Bloomington resident Kay Olges was on Facebook in the middle of the night when she discovered the call for masks.
She said a family member shared a post about a request for handmade masks from St. Mary’s Hospital in Evansville, Indiana . Olges said she realized she could contribute in her own community.
COVID-19 has caused a shortage of masks, specifically N95 respirator masks, in both hospitals and communities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is considering a recommendation that civilians should wear them outside the home since it may take up to two weeks for people to show COVID-19 symptoms.
Handmade masks can help prevent larger respiratory droplets, droplets from sneezing or coughing, according to an article from the Tampa Bay Times. They are most effective if they are tightly-sealed and are made from thick fabric.
Community members in Bloomington are trying to fill the need for masks.
“It’s kind of a very quiet rallying point, a thing that we can do in a situation where you feel like you can’t really do anything,” Olges said. “It’s our little bit we can.”
Olges has been working individually for a little over a week and has already made about 15 or 20 masks and cut fabric for 60 more. She said she already handed out the masks she made to friends and family, but she plans to drop off masks with the Bloomington Quilters Guild, a community quilting group.
Membership committee member Nola Hartman said a pediatrician was looking for quilters because she was concerned about the lack of masks. Hartman brought it to the guild’s attention. She said the guild started making masks around March 15.
The Bloomington Quilters Guild is in partnership with Bloomington Mutual Aid, All-In Pediatrics, Patient Physical Therapy and other volunteers, forming the Bloomington Indiana Face Mask Drive.
The group distributes to hospitals and medical service locations, Stepping Stones, Middle Way House, Monroe County Jail and other organizations and individuals. The group’s website has a space for individuals and families to request masks.
According the website, the group recognizes the limitations of fabric masks but tries to minimize risk through the combined efforts of Patient PT and All-In Pediatrics.
The group offers supplies to make masks and a place to drop off completed masks. The location is the Monroe County Public Library parking lot everyday at 5:30 pm, according to the website. Starting Saturday, the group will move to the Bloomington Community Farmers’ Market lot, Hartman said.
The group offers mask pick-up from 2-4 p.m. daily at 2620 N. Walnut St. Starting Saturday, the pick up time and location will be the same as the drop-off.
IU fashion students also found a way to get involved and use their sewing skills.
IU junior and fashion student Daisy May said she started her effort by sharing her plan to make masks on Instagram, and people started requesting her masks.
May said she was distributing locally and over long distance, but switched to local so she does not have to visit the post office. May said she leaves a basket on her porch for people to pick up from.
She said she emailed one of her fashion professors about the project and the professor forwarded it to the class.
Senior fashion students Jordan Olson and Nakeja Words joined May’s effort.
“We wanted to do something with our time since we’re all on lockdown,” Olson said.
Words said she had not thought to make masks for the community until she received the email.
“At first, I didn’t know what to do or how to help, but I knew I wanted to help,” Words said.
May said it is possible for anyone to make a face mask. She said you need fabric and a pattern. You can search reusable face masks on the Internet to find a pattern and print it out. If you do not have a printer, you can trace the pattern on the fabric, May said.
The pattern May found uses the least amount of fabric as possible because she is working from fabric scraps, she said. It is not the highest recommendation from the CDC, but it can help protect you after direct contact to the mouth and nose, May said.
She said some of the fabric scraps she has are cute and colorful, but the masks are for health and safety.
"It's not a fashion statement, it's more of a personal safety thing," May said.
She said you don’t need a sewing machine, although it is faster.
You need elastic for the straps. Olson said elastic is becoming harder to find because people are making these masks, but you can go to the dollar store to buy elastic headbands.
Words said to wash the fabric before designing and making the masks, and after to clean off debris.
Handmade masks, like other masks, should be used for one encounter or outing, according to the Tampa Bay Times. It is advised that you wash them after one use.
May said making masks made her happier given the circumstances and gave her comfort.
“I was just kind of having a hard time with the situation going on in the world,” she said. “Making masks was ultimately just a way for me to kind of do good in a world where I felt like there was a lot of bad happening around me.”