ENCINITAS — If you’re looking for a free hand-sewn face mask from a prize-winning quilter, look no further than Hickoryhill Drive in Encinitas.
The stylish cloth masks are offered to the public courtesy of Rinda VanLennep, 81, who has kept busy at her sewing machine since shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic began.
VanLennep told The Coast News she first started making masks after her sewing group, American Sewing Guild, requested face-coverings for healthcare workers in need of personal protective equipment last April.
As immediate demand tapered off, VanLennep realized she had grown to enjoy her time sewing and continued to produce masks, offering them free of charge in a basket that hangs from her front-yard fencepost.
Since then, VanLennep has stitched 1,000 masks, many of which feature a colorful assemblage of quilting scraps she’s collected over the years.
“I don’t even see who’s taking them, lots of times a car will just drive by and pick one up,” VanLennep said.
In response to demand, VanLennep has recruited a neighbor, Marcia Frango, to help with non-sewing duties, such as folding and packaging. The duo averages about five masks per day.
In return, the longtime Encinitas resident has received a basketful of thank you cards, flowers and notes from neighbors expressing their appreciation for her handmade gifts.
“I never believed I would still be here still doing this so many months later,” VanLennep said. “Until they stop picking them up, I guess I’ll keep making them.”
Regarding coronavirus prevention, VanLennep said she has already received her first vaccination shot and is scheduled to get her second dose this week.