The demand for personal protective equipment, such as masks, has drastically increased due to COVID-19. Shelves are empty and supplies are on backorder. Health professionals, who are placing their own lives at risk every day, are in great need of medical masks.
Due to the shortage of masks, avid sewers, Facebook groups, and churches are coming together to make cloth masks for medical professionals. Handmade cloth masks do not offer the same amount of protection as N-95 masks, however, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has listed homemade masks as an option when no face masks are available. The CDC states in their “Strategies for Optimizing the Supply of Facemasks,” that if homemade masks are used by medical professionals, they should be “used in combination with a face shield that covers the entire front (that extends to the chin or below) and sides of the face.” As of April 4, the CDC recommends “wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies), especially in areas of significant community-based transmission” in an effort to help slow the spread of the virus.
Important Note from the CDC: Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance. The cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators. Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance.
Members of our Conference are sewing to give back to their local hospitals. Rev. Kristen Hanna, Associate Pastor of Worship and Mission at Christ UMC: Chapel Hill, was inspired to give back to her community after a friend sent her an article calling for active sewers to make cloth masks. Rev. Hanna shared templates and directions on Christ UMC’s website for church members who were also interested in participating.
Rev. Hanna says this is a utility sewing project because the importance is not about the appearance, but rather getting the product out for people to use. She has followed the Fu face mask pattern using 100% cotton fabric with a grosgrain ribbon in place of elastic and includes a wire at the top of the mask to provide a better seal. Her sewing machine creates a finished edge on the mask, which has helped the process go much faster.
Photos by Rev. Kristen Hanna
Rev. Hanna has made 391 cloth masks for local health care facilities. Her masks have been donated to Duke Hospital, Wake Med, the Ambulatory Health Center at UNC, pediatric facilities, and a nursing home in Chapel Hill. She has also sent masks to California, Louisiana, and New York.
Rev. Laura Wittman, the Senior Pastor at St. Paul UMC: Rocky Mount, is also making cloth face masks for healthcare workers and friends. Rev. Wittman first started sewing in high school. She was inspired to start making her own masks after seeing Rev. Hanna’s masks on social media. In just four days, Rev. Wittman made 65 masks. The orders quickly filled up after she posted a picture of the masks on social media. Rev. Wittman is currently working on masks for a health center in Wilmington.
Photos by Rev. Laura Wittman
Rev. Wittman says it takes her approximately 30 minutes to complete a mask from start to finish. She has followed a pleated face mask pattern and has included a pocket for people to place filters inside as an extra layer of protection.
Both Rev. Hanna and Rev. Wittman recommended the NC Face Mask Warriors Facebook page for sewing resources, hospital donation guidelines, and words of encouragement. Rev. Hanna also recommends checking in with hospitals more than once because some who were not accepting cloth mask donations may now accept donations.
Thank you, Rev. Hanna and Rev. Wittman for your generosity! If you are interested in sewing cloth masks, contact your local hospital for donation inquiries and guidelines or visit the NC Face Mask Warriors Facebook page for donation locations.