Several years ago, a camera assistant friend of Claire Folger’s drew the comparison between a film camera and a rather different device.
“A camera mechanism works basically the same as a sewing machine mechanism,” said Folger, a still photographer and 20-year member of Local 600. “So anyone who can run camera should be able to run a sewing machine.”
Folger can indeed run a sewing machine, and she has been able to do so for years. In high school, she took great pleasure in making her own clothes and she continued to stitch in college. Over the years, as she has developed a successful career shooting nearly 100 films and TV projects, the time to sew has fallen away.
Now with the industry shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Folger has time again and there is certainly a need for people who can sew. Armed with an old Fleetwood that used to belong to her grandmother, Folger has been crafting masks which she has been sending to hospitals and medical centers in Boston – where she lives – and around New England. She has partnered with Laura’s Sewing School in Arlington, Mass, washing and prepping the fabric to help the school make kits. To date, the Folger-made masks have gone to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and the Pediatric Trauma Center at Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Rhode Island. And more are on the way.
“I sent out my first batch on March 24, and they look awesome!” Folger said. My first prototypes didn’t come out quite right. Then I watched a couple more videos. My cousin is an operating room transplant nurse. She also sews and she gave me the dimensions of proper surgical masks. She showed me her pattern and it took off from there.”
Adding in the prep time, Folger has found that she can sit at her machine and knock out up to 10 masks a day. Other than dealing with hiccups like her machine breaking down, she has found the work to be rewarding on a couple of different levels.
“It’s been really great, meditative and relaxing,” she said. “I’ve always loved sewing, and now I feel like I’m doing something good for the community. Hopefully we can get out in front of the curve here in Boston and get everybody suited up before it gets really bad here. Then when it gets bad, they’ll have these as back up if they run out.”
2020 was shaping up to be a busy year for Folger who had recently returned from New Orleans when the pandemic hit in full force. She had just wrapped the upcoming Adrian Lyne film Deep Water and, in 2019, she worked on Knives Out and Richard Jewell.
She has been a member of Local 600 since 2000 and was an alternate on the National Executive Board (NEB) three years ago.