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For The Itemizer-Observer

INDEPENDENCE — THE coronavirus pandemic seemed to catch the entire world off guard in March, but not Peggy Clyne.

She dove into her piles of fabric and started making face masks.

“I have quite a stash of stuff, so I was quite prepared for this,” said Clyne. “Truly, I’m sort of in my environment. I’m a textile artist and have the time to weave and spin and knit and make masks.”

She wasted little time.

“I started making masks in March because I just felt that we would need them,” she said.

Clyne made some 200 masks before she was approached in May by Ramón Martínez, the community engagement manager for the City of Independence, to help him make sure everyone in the community was covered.

“We approached her about the need in our community, and she stepped up to the plate instantly,” Martínez said. “It’s a blessing to have her so willing to help in our community.”

Clyne, in her fourth year as a member of the Central School Board, estimated she has made at least 700 masks — each taking about 20 minutes.

She takes the finished masks to Martínez, who distributes them to local organizations such as the Ella Curran Food Bank, Partnerships in Community Living and the Oregon Child Development Coalition.

“I just hand the masks off to him, and he makes sure they get to the people who need them,” she said.

Masks are also distributed to area farmworkers and anyone else who might have trouble obtaining them, Martínez said.

“If I’m out there, and there’s a need, I distribute the masks,” he said. “It’s pretty broad.”

He added that Clyne has a remarkable production network.

“Peggy’s the main person,” he said. “She has a lot of connections.”

Clyne said she receives a considerable amount of help from friends who are knitters, weavers, quilters and other textile artists.

“There are many people in my friendship group who are making masks as well,” she said. It’s not just me.”

Susan Doellinger also deserves credit, Martínez said.

She has contributed more than 70 masks. Clyne said she tries not to compete with people making and selling masks for profit.

“I know there are people out there making masks for sale,” she said. “That is not my niche. I don’t want to step on their toes, I know people need to make masks for sale.”

She just wanted to put her love of textiles to productive use, she added. She became interested in spinning after her husband David bought her a spinning wheel in 2013.

She found that the hobby required a considerable amount of yarn.

“I can’t knit as fast as I can spin, so my yarn stash continued to grow,” she said.

Clyne retired in 2018 after 29 years in education — mostly in the Corvallis School District. Retirement gave her even more time to tend to her textiles.

“I think that working with fiber is so relaxing,” she said. “I’m now totally hooked on dish towels because it’s so much fun to play with colors.”

Masks, however, represent a civic duty during the pandemic, she added.

Clyne buys the elastic for the masks, but everything else is donated. She has tons of thread. As a textile artist, she said, the design of masks fascinates her.

“It’s pretty fun how they have evolved,” she added. “At first, they were these funny little double-pleated things. Now they’re more adjustable and comfortable to wear.”

She has few recommendations when it comes to masks.

“Any mask is probably better than none,” she said. “The double thickness is best. I make my masks so they have elastic so they are adjustable.”

Much of her fabric comes from a friend. The fabric comes in all manner of prints.

“I don’t think I’ve made any solid ones,” she said. “She just sends me stuff, so I get what I get.”

Clyne does have one firm recommendation when it comes to masks: Wear them.

Martínez said he’s pleased overall with compliance in Independence.

“I feel it’s good,” he said. “In our community, I very often see people wearing the masks down around their necks, ready to put on if necessary.”

Compliance should not be seen as an option, Clyne said.

“You can preach the science all day,” she said. “You can talk politics all day. The rule is that everyone wears masks inside businesses. Business owners have been put in a position of being the policing agency for people to wear masks. I really feel sorry for our small businesses.”

Customers seldom stay in stores very long, she added.

“The people who work there have to wear them all day,” she said. “It’s not a kind thing for Oregonians to put our businesses at risk.”

A lot of people talk about the importance of supporting local business, Clyne said.

“If people really want to support our small businesses, they would wear masks,” she said. “Just be kind. Show some empathy.”

Martínez said Clyne is one of the kindest people he knows in the community.

“Peggy has the biggest heart,” he said. “She is so willing to help the community. A lot of support has also been given by her husband David. Working with both of them has been wonderful."

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