Maine Heritage Weavers’ Monmouth factory. The company started weaving material for a massive donation of face masks on Monday. Sun Journal file photo

MONMOUTH — Maine Heritage Weavers, makers of the famous Bates Mill Store brand, is using three of its bedspread looms to weave 1,000 yards of cotton fabric that will become 50,000 masks donated to children’s hospitals and nonprofits helping children battling cancer.

Bianca Cloutier, vice president of sales and marketing, said their team was already discussing ways they could help during the pandemic, figuring, “as a textile company, there must be something we can do.”

Then hat company Love Your Melon reached out with a large-scale proposal.

Bianca Cloutier, vice president of sales and marketing at Maine Heritage Weavers in 2015. Sun Journal file photo

“As we were already working on (a face mask) prototype, we realized wow, together we could really make a big impact,” said Cloutier. “Knowing how much people need these masks on the front line, that really inspired us, ‘OK, what do we do best, what do we do differently and what can we do at scale?'”

On Monday, Maine Heritage Weavers started weaving fabric that will be sent off in four yard batches to facilities in Kentucky and Minnesota to cut, pair with material by another company making bed sheets and sew into face masks. Love Your Melon is organizing the donation and fielding requests.

It will take about a week to make 1,000 yards.

The initial thought was for 50,000 masks but demand may be more, Cloutier said.

“We’ve heard that the requests have gone even beyond that, so we’re now taking a step back and looking at how we can be doing even more,” she said.

Maine Heritage Weavers has roots back to the Bates Mill Complex, and a staff of 22 is still turning out up to 80-year-old classic patterns. The looms being used for the mask project typically make Queen Elizabeth and Abigail Adams bedspreads.

It’s meant a lot to their whole team to be involved in the new effort, Cloutier said.

“World War I, World War II, even all the way back to the Civil War, the textile industry here has gone to wartime production, so for us, we have that legacy, but also just knowing every day you see on the news just how much people need personal protective equipment, the face masks, all of us wanted to figure out a way to help,” she said. “We hope this will all be over soon, but as we move along, if there’s ways we can increase our impact with things the front line needs, we will do that.”


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: