Local designers use sewing skills to make masks for hospitals

Blue Cross MN

Blue Cross MN

As people in the Twin Cities continue to practice social distancing and quarantining to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, local fashion designers and clothing producers are putting their skills to good use, making masks for medical professionals who need protection. 

As supplies decrease and as the number of confirmed cases continues to rise, many local hospital systems have asked for mask donations. 

“Using fashion for good is something I care deeply about,” says designer Laura Fulk. “I’ve been researching home-sewn masks and making prototypes for the past few days. I was waiting for the call, and wanted to make sure they were made right.” 

Fulk initially had enough material to make 50 masks, and has ordered more elastic so she can make several hundred.

Designer Christopher Straub has also been spending time sewing masks. He donated his first batch, which features a pretty green leaf motif, to St. Francis Hospital in Shakopee. 

“The first thing that came to mind was, ‘What can I do?’” he says. “We’re locked at home, things are put on hold. As a creative person, I feel like I have to do something.” 

Straub originally thought that he didn’t have the right materials, but after watching a video tutorial, he realized that he had everything required to make masks, including 100% cotton fabric and elastic. 

Christopher Straub on Instagram

Christopher Straub on Instagram

“There’s been such an overwhelming response of people just saying ‘thank you,’” he says. “It feels like I’m doing something. I don’t want to say I’m saving lives, but I want to do something. It feels almost like a war effort.” 

St. Paul’s Clothier Design Source, a factory that produces things like cycling and soccer apparel, swimwear, and other items for small brands, as well as local companies like Best Buy and Medtronic, is also taking action to lend a hand. 

“We started converting everything over to making masks last Thursday,” says owner Mindy Martell. “We’re also starting to make isolation gowns. We’re hoping to be up to making 6,000 masks a week by next week and trying to get up to 12,000 per week after that.” 

Martell and her 30 employees are all taking part in the effort, from cutting to sewing to quality control.
When she saw the need for supplies, Martell was inspired to act. “One of my best friends is a nurse who works for a hospital, and she is having a lot of anxiety right now,” she says. “I’ve talked to a lot of different nursing departments, and they’re like, ‘Get me whatever you can get me.’ They’re scared.”

The Clothier Design Source crew has gotten creative with its mask-making. “The fiber that we need to put into masks is really hard to get your hands on,” she says. “What we’re doing is working with hospitals to get their overstock in other products and converting those products into masks.”

Clothier Design Source

Clothier Design Source

If you can sew and are interested in helping out, this handy blog from Blue Cross has all the information you need to know, from approved patterns to donation drop-off sites, as well as organizations to donate to if you can’t thread a needle or work a sewing machine. 

St. Paul’s Treadle Yard Goods has been giving out free kits, complete with enough fabric and elastic to make about 28 masks. According to their website, the response has been overwhelming. They’re currently working on finding more elastic and should have more kits later this week.