Pamala Doffek was unfazed when Tallahassee’s stores first ran out of elastic material—the vital component sought out by DIY cloth mask makers. Instead, she turned to her decades of experience as a fabric and craft artist and adapted.
“All the videos out there didn’t have fabric straps in four corners, so that’s our pattern,” says Doffek, who serves on Sustainable Tallahassee’s Rags2Bags committee.
After the annual Chain of Parks Art Festival was postponed, Rags2Bags pivoted from making their usual 1000-1200 reusable cloth bags, which they distribute at the festival, and began assembling masks for and with the community. Doffek, who also serves as President of the Board at LeMoyne Arts, was adamant to unite arts organizations across the city, sharing links to the pattern and working together to provide protection from COVID-19.
Rags2Bags has an authorized mask drop-off and kit pick-up station set up from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. on Thursdays at Faith Presbyterian Church’s Manna Cottage. Their goal is to provide materials for the community to make their own cloth masks, as well as a few extra to be donated to essential workers and organizations.
Arts and service have always been synonymous for Doffek. Her degrees in industrial technology, library science, and studio art have coalesced into her many leadership and arts positions. Doffek is the president of the Tallahassee Quilter’s Unlimited Guild and also served as president in 2016 and is a member of the Embroiderers’ Guild of America.
She first learned to sew at age 13 at her local 4-H club and continued to make clothes for herself and her family. When Doffek graduated from high school, she attended college and then joined the U.S. Air Force and crafted throughout her many deployments and assignments. She recalls one winter making quilted, fabric Christmas ornaments by the light of her kerosene lamp.
“I like to use scraps and be freeform, and I believe we should use what we have,” says Doffek. “Sewing, quilting, art craft utilization. That is how I can give to my community.”
Doffek has made quilts for the NICU at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital and the Big Bend Homeless Coalition. She has donated fabrics to The Moses Basket Project that works with the Gadsden Correctional Facility and spends time knitting washcloths for elder care facilities and the veterans center.
When Doffek begins thinking through a new piece — whether it is quilt or embroidery —she’ll draw up a rough sketch, then head straight for her sewing machine. She works in bright, vibrant purples, reds, yellows and greens.
She is the most proud of a piece she did for the Quilter’s Unlimited annual show titled, “Full Frontal Foliage.” Her quilt was a response to another member’s rejected art quilt the previous year that adapted Edvard Munch’s bare “Madonna.” In cheeky protest, Doffek carefully hid a hand-stitched woman among the luscious flowers, dragonflies and bees. She enjoys capturing serendipitous and culturally relevant moments in fiber and is always primed for a new task.
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