Look For The Helpers: Virtual Sewing Circle Stitches Together Community Need, Artistic Desire | KUNC

Look For The Helpers: Virtual Sewing Circle Stitches Together Community Need, Artistic Desire

May 20, 2020

In times of distress, a quote from Mr. Rogers often comes up: "When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'"

In its recurring segment, "The Helpers," KUNC is collecting stories of people who are going above and beyond to aid others during this time of crisis.

Nicole Bartet is the chair of fashion design at the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design. Bartet, along with Angela Astle, founder of the arts group the Athena Project, have created weekly, online sewing circles as part of the Fashion in Action mask project.

The virtual events gather students, fashion designers and casual sewers to make personal protection masks for nonprofits in need.

Nicole Bartet is the chair of the fashion design program at Denver-based Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design.
Credit Nicole Bartet

"When I first heard about the idea from Angela, I thought it was a great idea," Bartet said. "We have the skill set; we've been training our students to sew from the get-go and we want to make sure they have this skill set for the good."    

Bartet has been putting together "maker kits" for participants, hunting down hard-to-find items like elastic and sending it out to crafters locally and around the country.

Finished masks have gone to assisted living centers, homeless shelters and schools throughout Colorado, Astle said. The program works with the state's Colorado Mask Project to make sure they aren't duplicating efforts.

The program goes hand-in-hand with Project Athena's mission to empower female artists, she said. Especially after so many arts events and programs were canceled due to the pandemic.

"Pivoting to something like this wasn't really far out of our wheelhouse," Astle said. "It made it all the more meaningful because it has served that purpose — artists especially have a need to create. They want to create. They want to have their work be a part of a community."

The sewing circle makes masks for nonprofit groups in need.
Credit Nicole Bartet

Both Bartet and Astle say the sewing circles have given them and those in the sewing circles a much needed way to connect with others during a time of social distancing.

"I'm finding that during this time, women in particular are having to manage so much on their shoulders," Astle said. "Working a full-time job, but also homeschooling kids and trying to balance all of these things and yet doing something positive for the community gives us each that little bit of peace of mind — that I'm still me, I'm still doing what I need to do to fill my heart and my soul."

The Fashion in Action mask sewing circles meet at 11 a.m. Saturdays on Zoom.

If you know of a "Helper" making a difference, contact Stacy Nick at stacy.nick@kunc.org.