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0:23 - Background in sewing

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Partial Transcript: Can you tell me a little bit about when you began to sew or craft?

Segment Synopsis: Smith began sewing and crafting through a home economics class she took in middle school. Smith also learned how to crochet from a neighbor when she was a teenager living in Louisville. Smith started to become more involved in quilting specifically when she stayed at home to take care of her son. Smith initially learned quilting techniques from her grandmother-in-law, who lived on a farm and had many years of experience in sewing. During this time, Smith had decided that she wanted to use quilting as a creative outlet. Smith has made many quilts for her children and grandchildren and continues to be an active member of the Kentucky sewing community. Smith is currently the Vice President of the Kentucky Heritage Quilt Society. Smith adds that she treats quilting as a form of therapy and relaxation. Smith says that she is not keen on the social side of quilting and prefers to take quilting classes to improve her sewing skills. Smith explains that her grandmother-in-law was heavily tied to the social side of quilting, hosting a hand-woven quilting group on her farm and making quilts for the community frequently.

Keywords: Angela Walters; Clothes; Freelance; Grandmother-in-law; Husband; Kentucky Heritage Quilt Society; Patterns; Quilt guilds; Quilting classes; Quilting groups; Quilting techniques; Relax; Son

Subjects: Children; Crafts & decorating; Creative; Crocheting; Early life; Families; Farms; Friendship; Grandchildren; Home economics; Kentuckians; Kentucky; Learning; Louisville (Ky.); Middle schools; Quilting; Quilts; Sewing; Social; Writing; YouTube (Electronic resource)

6:02 - Quilt guilds

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Partial Transcript: Could you tell me a little bit more about your local guilds?

Segment Synopsis: Smith describes her level of participation in quilt guilds. Smith primarily goes to the Laurel Silver Threads quilt group in her area because it is more convenient for her schedule. Smith says that she attends the Laurel Silver Threads meetings every Monday and enjoys the social aspect of the guild. Smith explains that she is more efficient sewing at home compared to when she goes to the quilt guild. While at the guild, Smith usually quilts by hand and brings projects that require less concentration since the group is very social. Smith also likes to attend the meetings of the Kentucky Heritage Quilt Society, since the organization has a focus on historic preservation and education, which is a good change of pace for Smith compared to the more social atmosphere of Laurel Silver Threads.

Keywords: Concentration; Efficiency; Fabrics; Husband; Kentucky Heritage Quilt Society; Laurel County Extension Office (Kentucky); Laurel Silver Threads; Mountain Laurel Quilters; Quilt guilds; Schedule

Subjects: Education; Friendship; Historic preservation; Kentuckians; Kentucky; Laurel County (Ky.); London (Ky.); Quilting; Quilts; Scissors; Sewing machines; Social; Women

9:48 - Learning about COVID-19

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Partial Transcript: . . . My husband and I both come from healthcare backgrounds and so--um--we were hearing about it early on even before--um--a lot of public knowledge was out there about it.

Segment Synopsis: Smith explains that she knew about COVID-19 earlier than most of the general public because Smith and her husband both worked in the healthcare industry. Smith had talked to an infectious disease doctor who had warned her that COVID-19 was going to be a very serious situation. Smith was at a quilt show in Pigeon Forge with her husband when she got the notification on her phone that the first confirmed case of COVID-19 was detected in Kentucky (on March 6th, 2020.) At that point, Smith immediately realized that she had to change her lifestyle in order to protect her mother, who is a wheelchair user and has a neuromuscular degenerative disease. Smith and her husband were already working from home, but Smith was concerned about the level of exposure to COVID-19 from her son and daughter-in-law living in their household (who worked in retail and at a hospital, respectively.) Smith also helped her grandson with remote learning and eventually assisted with his transition to homeschooling. Another lifestyle change for Smith and her husband was the lack of entertaining. Before the pandemic, Smith and her husband used to host parties at their farm, but no longer partake in such events despite social distancing measures ending. Smith also kept herself informed about COVID-19 from reliable sources such as the NIH (National Institutes of Health) and the CDC (Center for Disease Control) in order to keep her mother safe from contracting the disease. Smith also watched the daily COVID-19 press briefings hosted by Governor Beshear and Dr. Stack (Commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Public Health.)

Keywords: CDC; COVID-19 cases; Daughter-in-law; Dr. Steven Stack; Essential workers; Governor Beshear; Grandson; Homeschooling; Husband; Infectious disease doctors; Isolation; Mask shortages; Quilt shows; Remote work; Son

Subjects: Center for Disease Control; Change; Cooking; COVID-19 (Disease); COVID-19 pandemic, 2020-; Farms; Father; Grocery shopping; Health; Healthcare industry; Hospitals; Interviews; Kentuckians; Kentucky; Kentucky. Department for Public Health; Laurel County (Ky.); Lifestyles; London (Ky.); Masks; Mother; National Institutes of Health (U.S.); Neuromuscular diseases; Occupations; Patients; Physicians; Pigeon Forge (Tenn.); Press conferences; Protection; Public health; Research; Safety; Social; Social distancing; Travel; United States; Wheelchairs

15:16 - Mask making activities

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Partial Transcript: Making masks became something that I did for my family initially because, like I said, my son and daughter-in-law had to go to work everyday, they didn't have a choice. And the hospital--my daughter-law- is in patient registration and literally the hospital would not provide them with masks.

Segment Synopsis: Smith explains that she began to make masks in order to protect her son and daughter-in-law, who were both essential workers. Smith recalls that her daughter-in-law, who worked in a hospital, initially was unable to obtain masks from her work because the hospital was only giving masks to employees who had direct contact with COVID-19 patients. Smith learned to make masks through trial and error, trying different types of mask templates and materials until she found the right combination. Smith would use ear pieces and a rounded mask shape with three layers that would cover the nose, chin, and mouth of the mask wearer. Smith says that she gave her masks away for free and also organized a group with several other women in Laurel County and made masks for the Laurel County Sheriff's Office.

Keywords: Daughter-in-law; Ear pieces; Essential workers; Friends; Mask filters; Mask layers; Mask shape; Mask templates; Materials; Modifications; Patterns; PPE; Son; Trial and error

Subjects: Amazon (Electronic resource); COVID-19 (Disease); COVID-19 pandemic, 2020-; Elastic; Hospitals; Kentuckians; Kentucky; Laurel County (Ky.); London (Ky.); Mask makers; Mask making; Masks; Patients; Personal protective equipment; Protection; Safety; Sheriffs

20:30 - Impact of COVID-19 on quilt guilds

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Partial Transcript: . . . How did COVID impact the guilds?

Segment Synopsis: Smith says that Laurel Silver Threads was unable to meet in person when the pandemic began due to the temporary closure of their meeting place, the Laurel County Extension Office. Smith adds that the Kentucky Heritage Quilt Society (KHQS) was also unable to meet from about March 2020 to the spring of 2021 and experienced a drop in membership due to the organization's typical in-person events and programming being cancelled. Smith initially kept in contact with other members of the Laurel Silver Threads through social media, but took to meeting in small groups while wearing masks as social distancing measures eased in Kentucky. Smith also mentions that the Kentucky Heritage Quilt Society had recently hosted a retreat in Cave City for the first time since the pandemic began. As the vice president, Smith was able to help craft a statement strongly suggesting that attendees get tested for COVID-19 before going to the retreat and to stay home if they were experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. Smith adds that KQHS refunded the money of several attendees who opted out of the retreat because they were having COVID-19-like symptoms.

Keywords: Classes; COVID-19 symptoms; Kentucky Heritage Quilt Society; Laurel County Extension Office; Laurel Silver Threads; Quilt guilds; Small groups; Suggestions

Subjects: Cave City (Ky.); COVID-19 (Disease); COVID-19 pandemic, 2020-; COVID-19 Testing; Education; Kentuckians; Kentucky; Laurel County (Ky.); London (Ky.); Meetings; Membership; Protection; Public health; Safety; Social media; Summer; Teachers

23:27 - Involvement in Kentucky Mask Makers Quilt

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Partial Transcript: Well, apparently, Gina had created this Facebook page because, she had an idea that all of us who were making masks had lots of scraps left over . . .

Segment Synopsis: Smith found about the Kentucky Mask Makers Quilt Group through Facebook. Smith explains that the group's founder, Regina Hudson, wanted to put to good use all of the leftover fabric from making masks that mask makers from around the state had. Smith wanted to participate in the quilt project because she wanted to show her appreciation for Governor Beshear and Dr. Stack and their work in keeping Kentuckians safe from COVID-19 (amidst criticism and backlash from some Kentuckians.) Smith also wanted to be a part of history in that the quilt represented the radical societal changes that Kentuckians experienced during the early stages of the pandemic. Smith explains the difference between a quilt that is pieced together and a quilt that is sewed all at one stage. Smith says that a traditional quilt has three layers, a quilt top, a batting, and a backing. The top layer usually has a design with multiple fabrics sewed together into patches. For the COVID quilt, Hudson decided to create a nine patch block design pattern. Hudson instructed quilt participants to make a block composed of the fabrics they used for mask making, which would be sent to Hudson. Hudson would then sew together the quilt blocks into a quilt top. Smith says she constructed her quilt square using the traditional three layer method, with the quilt top, followed by the batting and finally the quilt back, utilizing a sewing machine to stitch the layers together. Smith used a square spiral design on her quilt square with a focus on providing the quilt with texture (rather than designing the quilt with lots of detail, which would typically go into a quilt meant for everyday use.)

Keywords: Appreciation; Dr. Steven Stack; Fabric scraps; Fabrics; Gina Hudson; Governor Beshear; Kentucky Mask Makers Quilt; Kentucky Mask Makers Quilt Group; Patch blocks; Patterns; Quilt backing; Quilt layers; Quilt texture; Treatment

Subjects: COVID-19 (Disease); COVID-19 pandemic, 2020-; Design; Facebook (Electronic resource); Friend; History; Kentuckians; Kentucky; Mask makers; Mask making; Masks; Quilting; Quilts; Safety; Sewing machines; State governments; Sympathy

27:47 - Quilt square / emotions during quilt making

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Partial Transcript: Did you put a square in the quilt as well?

Segment Synopsis: Smith says that she used leftover pieces of the fabric from the masks she made for the Laurel County Sheriff's Department in her quilt square. Smith's grandson helped her to experiment with different quilt square designs. Smith's quilt square had a muslin backing with green fabric to represent Governor Beshear's call for Kentuckians to put out green porch lights as a symbol of hope and out of respect for Kentuckians who lost their lives due to COVID-19. While making her quilt square, Smith thought about how mask makers came together to help others in their community and that the quilt served as a symbol of unity between Kentuckians. Smith says that this feeling of unity between Kentuckians began to crumble for her when the pandemic became increasingly politicized. Smith also believes that in an ironic twist, while she was making a quilt that was supposed to be a symbol of unity between Kentuckians, people were becoming even more divided over COVID-19. Smith finds it difficult to separate her feelings of frustration at the political divisiveness of COVID-19 from the symbolic unity that the quilt was originally intended to have. When meeting Governor Beshaear, Smith wanted to express her gratitude for his measures intended to keep Kentuckians safe from contracting COVID-19. Smith briefly remarks on the difficulties that Governor Beshear faced from Kentuckians who were opposed to his public health measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 (such as lockdowns and social distancing.)

Keywords: Customers; Fabrics; Gina Hudson; Governor Beshear; Grandson; Kentucky Mask Makers Quilt; Kentucky Mask Makers Quilt Group; Laurel County Sheriff's Department; Lockdowns; Politics; Quilt blocks; Quilt squares; Studio

Subjects: Colors; COVID-19 (Disease); COVID-19 pandemic, 2020-; Criticism; Design; Farms; Green; Kentuckians; Kentucky; Laurel County (Ky.); London (Ky.); Muslin; Polarization (Social sciences); Public health; Quilting; Quilts; Selling; Sewing; Sewing machines; Social distancing

34:13 - Impact of COVID-19 pandemic on life and relationships

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Partial Transcript: I am so proud to live in Kentucky, I've lived all over the United States--um--and moved back to Kentucky after thirty-five years in 2010. And I've always been proud to be back in Kentucky and I wasn't proud to be in Kentucky during COVID.

Segment Synopsis: Smith says that she was not proud to be a Kentuckian during the COVID-19 pandemic since so many Kentuckians were completely opposed to any public health measures to stop the spread of COVID-19. Smith has had to cut ties with some friends who did not respect her decision to continue limiting her social contacts to protect her mother (who has underlying health conditions) from contracting COVID-19. Smith has not returned to her church since the pandemic because some members of her church told her that her precautions she was taking to protect her mother from COVID-19 demonstrated her lack of faith in God. Smith says that her views of certain people have changed due to their behavior during the pandemic. Smith found it ironic to be working on the Kentucky Mask Makers Quilt, a symbol of unity when the sense of togetherness initially engendered by the pandemic was quickly giving way to extreme political polarization in many Americans. Smith was angered by the thought that the quilt was a bit deceiving in terms of how it conveyed a pervasive sense of unity, when the reality was that many Kentuckians were very divided in terms of their responses to the pandemic.

Keywords: Governor Beshear; Kentucky Mask Makers Quilt; Kentucky Mask Makers Quilt Group; Unity

Subjects: Change; Christianity; Church; COVID-19 (Disease); COVID-19 pandemic, 2020-; Friendship; Health; Irony; Kentuckians; Kentucky; Laurel County (Ky.); Leadership; London (Ky.); Mother; Neuromuscular diseases; Polarization (Social sciences); Public health; Quilting; Quilts; Religion; Safety; Social distancing; Wheelchairs

37:59 - Appreciation for Governor Beshear / recipients of masks

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Partial Transcript: . . . You also put together a scrapbook?

Segment Synopsis: Smith recalls Gina Hudson's scrapbook that she made out of leftover quilt fabric, which was presented to Governor Beshear. Smith did not write a letter to Governor Beshear to accompany her quilt square, but she would have expressed her gratitude to Governor Beshear and Dr. Stack for having the courage to make tough decisions to keep Kentuckians safe from COVID-19. Smith mostly made masks for her local family and friends, including people she knew who worked in hospitals.

Keywords: Appreciation; Decisions; Dr. Steven Stack; Friends; Gina Hudson; Governor Beshear; Kentucky Mask Makers Quilt; Kentucky Mask Makers Quilt Group; Lockdowns; PPE; Quilt squares

Subjects: Courage; COVID-19 (Disease); COVID-19 pandemic, 2020-; Education; Families; Gratitude; History; Hospitals; Kentuckians; Kentucky; Mask makers; Mask making; Masks; Participation; Personal protective equipment; Public health; Quilting; Quilts; Scrapbooks; Social distancing; State governments

41:20 - End of mask making / views on pandemic in 2022

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Partial Transcript: Do you remember when you stopped making masks?

Segment Synopsis: In total, Smith estimates that she made about two hundred masks. Smith does not miss making masks because she enjoys sewing as a creative endeavor (which was not possible within the rigidity of mask making.) In terms of the pandemic currently, Smith finds herself avoiding discussing COVID-19, since many people are tired of thinking about the disease and its disruptions to normal life. Smith shares that her mother (who has underlying health conditions) has become homebound since the pandemic, only interacting with her caregiver and not going to church or the grocery store. Prior to the Kentucky Heritage Quilt Society's retreat in June of 2022, Smith was apprehensive about writing a statement to attendees about COVID-19 precautions since measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 are such a divisive issue. In her statement, Smith asked attendees who were experiencing COVID-19 symptoms not to attend the retreat and encouraged mask wearing and taking a COVID-19 test before coming to the retreat. Ultimately, Smith did not receive any negative comments from attendees, but was praised by some who approved how she approached the issue.

Keywords: Considerate; COVID-19 cases; COVID-19 Tests; COVID-19 variants; Divisiveness; Kentucky Heritage Quilt Society; Memos; Normalcy; Pandemic fatigue; Retreats; Vice president

Subjects: Behavior; Church; COVID-19 (Disease); COVID-19 pandemic, 2020-; Creative; Health; Kentuckians; Kentucky; Laurel County (Ky.); London (Ky.); Mask makers; Mask making; Masks; Mother; Neuromuscular diseases; Polarization (Social sciences); Public health; Quilting; Quilts; Social distancing; Society; Wheelchairs

46:33 - Thoughts on Team Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: . . . Is this idea of Team Kentucky, in your mind, given what you've just told us, one does Team Kentucky exist?

Segment Synopsis: Smith does not believe that the concept of Team Kentucky exists. In reality, Smith says that the spirit of Team Kentucky was that Kentuckians would put all of their differences aside and do what is right for Kentuckians as a whole, especially when it comes to mask wearing. Smith views mask wearing as a way to protect vulnerable populations with underlying health conditions and to show others that you care about them enough to make a small sacrifice to protect people in your community.

Keywords: Beliefs; Co-morbidities; Decisions; Governor Beshear; Healthcare; Mask wearing; Obligations; Politics; Sacrifices; Team Kentucky; Vulnerable populations

Subjects: Caring; Christianity; COVID-19 (Disease); COVID-19 pandemic, 2020-; Kentuckians; Kentucky; Masks; Protection; Public health; Religion; Safety

49:32 - Reflections on COVID-19 pandemic

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Partial Transcript: It's June 29th, 2022, how are you feeling today . . . about COVID . . .

Segment Synopsis: Smith believes that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the surface the already-existing political division between Americans. Smith views the pandemic as the catalyst for bringing about widespread political divisiveness amongst Americans. In Smith's opinion, enemies of the U.S. could use a strategy similar to how the pandemic played out to divide Americans internally, which would eventually lead to the downfall of the country. Smith adds that she does not feel safer in the U.S. since the pandemic began and often wonders if the U.S. can recover from the rift caused by the pandemic. Smith marvels at the ability of her grandparents' generation to come together amidst life-altering events such as the Great Depression and World War I and World War II. Smith believes that Americans did not come together during the pandemic due to a lack of leadership amongst politicians.

Keywords: Division; Politics; Unity

Subjects: COVID-19 (Disease); COVID-19 pandemic, 2020-; Grandparents; Great Depression; Individualism; Kentuckians; Kentucky; Leadership; Patriotism; Polarization (Social sciences); Resilience; Safety; United States; World War I; World War II


Mandy Higgins: It is June 29. We are in London, Kentucky. Mandy Higgins from the Kentucky Historical Society and the Kentucky Maskmaker's Quilt with Terry Smith if you can state your name?

Teri Smith: Terry Smith, T E R I, S M I T H, and I am the owner of Peaceful Pastimes Quilting.

HIGGINS: Thank you. We're going to start a little early. Can you tell me a little bit about when you began to sew or craft?

SMITH: Long, long time ago. I actually began selling in a Home Ec. class in middle school, doing clothing construction. And so that was a really long time ago. And then, you know, I guess I was always kind of a creative and I learned to crochet for my next door neighbor in Louisville when I was a teenager, she taught me to crochet. And then you know, I did count cross stitch. So I, you know, kind of ran the whole gamut of different crafts, and I did toe painting for a while. But when my son was about six months old, I had quit work to be a stay at home mom and I was really going stir crazy. And here on this farm in Kentucky where we live now, my husband's grandparents lived here at the time, and his grandmother was a quilter. And she first taught me to quilt using cardboard templates and pencils and scissors to cut out the quilt blocks. And you know, that was a way too slow method of quilt making for me, so my quilt making evolved over the years as I learned new techniques, and also my interest in quilting groups that-- to the extent that I decided that was where I wanted to focus my creativity. And I kind of let all those other crafty things go by the wayside short of you know, crafts with the grandkids. But, you know, quilting became my primary focus as a creative outlet.

HIGGINS: Did you-- How did you, how do you use that as a creative outlet?

SMITH: Wow. Well, you know, every family member has quilts, multiple quilts, my kids and grandkids all have quilts. You know, I'll break your heart as a historical society, because I don't label my quilts as well as I should. And so as I look back at the hundreds, literally hundreds of quilts that I've made, now, I regret that they're not all labeled. And so I do try to do a better job now, when I make a quilt and gift it, versus make a quilt and sell it, to make sure I put a label on it. And I'm part of the Kentucky heritage quilt society. I'm their vice president this year. And they are focused on capturing the history of quilts in Kentucky, and have an extensive registry to register those quilts. And so, as I've become acquainted with that process, you know, capturing that information on the quilts that I create is really important to me. But it's you know-- there is a quilter, who has a YouTube page, her name's Angela Walters, and the name of her business is quilting is my therapy. Well, quilting is my therapy, you know, it's the place that I go when I need to forget about other things, or when I need to focus on something. I'm also a freelance writer for healthcare organizations, and I retired from that in 2010. But I've continued to do it on a freelance basis. And sometimes you do that interview and the lead's just not there. And I can come out here and do some mindless sewing. And an hour later, I've got the lead and I can sit down and hammer out that article and then go back to sewing. So I can't explain how it makes my brain work, but it just does. And it really is my therapy.

HIGGINS: Do you practice your quilting alone? Or do you like to do it with other people?

SMITH: Both, both. You know I am in a number of quilt guilds. As I said, I'm in the KHQS guild, which is a statewide organization and then I'm in a couple of local guilds. And I-- when I started doing the professional long arm quilting, of course I took a lot of professional classes to hone my skill on the long arm machine. So you know, quilting can be a social.... There's a lot of social aspect to quilting still. When my husband's grandmother was here quilting, she had a group of ladies that would come to the little farmhouse here. And there was a drop down frame in the living room and they would drop it down from pulleys and sit around that frame and my husband remembers as a child playing under that frame with his trucks and stuff. And and they would hand quilt and I don't hand quilt. I tried. I just don't have the patience for it. Some people find that soothing, I don't. And where was I going with that? Oh, so for her, it was very much a social thing. You know, they would make a quilt every year for the fire department and raise money raffling off the quilt. And those women grew to be friends, and they mourned around those quilts, and they discussed the problems with their children around those quilts. Well, modern quilters, like me still do the same thing. But we do it around machines. And in classes where we're learning new techniques or learning new patterns, or I think women need to find their tribe. Most of us are going to outlive our spouses. And you know, you need to find your tribe and I find my tribe among other cultures.

HIGGINS: Can you tell me a little bit more about your local guilds?

SMITH: There are two here In Laurel County one is Mountain Laurel Quilters. And the other one is called Laurel Silver Threads. And I primarily go to Laurel Silver Threads because it's on a Monday. And it gives me a break from the studio. And it's the first half of the day so I can come back and work in the afternoon. Mount Laurel Quilters meets on Saturday. And that's like-- infringes on my family time and my husband time. So I tend not to go to that one as much. But I love all the ladies in that Guild and so sometimes I have to go just to catch up with friends. And again, you know, some of those ladies do applique some of them do hand quilting, some of them do paper piecing. Very diverse quilters in the area. But most are quilting on a machine of some kind to piece the quilts. And then you know, a lot of them will send them to a long arm quilter like me to have them finished.

HIGGINS: Do you cart a machine, or are theere machines there, how does that--?

SMITH: We have to cart our machines, which you know, and truthfully, I usually don't do that. Because I just find it... challenging to-- we meet at the extension office. So I find it challenging to take a quilt and all my stuff, and then get it set up and sit and quilt in an environment that's not familiar to me, I know you can't tell because the studio is a wreck, but when it's straight, I have everything organized in a way that I can work very efficiently. So I can cut and press and sew. And while I'm doing that out here, I have a long arm machine going in the back. So I can be very, very efficient and productive. And so it's part of my DNA. And even when I'm quilting for pleasure and not quilting, for my job, I like to work efficiently. And I can't do that as easily if I'm in like an extension office. So a lot of times I don't take my machine, I might take a quilt that I'm binding by hand and sit and visit and do my binding. Unless I'm taking a class, I usually don't take my machine

do you cut or do other parts of the process?

Right! Sometimes I might take you know, fabric and a mat and cutting stuff if I know that its something I can cut easily with a lot of distraction going on and conversations. You know. If it's one that I've really gotta concentrate on, I don't even take stuff to cut, because again, it's-- the guilds are in many ways social. KHQS is also social. But they have also the mission of education and preserving the history of quilts in Kentucky. So it's got a different feel to it than my local guilds do.

HIGGINS: Switching gears a little bit, but it'll come back around: How did you learn about COVID?

SMITH: COVID? Well, as I mentioned before, my husband and I both come from healthcare backgrounds. And so we were hearing about it early on even before... a lot of public knowledge was out there about it. I work with physicians at large medical centers in my other job doing freelance writing. And I was hearing about it from the doctors that I work with. And I had spoken to an infectious disease doctor that I work with about it and he said "this is going to be bad." And so my husband and I knew it was coming. Of course, we were hearing about it in other places before it was in the United States. And ironically, the day that the first case was found in Kentucky, my husband and I were in Pigeon Forge at a quilt show. He had gone with me and we went to the quilt show, it was in March. And we were at the Quilt Show, and I got the notification on my phone that the first case had been identified in Kentucky. And we just looked at each other and kind of said, "here we go." My dad passed away in December of 2019. This was 2020. And I still have my mom here, she's in a wheelchair, and she has a neuromuscular degenerative disease. And we knew that our lives were about to change dramatically, because if she got something that significant, it would end her life. And so we, we kind of knew that we had to batten down the hatches and go into a different way of living. And we both work from home. So that part of it was not a significant change for us and we were already accustomed to working from home. But we had to really make sure we kept her safe. We have a son and a daughter in law that live here on the farm. My son's a retail manager, and my daughter in law works at the hospital. So we knew that they were going to have to continue going to work, and we're going to be heavily exposed. And in the end, my grandson ended up being at home, doing remote learning for a year and a half, almost a year and a half. So we ended up homeschooling him and taking care of my mom and protecting her. So it was a, you know, in many ways, a dramatic lifestyle change even though for us, we were already working from home, we grew a lot of our own food. So you know, there were things that weren't changes for us that other people had to get used to. But-- and I guess in the end, we found a lot of benefit to the changes, I still would order my groceries online, if I could get what I wanted from the produce section. So I do go to the grocery now. But we didn't miss going out to eat. And you know, we missed the social aspects of it. But we didn't miss that. And we found that we enjoyed cooking together and trying new recipes. And you know, there were things about that, that we really enjoyed. We do a ton of entertaining, and we had to quit all that. And actually, we haven't really gotten back to doing it, for some reason. We've had friends, call and go "hey! we should really get together," which translates to "we really want you to have another party." And we just haven't kind of gotten our heads around it again. And it's not because of COVID--I don't think--it's just, we just haven't done it. So our lifestyle is a little bit different than it was before COVID.

HIGGINS: Yeah, can you-- so you find out in March that there's a case in Kentucky, and you have all these other things happening. Can you tell me a little bit about your initial feelings? Do you remember your reactions or how you were feeling?



SMITH: I guess I'm an information seeker. So I wanted to get as much information about it as I could. And I wanted to understand how I could keep my mom safe. That was probably my primary concern. You know, and like I said, I work with doctors. So when I was on the phone with them doing interviews, I would ask for information. I would go to NIH websites and the CDC websites to get my information versus the news media a lot of times, so I felt like we were focused on just educating ourselves on how we can protect ourselves and we were going to reliable sources to do that, because we did have the healthcare background versus listening to all the noise. And then, of course, we were tuned into Dr. Stack, and Governor Bashear to see how they were going to keep us safe. And then, you know, making masks became something that I did for my family initially, because like I said, my son and daughter in law had to go to work every day, they didn't have a choice. And the hospital-- my daughter in law is in patient registration, and literally, the hospital would not provide them with a mask. So the masks that they had were reserved for the patient contact employees, but she was registering patients to the ER. So she had contact, but she was having to come up with her own masks to wear and even at one point early on, and a supervisor told her that she should not be wearing a mask, because it was intimidating to the patients coming into the ER. That was early on, they didn't have masks to provide I had made her a mask. And she was told initially not to wear them, because it was intimidating to the patients coming in. So that kind of stuff angered me, because it's like, don't be stupid. You know, let's be smart about this. Let's take care of one another. That was always my position.

HIGGINS: How did you find your pattern or start making your masks?

SMITH: It was trial and error. And I think that was true for everyone who was making masks, it was an evolving process. I remember finding the first one that I used online, and it was simple and quick and not well fitted. And the patterns just quickly evolved. And then someone actually came out with a template that allows you to cut the mask pattern out with a rotary cutter. So then you could cut out multiple masks at one time. So you know, I could make 20 or 30 masks in a day easily. And you know, it was going to Amazon to find the elastic straps and going to Amazon to find the little metal things to put in so that you could-- and that sort of evolved too because my initial thing was to use elastic. And I still have somewhere here I think a roll of elastic, and then my grandson and my son said "oh but that hurts our ears." So then I found-- I don't know where they are at the moment but, then I found these little earpieces that had the sliders on them on Amazon. So I ordered those and I ordered a bulk quantity of those and so then you know it became adjustable because everybody could adjust with the little slider so it just evolved, you know, and trying to fit the needs of the ones that I was making them for.

HIGGINS: Were your mask square or rounded?

SMITH: They started out as a rectangle that just barely covered the chin and nose and I didn't have the nose piece in initially so like I said they probably weren't much of a barrier, but I still believe they had to helped some and then it evolved to more of a rounded mask with the nosepiece in it that covered the nose, mouth, under the chin, and went pretty far over on the cheek and then the nose piece could be bent down-- because that wear glasses, my husband wears glasses, so you know that was-- that whole fog thing was an issue. And so yeah, we wore cloth mask for months until PPE was available.

HIGGINS: How many layers did you use?

SMITH: I used two layers and then a friend of mine in-- who lives in Tennessee, found a filter product and sort of like an interfacing, and she ordered some of it and sent it to me and I started putting it in the masks for the family members because it gave another layer of protection. So that was three layers.

HIGGINS: So you mentioned you made it for your family and that was sort of the the impetus. Did you make for anyone else?

SMITH: Um, some friends that weren't sewists contacted me and wanted masks, and then like I said, I organized a group of women, there were probably five of us. And we made 100 masks for the sheriff's department here in Laurel County,

HIGGINS: Using the same pattern?

SMITH: Yes, yes.

HIGGINS: Did you-- Did you sell masks? Did you use it as a...

SMITH: No, I just felt like... I know some who did. But I just felt like that was something you could do to help. And if people were willing to wear them, I was willing to make them and give them away.

HIGGINS: Coming back around to your guild for a second, how did COVID impact the guild?

SMITH: Basically, at some point, the state shut down all the extension offices, and so the guilds couldn't meet. But, you know, quilters can stay connected through social media and other things. So you know, and KHQS had to cancel all of our events for 2020 and the first part of 2021. All of those educational events and social events that we do, were canceled. So it-- for the Kentucky Heritage Quilt Society, it did affect our membership, we had a membership drop off. Local guilds, I don't think there was so much of a drop off. Because people found other ways to stay in touch. And then when you were able to meet in small groups, but not big groups, then we would just get together, you know, I'd have two or three, come here, and we'd set up tables and just sit and sew for a day so that we could be together. In most cases, it was folks who also had family members that they were trying to keep safe. So they were wearing a mask, and they were taking precautions and limiting their exposure. And I felt comfortable, you know, being in a close environment with them. So yeah.

HIGGINS: And then it's come back? Folks have come back together?

Unknown Speaker Yeah, yes, yes, yeah, I just came back from the KHQS getaway in Cave City. It was June 13th, through the 18th. And we had 112 people there at the convention center. And we were able to bring back teachers and classes. And we did send out a pretty strong COVID statement to everyone who had registered suggesting that everyone who is coming to get away should consider having a home test before they came to make sure they were negative. And that, you know, if they had had an exposure, or if they had any symptoms that indicated they might be ill, we would like for them just to stay at home. And we had four--no one tested positive--but we had four that had either, you know sniffles or you know, something going on, and they opted to stay at home and the organization refunded their money.

SMITH: So you were able to build that community support and--

Right, right

HIGGINS: Along those lines then, can you tell me a little bit about how you learned about the Maskmakers' Quilt?

SMITH: Well, apparently, Gina had created this Facebook page, because she had an idea that all of us who were making masks have lots of scraps leftover, because you do. And she had this idea. And I think she also, like me, was sympathetic to how Dr. Stack and Governor Bashear were being treated, because they were trying to keep people safe. And so she had this idea that the mask makers could all take their scraps and make quilt blocks out of their scraps from the masks. And those could be put together in a quilt and presented to the Governor as a way of saying thank you, I guess, but also as a way of kind of capturing that time in our history. Because really, history was happening very rapidly during COVID in so many ways. And, so anyway, I don't remember who it was actually, but a friend of mine had seen her Facebook page and said, "you need to call this gal because this is something you would like to be involved in." And so I looked at the Facebook page, and I reached out to her and told her that I was a long arm quilter, I did it professionally, I was located in London, not too far from Berea. And when she got the quilt put together, I would be happy to quilt it without charge for it to be finished. And that's how I got involved.

HIGGINS: Can you talk a little bit about the difference between putting a quilt together and a quilt being quilted?

SMITH: Yes, yes, a quilt is basically three layers. It's the quilt top, and then there's the batting in between and then the backing. So there's three layers on a traditional quilt. And typically, the top of the quilt is pieced in some kind of pattern or design, which means cutting apart a whole bunch of fabric, sewing together blocks, and then selling all those blocks together to create the whole top. And so, Gina had put out this call to mask makers to create a nine patch block, which is traditionally nine squares, put together three by three. And I forget what she asked for the final size to be of the block. But she told the mask makers to make a block out of fabrics that they were using to make masks, and to send those blocks to her and that the blocks would then be assembled into a quilt top and quilted. In my case, I do the quilting on a professional long arm machine. And this is one of my businesses. And so the quilt back is loaded on the frame, and then the batting goes on top of the quilt back. And then the top goes on top of that. And then I use the long arm machine to sew or quilt those three layers together so that they're stabilized. And then you add binding to the outside raw edge to encase those three layers together.

HIGGINS: Is there a-- On this quilt was there a special pattern or how-- the quilting itself, is that?

SMITH: Yes, I believe I did something called a square spiral design on the quilt. And I just kept it really simple because I knew the quilt itself is very busy with all the different fabrics, there's so much to look at. So the quilting part of it was really just to sort of put everything together and stabilize it and give the finished quilt some texture. I knew it wasn't a quilt that was gonna get lots of washing and wears on the couch with dogs and kids and you know, baby spit up, it was going to be hung somewhere and it was going to be a part of our history. So it didn't need a lot of detailed quilting. And so it didn't get that.

HIGGINS: Did you put a square in the quilt as well?

SMITH: I did.

HIGGINS: Can you tell me about it?

SMITH: I don't remember what-- I honestly don't remember what it looks like. I really don't. I do remember that I think-- I think I've used one of the pieces of fabric from the masks that I'd made for the Sheriff's Department. But I honestly don't remember what it looks like because I had all the blocks on a design board here in the studio and my grandson who's teenager was in here moving the blocks around trying to help me get a pleasing effect. And he said which block is yours? And I said why don't have one and he said well, you have to put a block in here. And so I do remember that I walked over to the sewing machine and picked up some stuff, cut squares, and put a block together. And he stuck it up there. And I really don't remember what it looks like. I couldn't tell you. Probably if I was standing in front of the quilt, I couldn't find it. But it's in there somewhere.

HIGGINS: And did you choose the backing? Or do you remember that?

SMITH: I think we just did a muslin backing on that. Is that what it is?

HIGGINS: It has a little bit of a little bit of a pattern.

SMITH: Oh, do you have a picture of that?

HIGGINS: I saw some clovers.

SMITH: Oh yes, I do remember that; that was actually-- so I have backing fabrics that I keep here in the studio to sell to customers. And I sell it when they need backing for their quilts. And that was a piece that I had here. And the quilt had a lot of green in it and so that seemed like the perfect fit and so that's what I loaded on the machine. Oh, I know what it was, the embroidery was in green, and green was-- light your front porch is in green. And so that is why I picked that backing, and by the way, my front porch is still green, my light.

HIGGINS: Can you tell me a little bit about how you were feeling or thinking as you were putting it together?

SMITH: Yes. I remember thinking that what appealed to me about the project was this idea of... The mask makers had come together to respond to a need in their respective communities, to create masks where there were none, to try to take care of one another and protect one another. That was my catalyst for making masks for my family, for friends, and for people in the community. So I remember thinking there was a synergy in this idea of Gina's to put pieces of mask fabric into a quilt. Because for me quilting-- a quilt is always sort of a symbol of unity and love and compassion. When I'm putting a quilt together, and I know it's for a specific person, you know, I think about that person as I'm putting the quilt together. I often pray for that person as I'm putting the quilt together. So there was a synergy for me in working on a project that was a symbol of us coming together as a community and caring for one another at the beginning of COVID. But then, as the project was evolving, so was our community, spiritedness. Sort of our initial feeling of how do we take care of one another, started falling apart into this political divisiveness. And I was really disturbed by that and eventually became very angry about it. But there was just an irony in the fact that I was working on this project that was supposed to be symbolic of this time in history. And I believe Gina's initial idea was to capture this moment where we came together as a Commonwealth, to take care of one another. And yet, even as we were working on this symbol of that, we weren't doing a very good job of it. And it just got worse as COVID got worse. And I just think that's sort of a part of our history that we're gonna look back on and not be very proud of someday. And so when I look at this quilt, I'll think about where we started. But I always think about where we ended up. And there's just an irony to that. That's not something I think we are proud of, or should be proud of.

HIGGINS: So you're sort of grappling with all of this, as you're putting it together. Did you express any of that to the Governor, or to others in a written form or... when you delivered it?

SMITH: No, the day that we met with the Governor, I just really wanted to say thank you. And, you know, he was so genuinely in awe of the quilt when he saw it. I mean, it was very genuine. And, you know, when I met with him, I just wanted to say, thank you for everything you're doing to try to keep people safe. And I'm sorry, that you've been treated the way you have because of that. And, again, you know, I think we have individual responsibility to keep ourselves safe and keep our families safe. But clearly, you know, there were some steps that he needed to take to try to keep us safe. And it was just a constant battle for him. And I just, I am so proud to live in Kentucky. I've lived all over the United States and moved back to Kentucky after 35 years, in 2010. And I've always been proud to be back in Kentucky. And I wasn't proud to be in Kentucky during COVID.

HIGGINS: Because of Kentuckians responses?


HIGGINS: Has that changed at all in the intervening months?

SMITH: I had friends before COVID that I no longer consider friends. I literally had people tell me that I was just being ridiculous that my mom was... my mom's health and well being was in God's hands and that me taking all these measures to try to protect her was a sign of lack of faith on my part. And I haven't been back in church since COVID because of that. Because that's not my definition of Christianity. So yeah, COVID has from a socio-- from a sociology kind of perspective, COVID has changed the way I feel about certain things and certain people because of the way they behaved themselves during COVID.

HIGGINS: And you mentioned that quilting can be your therapy--

SMITH: It is!

HIGGINS: --did quilting this allow you to work through some of that and being involved in the project?

SMITH: No, I'm I don't think it did. I mean, honestly. Because when I was working on it, you know, there were times when I thought here I am working on this symbol of unity, this symbol of coming together, you know, Kentuck-- I forget what the slogan was, but, you know, it was the symbol of Kentuckians coming together. And of course, it all got worse even after the quilt was finished. But I kept thinking how ironic it was that we were working on this symbol of unity and while I was working on it, the unity was just falling away. And we were becoming so divided and so polarized, not only as a Commonwealth, but as a country. And there was a lot of anger, that this symbol that I was working on, was in some way, a lie. Because it is a part of our history that in the initial days of COVID, people came together and tried to take care of one another. But the worst part of it is that we couldn't stick with it, and that we became this polarized state in this polarized country. And we still are. And so no, working on the quilt didn't help me work through my feelings about that, I don't think.

HIGGINS: In some ways maybe... dug into it a little?

SMITH: A little, yeah, because the irony was just so poignant, you know, that this is the way it should be. You know, what was on my design wall, what I was putting together is what I thought it should look like, but the reality was so different.

HIGGINS: Can you tell me a little bit about... So you said you delivered it and you were so happy to-- it was great to be able to tell him thank you. In the-- you also put together a scrapbook?

SMITH: I did not, Gina did.


SMITH: Gina put together the scrapbook.

HIGGINS: Did you do the cover?

SMITH: No, I didn't have anything to do with the scrapbook. She was trying to figure out what to do with the extra blocks and I think she was working on the scrapbook anyway, and decided that the extra blocks, if I'm not mistaken, could go in the scrapbook. And then they would still get delivered to the Governor. And they would still hold a place in our history and be part of the project. But they just didn't make it into the quilt. Because initially we thought about putting them on the back of the quilt, but there were just so many of them. And so...

HIGGINS: Yeah. Did you write a letter? Do you have-- Did you have any...

SMITH: I did not, I wish I had. Yeah, I wish I had written a letter. Gina did give him a letter that day from her. And I kind of wish I had done that. But yeah, I didn't have the forethought to do that.

HIGGINS: If you could have written-- if you had the forethought do you have a big picture of what you would have said?

SMITH: I think just expressing my gratitude both to him and to Dr. Stack and all the ones that were working so hard to figure out how to navigate the challenges. You know, I can only imagine as a governor of a state that you are committed to see prosper and thrive, to have to make a decision to shut things down was not an easy decision. And I know he knew the impact it was going to have on people's livelihoods and he knew that-- I believe he knew how angry it was going to make some, but he had the strength to do it anyway. And so the courage of his conviction, the courage of Dr. Stack's conviction, how hard they worked every day to educate people and help them to understand why this is important. And just to hit those obstacles day in and day out, I just... Yeah.

When we met with Dr. Stack, he talked a little bit about that, getting that sort of response--


HIGGINS: --From folks. Were you? Did you help piece the teddy bears?

SMITH: No, I did not. I did not. The quilt was more than enough.

HIGGINS: It is a large quilt!

SMITH: it was more than enough.

HIGGINS: Did you send anything else to... You worked with-- here locally with the sheriff's office. Did you send masks or anything to any of the other local or state officials?

SMITH: No, no. You know, like I said, I had some friends who had family members that worked in hospitals or other places, and they didn't have PPE, so I provided masks for them but most of those were just local.

HIGGINS: Do you remember when you stopped making masks?

SMITH: Wow. I remember that I had made like 200 something. Because I had sort of kept count. And I was like, I'm just not going to do this anymore. And then somebody would ask if you can make a one off, or my grandson would come home and say this mask, you know, has been washed too many times. Can you make me another one? It just sort of gradually tapered off. And I really don't remember, like, it just tapered off.

HIGGINS: Do you miss it at all?

SMITH: No. Mask-making is not fun.

HIGGINS: Why is it not fun?

SMITH: It's just tedious. It's not, you know, it's not creative. It's utilitarian. And I quilt for the creative part of it. Not-- Yeah, it's why don't make clothes.

HIGGINS: You're speaking deeply to me.

SMITH: Yeah.

HIGGINS: So you've mentioned a little bit... In the moment you're doing this, you're watching both what is possible, and what is reality happening. Have you seen the community, either your local community or the quilting community, continue to support each other?

SMITH: I'm trying to think how to answer that question. I'm sorry.

HIGGINS: Take your time.

SMITH: I think there are some that just want to go back to what normal looked like before COVID. And they don't want to talk about it, or think about it, or behave any differently. They don't want to hear about COVID cases rising. They don't want to hear about new variants of COVID that can be problematic. They are fatigued with the whole thing. I think that there is-- I think we've come back together, but I still think we tiptoe around the divisiveness because we know the ones in our group who have a different view than we do. You know, my mom still doesn't go to church. She doesn't go to the grocery. She gets her groceries delivered, or her caregiver picks them up. She's more homebound than ever before. Because she's at such high risk even if she's vaccinated. So I think that the divisiveness is still there related to COVID. And we've come back together and we tiptoe around it so that we can get along. That's what I think. And, and, you know, a case in point, I'm the vice president of KHQS. We had our getaway a couple of weeks ago now. And the Sunday before everybody was coming together on Wednesday. I sent out a memo to everyone that was coming about COVID and how they should behave, and I said you know, we are not restricting you to social distancing. You are not required to wear a mask, although you're certainly welcome to. We had a couple who did. But we are asking you to keep one another safe, and to be thoughtful and careful before you come about whether or not you'd be exposing our other guild members to illness, whether it's COVID, or any other contagion. So if you're experiencing any of these symptoms--and we listed them--if your family, if an immediate family member, or someone you live with has been exposed to COVID, don't come unless you test negative. If you wake up on Wednesday morning, and you're not feeling well don't come. We had four out of 112 registrants who did not come as a result. I got five emails within an hour of sending that out thanking me for sending that out and for taking precautions. The ones who didn't appreciate it kept their mouths shut. So I think we're tiptoeing around it, and I think we're... I think we're trying to get along, but it's still a dividing point among us. And I think that's in Kentucky, and I think it's across the nation. The ones that don't keep quiet about it, I just don't want to hear from them.

HIGGINS: Is that... Sorry, I am trying to think about how I want to frame this question. So one of the other pieces of this then for us, or from the full perspective, is this idea of Team Kentucky. In your mind, given what you've just told us, one: does Team Kentucky exist?


HIGGINS: Okay. If it did, how would you define it?

SMITH: Not much differently than Governor Beshear tried to define it. And, and for me, This isn't political. It's healthcare related. I don't care what party Governor Bashear is, politically. I don't care what religion he or anybody else is, and how that impacts their decision making. If we were Team Kentucky, we would be able to put all of our views aside and just simply care and love one another enough to protect one another. Whether we wanted to wear a mask or not, or get up, even if we didn't fully believe that a mask protected us or someone else, just on the chance that it did. If we were Team Kentucky, we put on the damn mask to take care of one another. And we didn't do that. And so, you know... Yeah, he tried. There were some that, you know, believed that that was the right way to go. There are some who still believe that we have an obligation to caring for one another. That's my Christianity. You know, that's my religion, that we have an obligation to do everything we can to protect one another. And whether we believe, you know, that a mask is going to do that just on the off chance. What does it hurt for you to do it? I mean, honestly, what does it hurt for somebody to put on a mask, even if they don't fully believe that it's going to take care of somebody else? What harm does it do? And I never could understand why we couldn't get there. To me, caring for each other and loving each other should never have to be mandated. And he didn't have any choice. So no, we're not Team Kentucky

HIGGINS: This is the last question. It's June 29, 2022. How are you feeling today?

SMITH: About?

HIGGINS: About COVID, about where we are.

SMITH: Sure. Part of me is sad that COVID has divided us but when I think about it, COVID isn't what divided us. It was political, divisiveness that divided us. COVID was just kind of the catalyst. You know, I have said to some of my friends, if the United States wanted to draw our enemies a roadmap for how to defeat us, we did that with COVID. Because we showed the whole world that our desire for individualism is more important to us than our ideal about being a united country. And so to me, we just drew our enemies a roadmap, that they can defeat this country with something like COVID, that would divide us. And so, I don't feel safer, or as safe as I did in this country before COVID, you know. I think that's sad. And, you know, I sometimes wonder if we can recover from it, if we can ever, really ever be united again. Or if this polarization that we're experiencing-- I think it was there before COVID and covered just exasperated it, because of the politics of our times. And I just, I don't know that we can ever recover from it. You know, I think about our grandparents that lived through the Depression, you know, and how they reacted to that and got through it. You think about our grandparents who lived through World Wars, and how the country came together, and united in those times of trouble. But we were incapable of doing that when we were faced with COVID. And COVID impacted our nation in not so different a way than those other things did. But we couldn't come together. And we couldn't come together because we didn't have leadership as a country. And because I think-- and there was this undercurrent of polarization that already existed that we were numb to, or not paying attention to. And COVID just brought it up to the surface. And so I do ask myself if we can ever recover from that,and really be a united nation, and I just think that we demonstrated to the world have to destroy us.

HIGGINS: Thank you. Thank you for your candor and for--