By Carla Bumstead
Over the past two weeks, sewists from around the area have been putting their sewing machines into overdrive to help supplement the need for face masks by area health care workers and the many “essential workers” who need to be out in public during the COVID-19 outbreak.
A major local effort currently underway was started by Eaton Rapids resident Laura Hall. Hall started making masks a few weeks ago, after running across a pattern online.
“I called my sister, a nurse on the east side of the state, to see if they really can use them, and she said ‘yes,’ absolutely,” Hall said.
Armed with the knowledge the need is real, Hall reached out to her friend Jessy Gregg, who owns Seams, a Lansing fabric shop. Seams is closed right now due to the virus situation, but Gregg was more than ready to help.
“We already had a large stock of donated fabric that we distribute for charity sewing, so we were well situated to get fabric out to the community,” Gregg said. “I’ve also donated my entire stock of narrow elastic to this project.”
While the effort is pretty well set in terms of fabric supply, narrow elastic is high on the needs list. The masks can be made with fabric ties, but that makes things much more complicated.
Gregg stressed that no one is expecting the homemade masks to replace actual surgical masks.
“The best use for these is for possibly infected people to minimize the transfer to other people, and to help protect members of the public as they carry out essential work,” Gregg said. “We are referring to them as ‘surge reduction masks.’”
Gregg, who is also a member of the East Lansing city council, already has a team working on masks in the Lansing/ East Lansing area.
In the Eaton Rapids area, Hall has recruited a number of other sewists and has started a Facebook group to help coordinate the efforts.
Mikkee West of Charlotte is one of the members of that group. As of March 25, she had sewn around 50 masks. When she ran out of elastic, she started making masks with ties that go behind the head.
“I’m an avid sewer, so I’ve been sewing like crazy,” West said. “The local crafters have basically reached into their sewing closets, into their fabric bins, and have started sewing.”
The mask-makers are still accepting donations of supplies, especially thin elastic. All donated fabric needs to be 100 percent cotton.
Hall is a single mom of two boys. She works full time but is now working from home.
“Since the closures, my days consist of all of us at the table working together,” Hall said. “The boys are doing schoolwork, and I am actually working.”
Those contributing to the effort are all working on their own, with Hall helping coordinate pick-up and delivery of completed masks.
There are a number of free DIY face mask patterns available online, but Hall and Gregg are using the following site: buttoncounter.com/2018/01/14/facemask-a-picture-tutorial. The main thing is to make sure the fabric is 100 percent cotton.
Those willing and able to help by either donating elastic and material or sewing masks can contact Hall via her Facebook account, “Laura Anne” in Eaton Rapids.
As of March 25, Hall’s group has produced close to 500 masks. They had orders for at least 200 more. Once those orders were filled, Hall said the group expects to help Gregg’s Lansing group with their orders.
Ally Telfor contributed to this report.