A COBH grandmother-of-17 and great grandmother-of-three has won a face mask competition run by CUMH (Cork University Maternity Hospital) to celebrate the ingenuity of those at home making masks for the pandemic.
Kay Carney’s prize is an iPad that will allow her to keep in contact with her family.
This 72-year-old mother of five daughters and one son, ranging in age from 52 to 35, has always loved working with her hands.
Retired from her job in sales, Kay is an accomplished craftswoman who is a member of the Traditional Lace-makers of Ireland. She also attends crochet sessions for mature people at St John’s College. She can turn her hand to sewing and knitting too and is never without a craft project.
Kay used to make clothes for her children when they were young and she also made bridesmaids’ dresses for her daughters’ weddings. She even made their debs’ gowns.
When Kay says she is a grandmother of 17, she is including one infant that was stillborn.
“The kindness of the doctors and nurses at CUMH shown to the parents and grandparents of babies born asleep is great,” she said.
“I do some voluntary work for a cause called Féileacán (butterfly). When you have one of these babies, the charity supplies a memory box that includes a crochet blanket, and foot and hand prints of the infant are taken.
“I make the blankets because it’s a cause close to my heart. The memory box brings unbelievable comfort to parents.”
It was Kay’s daughter, Katie, who had the still-born child, that suggested she enter the face mask competition.
Katie, mother to Blaithín and Rowan, aged five and six, felt that her mother had a good chance of winning.
“Because I haven’t seen my grandchildren and great grandchildren for a while, I decided to make children’s masks so that when they eventually can come to visit me, they can put them on and maybe we can get the hugs and kisses that we’ve all missed dearly.
“I made the masks out of fabric with a gingerbread man print and another one with a mouse print.”
While Kay isn’t au fait with social media or technology, she is thrilled to have won the iPad for her handicraft efforts and has been face-timing her three granddaughters living in Oxford.
Kay and her husband, James, who is retired from the Navy, were planning to visit them but had to defer it because of Covid-19.
With the lace-making hobby, Kay gets to go on trips every two years.
“We had to cancel our trip to Scotland this year. We’ve been to the lace-makers’ festival in Lloret de Mar in Spain.”
When Kay was young, she wanted to study handicrafts “but back then, we were taken out of school because we had to work.”
But she fulfilled her dream by studying for a City & Guilds qualification at Mallow College of Design and tailoring about 20 years ago. “I loved that course,” she said.
At the moment, Kay is working on a pink boucle jacket for herself that she says is very Jackie Onassis. For her very young grandchildren and great grandchildren, she makes crochet toys.
“I made a little caravan park for one small child. I found a pattern for a tent and a mobile home which I made out of crochet. I even made two bunk beds to go with it. Children don’t have those kind of toys any more.”
But children love them, says Kay, who also makes teddy bears and dolls’ clothes as well as characters such as Mickey Mouse.
Now that Kay is cocooning, she has plenty of time to produce her creations. Not that she agrees with cocooning for people of her age. “There’s a big difference between people of 70 and 85, say. They put everyone in the same bracket which I didn’t like. People who have just gone 70 can be very active.
“We should have been allowed to walk every day. I found staying at home all the time very hard. I missed my walks and meeting my friends.
“I think we should have been allowed walk with social distancing. Now I’m allowed walk but I can’t really go to the shops. I go for a walk along the waterfront in Cobh every day and I love it. It’s brilliant.”
Anyone can make face masks, says Kay. If you don’t have a sewing machine, a face mask can be hand sewn. There are patterns that can be downloaded from the internet.
All you need is fabric and elastic and an optional interface. For Kay, facemasks are another item on her list of things to make. She is clearly a woman who is never idle.