WAUKESHA COUNTY, Wis. (CBS 58) -- At 92-years-old, Catherine Moran still lives on her own in Waukesha County. She has 14 children, so family is always nearby. But during the pandemic, they’ve had to keep a safe distance. To help keep herself busy, Moran has been making hundreds of face masks.
The whirring of her sewing machine has become a constant sound at her home in Nashotah.
“Make sure the elastic stays in place,” she said, demonstrating how to make a mask. She’s got the process down to a science.
“I thought, I have a lot of time and I know how to sew, and I can do that, if I knew how,” she explained. “So, I watched a tutorial on the computer. It didn't look too hard.”
It must not have been too hard. Moran has made nearly 300 masks in the past two months. At first, the masks started going to health care workers. She has family members working for Horizon Health and Children’s Wisconsin.
“And then my family started saying, well, what about us,” she said with a laugh.
With a large family, demand was high.
“I sent them to Texas,” she said. “I sent them to my daughters in Hawaii.”
And then neighbors started asking for masks, and dropping off supplies.
“People kept coming to my door, we hear you're making masks? Could I have one please? But word gets out,” Moran said.
It’s not really a surprise. Taking a look around Moran’s home, it’s clear she’s skilled at the sewing machine. Beautiful, colorful quilts fill the space. Her family members have her quilts at their homes, too. She gives them as gifts on special occasions.
But she wasn’t always good at sewing.
“I was given a sewing machine by my mother-in-law on my first wedding anniversary and I said, what am I going to do with this,” she remembers.
But she didn’t take up the hobby until she turned 70. Now, that skill has led her to a pandemic project.
“Quarantine Quilt 2020,” she said. “So, that's a very cute idea.”
Her daughter, Katie Moran Bart, agrees.
“I was here when it first started,” Moran Bart said. “She had a couple made and she started getting more and more excited about it.”
Martha, Moran’s 30th grandchild, and Aoife, her 28th grandchild, are taking part in the project. Moran mailed each of her 36 grandchildren one square from the quilt, each in the shape of a house.
“Because it's certainly going to be very memorable in their lives, and I wanted to put it down for posterity in a quilt,” Moran said of the idea.
She asked them to write down a few words on the square to remember this time. As a senior in high school this year, Martha wrote ‘unexpected.’
“Because I went through my senior year, expecting to have all these milestones and things to look forward to and I went home from school on spring break and I never went back,” Martha Moran said.
The grandchildren range in age from 41 to 8-years-old. Moran has been pleased and surprised with their messages.
“Each one, unexpectedly, things like, somebody just says 'unknown,'” she said. “Somebody says 'science.' I still don't understand that one.”
Moran Bart said it’s a project that is keeping the family together, during a time when they’ve mostly had to be apart.
“I think she's always thinking of that historical piece -- how to keep the family together, and this is another example of that,” she said.
“Everyone idolizes Gram Moran,” Martha said, of her grandmother.
The Moran family is used to gathering around the kitchen table, which they haven’t gotten to do much of in the last few months. Moran Bart said phone calls have helped.
“She is our check-in point. She gets phone calls from all of us,” she said of her mother.
But the quarantine quilt has helped make the time go by.
“In between each house there will be sashing, which will be yellow, which is indicating the sun. And the green grass underneath the houses,” Moran said, describing her plans for the quilt.
A project, stitching the family closer together.
“The beauty, too, is that she's modeling for all of us, generation after generation, the littlest ones are seeing what Gram Moran is doing,” Moran Bart said.
Moran is still waiting on a few more squares from her grandchildren, but hopes to have the project done soon.