Who Was That Masked Seamstress?

Well, I have to be honest; it’s been quite a year thus far. I remember looking forward to the “teens” ending last December and facing the ‘20s with a newfound hope. However, it seems as if the new decade had other plans. We’re currently facing a global quarantine scenario that’s unprecedented in modern times. After decades of telling each other that we need to get away from the computer screens and bring back age-old socialization skills, now we’re being directed to run in the other direction, back to our isolated homes, for our own good.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by doom and gloom. And there is good reason to be so: there are plenty of stressful aspects to this first quarter of 2020 – mass layoffs, loss of business, hoarding, encouraged antisocial behavior, uncertainty, fear, and – yes – even death.

However, in the immortal words of Frederich Nietzsche, “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.” Those words can strike too close to home for those of us who have loved ones who are elderly or who have underlying health concerns. Covid-19 may not be as indiscriminate in whom it claims than, say, the flu, cancer, or a car accident, but it’s still so ubiquitous in its pervasiveness that we’re all on edge living a scenario that they usually write scary movies about.

It’s at times like this where we have to remember the second part of that quote: makes us stronger. In the midst of all the fear and concern, I have also been witness to several shining examples of the best parts of mankind shining through in dark times. The sacrifice and self-sacrifice of others inspired me to raise my head, look around, and try to find out how I could help others in my own way.

I’m fortunate in that my business can function – for a while, at least – as a solo venture. Creating gowns and costumes can be taken to a decent extent before having to meet face-to-face for fittings and updates. I’ve been able to keep busy with preexisting orders. But soon enough there came a point where I couldn’t do much more by ‘remote control.’

As a result, I recently found myself surrounded by a ton of cloth and not much to do with it. In a conversation with a good friend of mine who happens to be a nurse in the Houston area, I learned from her about the severe need for cloth masks to help in their own way with stopping the spread of the virus, I was inspired to put my skills together and make some masks.

I put out the call to friends and associates who were in a similar predicament and mindset, and soon enough I had my very own posse ready to create some masks. As excited as I was to get started, I had to make sure I was doing the right thing in the right way. Research was required.

One of the worst parts of this global pandemic is that each news headline and daily briefing follows its own agenda. Frequently, stories that outright contradict each other jockey for attention. It only adds to a person’s anguish when he or she can’t determine what the truth is.

There are some reports – even from the respected authorities such as the Centers for Disease Control – stating essentially that masks won’t protect from the coronavirus. Yet these same agencies state that masks are needed for the hospitals to protect the healthcare workers. I figured somewhere in the middle was the answer I sought; places like the CDC didn’t want there to be a run on essential PPE (personal protective equipment) – just look at the empty toilet paper shelves as an example of their fear – especially when social distancing would be just as effective; hospital personnel don’t have the luxury of keeping six feet away from their patients.

Here’s an article that gives a well-rounded approach to the question. And from that I got my answer: If medical professionals can’t even agree on a mask’s effectiveness, I will most certainly err on the side of caution.

More research revealed to me that cotton cloth masks such as the ones I was contemplating actually – and inarguably – perform a greater good. The standard mask for healthcare workers is the N95. These are the ones that authorities were afraid were going to be snapped up by panicked consumers who didn’t need them. Their distribution needs to be tightly monitored. And that’s one way where my and my friends’ cloth masks come into play: they are worn over the N95s to extend their useful life. Additionally, the cloth masks we’re providing can be used for healthcare personnel who aren’t interfacing with Covid-19; this way, the more effective N95 masks can stay where they’re needed. At the very very least, our cloth masks are a stopgap measure until manufacture of new N95s catches up to the need.

So, yes, even if there’s a miniscule chance to protect someone from catching this virus, I’m all over making the masks.

And make masks I did – more than 200 within four days. And hopping on board with a group that Dr. Candace Weaver put together, many thousands more have been created. I and my squad of seamstresses have become a cadre of modern-day Rosie the Riveters. I can’t tell you how proud I am of these ladies (and not a few gents) and how we have all banded together in a global time of need.

Even though our masks are ‘homegrown,’ we take their design and crafting extremely seriously. The fabric is bleached and disinfected, and we create the masks in sanitary conditions. I monitor my health and symptoms constantly to ensure I myself am cootie-free. A majority of the masks I’ve created have been distributed to local healthcare centers and hospitals, but I also sent a whole bunch off to New York, with more on the way.

Now, making these masks – as spirit-filling as it is – takes materials. As you know, I take particular pride in my work, so my masks are four layers thick. Which comes out to about four masks per yard of cotton. My cloth reserves are bled dry, just in time for me to add gowns to the creation menu. So, now’s my chance to ask you for help. If you’d like to donate any money for my project to get masks and gowns to those who need them, I’ve started a GoFundMe fundraiser. Just CLICK HERE to send me anything you can spare. And I pinky-swear that every dollar sent will go into the purchase of supplies and materials for these masks and gowns.

Finally, I want to send out all my love and best wishes to you all. Yes, this is a situation that probably none of us has ever encountered before. But we’ll definitely get past it. Just please do all you can to stay safe and to stay loving toward your families, friends, and neighbors. If YOU have any yearning to help your fellow men and women, drop me a line and let’s figure out what we can do together.


Until next time!