Fiber artist and quilter Leslie Volpe of West Boothbay Harbor has kept busy the past couple of weeks after being inspired by a Facebook post about people making face masks to protect against the spread of the coronavirus.
“The owner of Alewives Fabrics in Newcastle posted on Facebook that people around the country were starting to make cloth face masks. She said she would act as a drop off place if anyone wanted to make them,” said Volpe via an email. “So far, I've not had any extras to take to her shop! Since the virus became news, I've felt like I wanted to help in some way. This is something I can do ... I sew for a living, so I just switched to sewing masks.”
Volpe said she looked for a pattern online and found that Deaconess Medical Center in Boston had a tutorial video showing how to make one. They were encouraging sewers to make them for people who work in food pantries, shelters, etc.
“I'm a quilter so fabric is no problem, but no elastic was to be found locally or online, so I improvised with ties,” Volpe said. She said the masks can be washed and dried and can be used over and over.
“I made a couple for myself and my husband, then contacted family across the country and they all wanted one, so I made more. My dad’s assisted living facility said they could use some, so I made more. Then I asked friends around town if they wanted one, and I made more. I gave 10 to the health center to distribute, and then made them 10 more. So far I've made and distributed close to 100 masks. I will continue to make them until the need is gone,” said Volpe.
She said the masks work in two ways: They keep your hands away from your face while in a public space like the grocery store, and they collect any droplets that could potentially infect others. These are not intended to be medical grade, she said, although some medical workers are using them over their N95 masks to help preserve them (the people who register you at the hospital, etc).
“I've heard that having a way to put in a filter of some kind would be useful, so I'm going to incorporate an opening into which a folded paper towel or coffee filter can be inserted. You still have to practice physical distancing and hand washing/sanitizing protocol, but they are helpful when you have to be out in public,” Volpe said.
“You know the old saying that a group is only as strong as its weakest link. I'd like to see everyone wearing a face mask to protect themselves and others from the virus ... Let's all work to keep our community healthy and strong.”