Once upon a time we would see people from Asian countries wearing face masks and thought it was quaint and probably not really needed. Little did we know that one day it would become the norm across the world. On April 3, Colorado Governor Jared Polis advised all Coloradans to wear non-medical cloth face coverings when going out of their homes to fight the spread of COVID-19.
“Cloth masks should be part of everyone’s hygiene practices,” Polis said. Later that day, the same national guidelines were announced at the White House. The new guidance on wearing a mask or face covering was in addition to social distancing guidelines.
Initially, people were advised to not wear masks, and leave them to be purchased by medical professionals. Some decided to wear a version of a face mask to remind themselves to not touch their faces, as the virus is transmitted through droplets entering the nose and mouth. Then researchers determined that a number of people who had the virus were asymptomatic, and the public was advised to wear masks.
About two weeks earlier, Erin Dollar Kott’s husband Ian, a dentist, was asked to relinquish all of his Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to the state. She was concerned for local doctors and nurses. She found a face mask pattern online that was posted by a man in the Netherlands, which he had used for a mask for his wife, who was a doctor. Erin Kott would eventually make about 30 masks a day.
Kott posted a picture of the pattern to Facebook’s Lyons Happenings page, and got a big response from people who wanted to get involved. She was soon overwhelmed with questions from people about how to make the masks–what supplies to use, what was the best material, and more. Ginger Palmeri saw what was happening and offered to create a Facebook page to disseminate the research that Kott was gathering. The Mask Makers of Lyons, Colorado Facebook group was born. Four administrators were added to the busy page.
In Lyons, where the motto is “Lyons Strong,” dozens of people asked, “What can I do?” Making face masks seems to have been a call to arms. Many pulled out their sewing machines and piles of material that had gathered over years in hopes of doing a project one day. Crafters pulled out copper wire, elastic bands, and more to be used in the masks.
Amanda Anderson and Ann Hall started to make about 30 face masks a day, and promoted them on Facebook. They charged $10 per mask, unless the person was elderly or unemployed.
“I have a list going,” said Anderson. “But if you or your loved ones have to work in public, I’m bumping you to the top, so please let me know. Also, if you are in a tight spot and cannot afford one, some people have generously purchased more for people in need.” Rebecca Hayden also set up a GoFundMe account to pay for the masks.
At the same time, in Pinewood Springs, Emily Wilson began sewing masks for dozens of residents. She hoped that people would pay it forward. Jill Sandleben and Desire Larson were key in helping her.
Many individuals across the greater Lyons area also began to sew for their families, their neighbors, and medical facilities, counting masks in the thousands.
The Making and Handling of Masks
There are dozens of tutorials online about how to make a mask, and the Mask Makers Facebook group has links to some of the more highly recommended ones. The key is that the mask should be made of 100 percent tightly woven cotton and folded over twice. It should cover the nose and mouth tightly. Some people are using bandanas or cut-up t-shirts to put over their faces, and these should be folded over three times. It is better to have these types of coverings than nothing at all. Some masks tie in the back of the head and neck. Others have rubber bands that hold them in place behind the ears, which is less comfortable, but easier to make.
When removing it at the end of your outing, start by releasing the top of the mask first by pulling the top strings over your head and pulling them downward. The mask will fall away from your face. Wash your hands after handling a mask.
Do not throw them on the passenger car seat or hang them on your front door knob. They must be cleaned in hot soapy water after each use. Robyn Sloan suggests putting them in an empty gallon-size milk jug with the top cut out next to your front door. Later, shake them out directly into the washer. Wash the jug too. Put another jug in your car.
Mask Makers of Lyons
More than 200 people have become members of the Mask Makers Facebook group. It has guidelines, patterns, postings requesting or giving help, and more. Claire de Vitto has an easy mask making instructional post, with 19 step-by-step photos. The site also instructs people on how to make face shields and scrub caps. People can also volunteer to cut fabric or deliver masks to homebound individuals.
The Facebook group is full of useful information, such as the names of medical facilities needing masks, the best sewing machines, and whether flannel is OK (no). Anderson sews a sleeve into each mask so wearers can insert a fresh coffee filter after every use.
Some seamstresses started out by mailing masks to relatives in other states.
“My sister in New Mexico asked me for face masks and matching scrub caps. So I mailed her a big box. That was how I started,” said Hall. “I have shipped out packages to New Mexico, Denver, Arizona, New York, and Delaware. I ran my own cloth diaper business called Righteous Baby for years. And I never would have dreamt that I would be sewing during a pandemic.”
“Two superheroes at UC Health Longmont modeled my new scrub caps,” said Kott, holding up a photograph. “It’s like celebrities wearing your dress design on the red carpet.”
Other facilities receiving face masks from Lyons seamstresses include Front Range nursing homes, Longmont Food Rescue, Longmont United Hospital, and Boulder County Sheriffs.
“My husband is now in Manhattan with the Navy,” said Shellie Honemann. “Many of the masks from Lyons went with him to hand out. You are making a difference Lyons mask makers! The Navy provided some disposable ones, but the men preferred the better-made home-made masks. He gave them away to the troops who are creating the makeshift hospital at the Javits Center.”
If you are interested in ordering a face mask from one of these four women, here is their contact information:
Erin Dollar Kott: 720-346-4857; firstname.lastname@example.org
Amanda Anderson: 720-255-9289; Amanda.email@example.com
Ann M Hall: 303-818-2584; firstname.lastname@example.org
Emily Wilson, Pinewood Springs: Ekwilson74@gmail.com
Thanks Go To . . .
While none of this was done for fame or fortune, we would like to thank those whose names were shared as contributors to the success of the Lyons mask making project:
Amanda Zim Nataya, Anne Duggan Smith, Anita Miller, Anne Duggan Smith, April Tierney, Brad Hazen, Brinlee McCool, Caroline Schoo, Christi DeVoe (Geej & Bean), Christy Adams, Claire DeVitto, Danny Gallant, Donna Jo Dees-Smith, Drew Neal, Elena Cinnamon, Erin Pawlinger Witbeck, Flappy’s Print Shop, Ginna Larson, Ginger Palmeri, Jacob Leeuwenburgh, Janet Edwards, Judy Brownsberger, Karen Franklin, Katherine Kent Weadley, Kathryn Bottinelli, Kelly Mahoney, Kristen Bruckner, Kristin Byarlay, Laura Miller, Laurie Miller, Laura Taylor, Lisa Sobieniak, Lori Stott, Lynne Johann, Marcia Hall, Mary Campbell Cook, Pam Fischer, Patty Feist, Patricia Appelfeller, Rebecca Colson, Rebecca Hayden, Renee Haip, Robin Kay, Robin Senor, Robyn Sloan, Sandy Spellman, Serina Malec, Vance French, Sue Wiley, and Wendy Sucha Hunt.
Special thanks also to Lyons Quilt Shop, which donated “tons of material.”