Austinites Sew Masks For Local Healthcare Workers

Austinite and Project Runway designer Brittany Allen making masks in her studio Photo: Brittany Allen Studio

Don’t ever underestimate the power of entrepreneurial minds who have a get-it-done attitude.   And when you mix it with a community that jumps in to help at the drop of a hat, wonderful things happen!

It’s been reported by government officials there is a dire need for protective masks for healthcare workers.   It wasn’t long until top designer names were quickly making masks for their local communities.   Chloe Dao, Houstonian and Project Runway Season 2 winner was in manufacturing mode (complete with a tik tok video), and designer Christian Sirano jumped in using his manufacturing connections for the people of New York City.

Locally, Austin designer and Project Runway Season 18 cast member Brittany Allen knew she could help too.  After seeing a news story about the shortage, Brittany knew there would be a need for masks locally.  “I found a pattern and I did a couple of samples, perfected it and I figured out a way to make one every three to four minutes,” said Allen.   

She has received hundreds of requests for masks and she fills orders on a first come first serve basis.  Shipping costs have been covered by generous donations.  “I have received more than $1,000 to help with the shipping.  I just have money popping up in my Venmo account,” said Allen.

Kennedy Horn, Taylor Yates And Cooper Horn marking fabric for the Covid Rangers Photo: Cindy Mokry

Jennifer Reyes, Director of Clinical Operations at Victory Medical was struggling with the lack of protective equipment for the clinics she serves and reached out to the Austin and surrounding communities through social media for help.  She launched the Make-A-Mask Facebook page this week where she called on all local sewers, quilters, designers and sewing novices to make masks.   The request was quickly received by using the hashtag #MakeAMaskSewers.

“The sewn masks will be worn over a healthcare worker’s surgical mask or an N95 mask but only the sewn masks will be changed out in between each patient, added Reyes.  This will prolong the life of the medical-grade masks which will then be properly rinsed and washed for another use.  

Additionally, retired pediatrician Lori Hines, M.D. launched Covid Rangers this week.  She too saw a need to supply masks for local healthcare workers.  The pattern for the Covid Rangers masks is designed with a special pocket where a polypropylene filter can be added for additional protection.  The Covid Ranger staff has obtained the special material for the masks which will be added prior to shipping.

The all-volunteer army consists of not just people who sew but Lori mentioned if you can cut patterns, are a good project manager or can be can drive and make deliveries, you can help.

Hines emotionally made mention of the numerous requests from Austin social workers, therapy facilities, senior living homes and nursing homes.  Hospitals are not just hot spots for the much-needed masks.  “I can’t sit by and watch nurses and doctors and the elderly suffer,”  said Hines.

Slow North sewer Hope Mullin

In order to make the masks, you need fabric.  Enter Nicole LaBry, former owner of  Austin’s The Cloth Pocket.   She unloaded her enormous inventory of fabric and notions from her previous business worth up to $35,000.  “The fabric was in storage and this was a much better use for it and I wanted to help our community,” added LaBry.

Nicole has also started a Go Fund Me Page for donations and more details are on her page.

Another Austin business Slow North, an artisan gift store,  is ramping up to help make masks for the Make-A-Mask and Covid Ranger sewing groups.  Owner Michelle Simmons is ramping up her sewing production team to make up to 100 masks a week in a new production facility she just moved into weeks prior to the Covid 19 crisis.

The team of approximately seven sewers will start making masks this week.  She will not only use the fabrics and materials supplied by the two startup mask groups but she planned on making masks on her own. “We did a curbside order with Jo-Ann fabrics to have enough supplies to make 400 masks,” said Simmons.

And in these days of thinking of a backup plan, Michelle has already thought about that.  “Our plan is to precut all the items in case Austin implements a stay at home order so production can continue,” added Simmons.

Slow North is taking donations to help pay the sewers.  Donate here!

We are all enduring the daily changes in our lives with the fast-spreading Covid-19 virus, it is refreshing to see how quickly the Austin sewing community has come together to help those in need.  Stay safe everyone!


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