Catasauqua resident makes 400-plus masks
One could say Brenda Kline Burger is an expert sewer. The Catasauqua Borough resident admits, with a chuckle, to having seven machines.
A previous software engineer, she now calls herself a crafter. Kline Burger learned this art from her mother when she was very young. She said she started at the age of 4 or 5.
“I have been a crafter for a long time. By trade, I’m a software engineer, and I became disabled nine years ago,” Kline Burger said. “I’ve always done some kind of craft. I had a business for 25 years.”
Whether she’s feeling well or not so well, Kline Burger still manages to make crafts, some days producing less items than other days.
“I have a lot of my mom’s products in our basement,” Kline Burger said. “I’ll do shows and make all kinds of things. I love doing that. I give a lot of things away to those who are less fortunate than I.”
Fast forward to today - Kline Burger has sewed at least 300 masks for Lehigh Valley Health Network employees, all of which have been made for donation. These projects have become a popular task for those who sew since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the nation.
She has made at least another 100 for family, friends and neighbors, some for donation and some for a set fee. Another 150-some pieces of fabric are cut out and ready to go to the machine.
The women who cut out these pieces are friends Connie Moll, administrative secretary to the director of NORI (Network Office of Research and Innovation), and Julie Gualano, residency program manager for the department of obstetrics and gynecology, both at Lehigh Valley Health Network. They asked Kline Burger to help make masks for hospital staff.
“They called me, and they said, ‘We really need masks, so you’re not getting out of this,’” Kline Burger said.
But it didn’t take much for Kline Burger to say yes. Doctors and nurses have a special place in her heart.
“I have been in the hospital every year since I was 18, no less than four to six times a year,” Kline Burger said. “Behcet’s disease is a horrible disease. I wasn’t diagnosed until 45 (years old). A lot of doctors and nurses took care of me, and they were always very good to me. I have to say that community is really like family to me.”
Some of the designs on the masks include roosters, fish, sailing ships, eagles, wine bottles, plaids, Halloween and Christmas themes, fruits and snowmen.
“You name it, we had it,” Kline Burger said.
Making these 400-plus masks takes a lot of time out of her day, but not as much as it did when she first started. In the beginning, making one mask took about 30 minutes. Now, she can get it done a lot faster.
Before donating, the fabric is washed, folded and put into a clean bag.
Kline Burger makes a three-layer mask of cotton, with an open slit for a tissue or coffee filter, and with fold-over elastic instead of the usual, regular elastic.
“Fold-over elastic is soft and doesn’t go in the crevice of your ear,” Kline Burger said.
Another elastic she likes using is a material that is two inches wide and rolls up. Kline Burger also plans to use vinyl for some masks in the future.
“There is a piece of vinyl that gets a button on either side, and it goes in the back of the mask, and it holds it away from your ear piece,” Kline Burger said. “I can’t wait to turn on my embroidery machine because I think it makes like 12 at a time.”
Kline Burger is always trying to include requests from doctors and nurses on what they would like in a mask. The latest innovation is having a piece of cotton right at the nose piece to lift it away from the nose so glasses do not get foggy.
Without her husband, Kline Burger said, she would not be able to do all the work she has been able to do.
“I’d like to thank my husband because he has really picked up everything else around here and made it easy for me to do this,” she said. “Without him, I can’t leave the house. He does everything else.”
Kline Burger started making these masks almost six weeks ago; that’s many weeks of nonstop work. She has even started sewing in her sleep, she joked. But all that work comes with pride and a feeling of accomplishment. Making these masks has had an emotional impact on Kline Burger, one that involves personal fulfillment.
“I think [making masks is] the first time since I have not been working that I have a purpose,” Kline Burger said. “I really feel like I am able to do something for someone again.”