April 16, 2020

photo of Mary Basler sewing

Mary Basler of Highlands University sews a cotton face mask for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Las Vegas, N.M. – Mary Basler of New Mexico Highlands University is sewing up a storm making cotton face masks for the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’ll keep making the masks as long as they’re needed,” said Basler, who is the administrator for the Media Arts and Technology Department at Highlands. “I’m thankful for the opportunity to contribute these masks. They also give me more purpose while I stay at home.”

So far, Basler has sewn more than 50 masks, with part of her first batch going to the Highlands Police Department. The rest are intended for other Highlands campus departments and the Las Vegas community.

“These masks offer another level of protection against something we can’t see, especially when people are without symptoms of COVID-19. The idea came from Miriam Langer, our department chair in the Media Arts and Technology Department,” Basler said.

Basler said the washable face mask design uses four ribbon ties rather than elastic bands for a more comfortable fit. She has set up an assembly line where she cuts the cloth to make 10 masks at a time.

“I have several sewing machines ranging from antiques to computerized ones. I’m sewing the masks on my favorite machine, an antique Singer, because it sews like a dream,” Basler said.

Basler learned to sew from her grandmother when she was six. She’s a lifelong seamstress and has been a quilter for 20 years. She had plenty of cotton fabric on hand to make the masks and the Media Arts and Technology Department donated the ribbons.

Basler is knowledgeable about textiles. She taught a Textiles Production course for media arts and technology that incorporated designing and sewing multimedia projects.

“Mary is still doing her full-time job working with our students to get them the equipment they need,” Langer said. “She’s truly amazing and tireless in her commitment to serving the students of Highlands and the community.”