Shepherd resident attempts to balance making masks, being a mother


Shepherd resident Morgan Painter works on masks from her grandmother's old sewing table April 9 at her home.

Morgan Painter sits at her grandmother’s embroidery machine accompanied by a mess of yarn and unfinished masks. Fabric is thrown over the cabinet door like dish towels on a drying rack. 

The farmhouse walls are decorated in family photos and crafts. They are spotlighted by the few streams of sunlight breaking through the thick curtains covering the picture window.

Painter’s been up since 6:30 a.m. to get a head start on her five hours of mask-making before her two kids, Hudzyn, 7, and Creedynce, 5, wake up to start their new daily routines. Painter said she returns to the workshop between the family’s living room and dining room in the evening to round out her nine hours of mask making.

Justin, Painter’s husband, worked as a welder before being laid-off with three-quarters of the factory staff. He said he has been supporting his wife’s service by making breakfast in the morning and keeping the kids occupied with dirt bikes and tire swings.

Before schools were shut down because of an executive order, Painter worked at Lakeview Elementary school helping students improve their reading skills.

“When the schools shut down, it was shocking and heartbreaking because there is no closure,” the reading tutor said. “It was hardest for my son, who is in preschool, because he didn’t understand why he wasn’t going to school to see his teachers and friends,” 

Painter said the heartbreak of the sweeping shutdowns motivated her to sew masks for people who needed them. 

In the time since she has been home, Painter has made almost 600 masks. She sends 8 or 9 packages a day to hospitals, nursing homes and individuals across the United States, she said.

She likened sewing to playing video games.

“It takes 6 to 8 minutes to make one mask,” Painter said. “Once you sit down, hours will go by before I realize how long I’ve been sewing.”

Painter’s journey began with a lot of YouTube videos and a process of trial and error, she said.

“I nailed the first one I made and just kept sewing,” Painter said.

One of the reasons mask-making in Michigan began was because of a shortage of masks for medical personnel. Now, Painter said she has seen a shortage of mask-making supplies like fabric and elastic. 

The lack of supplies has forced Painter to improvise, and she is now crafting mask ties from blanket yarn, making the masks comfortable and more one-size-fits-all.

Shepherd resident Morgan Painter ties a mask around her face April 9 at her home. Because of a shortage of elastic, Painter has had to make ties out of yarn.

Painter has benefitted from donations from people like Delani Huntoon, a neighbor who helped restock Painter’s fabric supply.

Huntoon works at Home Depot in Mount Pleasant. She said the hardware store’s supply of masks was sent to relieve hospitals, leaving few masks for its employees.

“My co-workers and I wanted to sew some masks, but we are all working 60 or 70 hours a week,” Huntoon said. “We had lots of fabric — just not the hours.”

Painter said she has been blessed by the continued support and donations she has received. 

The most important part about making masks, Painter said, is that she sets aside time during the day to still be a wife and mother. 

“It’s been a blessing to be home,” she said. “It has given our family a chance to plant our roots again and define the meaning of family.” 

Shepherd residents Justin and Morgan Painter push their son Hudzyn, 7, on a tire swing April 9 at their home. Painter said swinging is their children's favorite outdoor activity.