky?

Penny Grubb 22:14 I think every county is... They contributed--every county's represented. And you know, it just brought us all together. I, you know, I know people now that I didn't know before, and even in my own little community. And the other lady from Boyd County that [h]as a quilt in, we go to the same church and didn't know it. So, yeah, it's it's brought--this brought us all together, I think.

Mandy Higgins 22:54 How are you feeling in June of 2022?

Penny Grubb 22:59 So, after seeing that quilt today, I'm ecstatic and I can't wait to see it. If it gets to go on tour, especially. Hopefully it will come to my area and people can see that, you know, this little teacher, middle school teacher, contributed to something that's statewide.

Mandy Higgins 23:20 Is there anything else you would like to tell us?

Penny Grubb 23:24 Can't think of anything.

Mandy Higgins 23:27 Thank you.

Penny Grubb 23:28 You're--.

Transcribed by