ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Since March 19, Ann Arbor sewers and sewists have donated around 15,000 homemade masks to healthcare workers and others to aid efforts in combatting the novel coronavirus.
According to Doni Houghtaling, co-owner of Ann Arbor Sewing Center, sewers and other crafty people in Ann Arbor have been dropping off bags of donated masks at her store over the past two-and-a-half weeks.
Houghtaling said that she was originally approached by Nancy Moroz, a long-time customer, asking if the store would be willing to help with a mask drive.
“I had no idea when we started all of this that the masks would be in this much of a demand. And we would need this much help with them.” Houghtaling, her husband and an Ann Arbor Sewing Center staff member work alternative days to organize donated masks and fulfill fabric orders.
While Ann Arbor Sewing Center is closed temporarily, it is now acting as a donation center for the mask drive.
“It’s really been heartwarming to see the community just really come out and start sewing - people getting their sewing machines out.”
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Houghtaling said that regular customers, as well as those who haven’t sewed in years (or ever), have been donating their time to produce the reusable masks for those in need. A hospital-approved mask pattern with elastic bands or cloth ties is available on the business’ website.
Those who cannot sew but want to contribute can call or email the business to purchase fabric to be put in the donation box so that sewers have free materials to work with.
While the exact number of homemade masks is unknown, Houghtaling said that she and those organizing the bags of masks estimate that around 15,000 have already been donated. But there is a continued need for masks Houghtaling explained.
The CDC now recommends that everyone use a cloth mask if they must leave their homes, but the need among healthcare workers and frontline personnel has continued to grow as confirmed cases of COVID-19 increase daily.
Houghtaling said that the Ann Arbor Sewing Center has gotten requests for masks from prisons, nursing homes, hospice centers and police departments but she and the other organizers make sure that there is always a bag of masks for hospitals.
Currently, the masks are distributed in the Ann Arbor area based on need.
Reusable homemade masks must be made out of new high-quality quilting cotton or batik quilting fabric, both of which are tightly woven materials. Due to an elastic shortage, masks can be made with cloth ties, which are easier to wash than other materials.
See a tutorial video on making the masks here.
According to Houghtaling, the masks are fairly easy to make but could be difficult for those thinking about hand-sewing.
Sewing fabric can be donated to the sewing center mask drive but it must be new, high-quality quilting fabric. Questions about the masks or fabric orders can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Ann Arbor Sewing Center is at 5235 Jackson Road.