By Dee Dwyer
As you’re driving through Musquodoboit Harbour on Highway 7 from the west, you’ll pass a little sign in Rhonda MacFarlane’s front yard saying “Masks,” pointing to a table with a colourful display of masks, $5 on an honors system.
MacFarlane estimates she’s made more than 5,000 masks since the spring, using all kinds of fabrics and prints. Her masks are helping many of us along the Eastern Shore stay safe and healthy. For this I thank her and all the other local mask-makers, like Mary Mason, Cheryl Negus, and Sharon Riel.
“Sewing is my glass of wine,” says MacFarlane. “My worries are gone, and I love the fabrics. I buy them at Atlantic Fabrics and also online, which are delivered to my door. My favourites are the vintage florals, but I offer a variety for different tastes. Some of the novelty prints are of the Golden Girls, Halifax Harbour, and Woody the Talking Christmas Tree.”
MacFarlane began sewing early. “When I was nine, my grandmother, a nurse for 42 years, taught me the fine art of sewing and how to press properly and clip threads properly,” she said. Her grandmother gave MacFarlane her old pedal-sewing machine, which is now converted into an electric machine, which Rhonda still has.
As a child she made dolls’ clothes and later her own clothes. Sewing is “something I have always done. I moved to Musquodoboit Harbour in 1986 and started selling shorts at the Summer Fair in 1987 or ’88.”
In 2012, MacFarlane was working at home because her son Liam was ill with cancer. She was making infinity scarves, tartan scarves, and fabric microwaveable bowls.
In 2015, she started selling her creations at the Freight Shed at the Musquodoboit Harbour Railway Museum when Linda Verlinden approached her about using the space. Other crafters joined her from 2016 to 2018--about 20 to 30 other crafters over those three years: “No one was turned away.”
“As a family we were used to wearing masks when Liam was sick.” (He is now healthy, with regular check-ups, and, with his brother, is learning to drive.) So when Covid arrived, MacFarlane was ready to provide masks for the Eastern Shore.
She also sells her work at local markets and at Coconut Creek at Dartmouth Crossing. She makes her own patterns or tweaks the patterns she finds online. She spends ten to 12 hours a day sewing.