Homemade medical masks make a big impact against coronavirus


Annabelle Blomeley, Staff Reporter

One of the many problems facing hospitals in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic is the lack of medical face masks that help stop the spread of the virus. To help combat this issue, two women have sewn over 500 masks while stuck at home and encourage others to help as well.

In the midst of self-quarantining and social distancing, many are combating boredom by picking up new hobbies like knitting, painting and baking. Some people are using their extra time and resources to sew medical face masks for the hospitals and individuals fighting against coronavirus.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, health professionals are running out of medical face masks that protect them from contracting the virus. The CDC has also urged non-health professionals to wear the masks when going out into public to help stop the spread. Because of the lack of resources, some civilians have been creating their own. 

Grace Federico, a freshman majoring in apparel design, has made over 400 masks with her mom at her home in Maryland. She said her mom does all the cutting and measuring and Federico sews everything together.

“I’ve been sewing for a while, and I have this really large fabric stash,” Federico said. “When we first started this process, we were only using fabric that I had in my stash. My mom is a preschool teacher, so she sent out an email to her students and their families, and a bunch of them have donated to us.”

So far, Federico has donated her masks to her local hospital, nursing home and the Cool Kids Campaign, which is a nonprofit for kids with cancer.

“One of my classes was a sewing lab,” Federico said. “Obviously that was canceled and I can’t sew in the lab at school anymore.  So if I were to be in school, I would be sewing anyways. So this is kind of a routine thing for me to still be doing that.”

Courtney Armstrong, a Tuscaloosa native, started making face masks when her mom’s friend made a post on Facebook searching for people to help sew face masks for her job at the UAB Cancer Center. 

“With someone reaching out who I’m close to and have always known, I felt like I needed to help them,” Armstrong said. “And I’m laid off from my work right now, like my real job, so I was going crazy while bored at home trying to figure out something to do anyway.”

Armstrong, who has sewn around 122 masks and 14 scrub caps in two weeks, now sells the masks for $5. For every mask sold, she makes and donates one mask to a health professional in need.

“Right now, I’m trying to finish up the orders that I have,” Armstrong said. “I’ve been waking up super early and then staying up until nearly midnight every night trying to get them done.  So I’m trying to get back to a little bit of normalcy and stop doing them for right now. But if later down the road, they mandate that we all have to wear them out in public like there have been rumors of, then I will still make them.”

Both Federico and Armstrong said that it’s extremely important for people to be helping each other during this time of uncertainty.

“Anyone who knows how to sew should really be out here trying to help make masks and that kind of thing,” Armstrong said. “I work at a dental office, and even before we left, we had hardly any masks.  We were down to using one mask every two days, and only if it was soiled could we change it. I think that’s why I knew firsthand the demand for it because even when we left to be quarantined, we didn’t have any masks, and that’s just the dental field. So anyone who knows how to sew or if they’re just sitting at home bored and they want to learn and have access to a sewing machine, they should try to help.”

For those who aren’t able to sew, Federico offered some other ways to help fight the coronavirus and support health professionals during this time.

“Any way that you can get involved, whether that is cooking for your local shelter or making masks if you have the ability to make masks, or even if your small part is just staying home because you can’t think of anything else that you can contribute, definitely do that,” Federico said. “This is a community effort. It’s not just those on the frontline. Everyone can get involved and help in the small way that they can. There’s a lot of tutorials online about how to make masks, and it’s not a super difficult thing to do, so just get involved and help any way you can.”