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Locals get crafty with masks to protect themselves during COVID-19 outbreak
A trio of face masks are on display. Katie Boswell started sewing masks, including a "window mask" for those who read lips. Provided by Katie Boswell

Katie Boswell did not sew until the COVID-19 pandemic.

She bought her sewing machine after hearing from friends about the dire need for face coverings, particularly among hospital employees.

With a shortage of elastic, Boswell has been using stretchy T-shirt yarn as a workaround for the earpieces. 

When a speech pathologist friend posted on Facebook about the need for clear masks, she began experimenting on how to craft “window masks.”

Boswell has a suggested donation of $5 for a basic cloth mask and $15 for the “window mask” as a way to raise funds for her church, Evangel Assembly of God.

“I’m not going to not give it to somebody who needs it,” she said, as she has given away a few hundred masks.

There have been requests for masks with Georgia Bulldogs insignia, Star Wars and even some that are more “masculine.”

“A lot of the people making them are using flowery or overtly feminine fabrics. Men need to wear masks, too,” Boswell said.

Hall County Emergency Management started a personal protective equipment warehouse at the end of March to help distribute these items across the region.

Hall County EMA Director Casey Ramsey said the state will send pallets three times a week before it is sorted and sent to health care facilities and first responders.

Ramsey said the largest shipment to date came Wednesday, May 6, when 716 cases with 154,894 items arrived.

“Those items range from: N95 masks, surgical masks, face shields, gowns, coveralls, gloves, hand sanitizer, thermometers, and other essential items needed for the COVID-19 response,” Ramsey wrote in an email.

Since the warehouse started, Ramsey said there have been more than 75 pallets shipped and more than 400 pickups by various agencies.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is advising people wear cloth masks that “fit snugly but comfortably” against the face. The mask should have multiple layers of fabric, be breathable and be machine washable without damage.

The CDC and Northeast Georgia Health System have provided instructions on how to make cheap, effective masks.

When the COVID-19 outbreak started, Sara Oakley of the Art Colony Georgia started feeling the financial sting. Her normal revenue streams through art classes or art openings went by the wayside.

“Who ever thought I’d be a seamstress for a living?” Oakley said.

Jon and Kathy Maraschin of Grand Junction, Colorado, wearing masks made by Sara Oakley, have collected her paintings in the past. Oakley said the masks have become a way to pay the bills since the COVID-19 outbreak. Provided by Sara Oakley

She started making masks for her daughter, her daughter’s staff and others in the medical field. The masks have been the way to pay the bills for the past several weeks.

“Quilters have stashes, and my stash was full of beautiful boutique fabric that I have collected for years,” Oakley said.

She has now been making them for $20 a piece with many of the orders coming through Facebook.

Jennifer Henman could hem and tailor clothing but had never made things like these masks before.

“I had an actual nurse from the COVID ICU (who) brought me her own elastic and her own fabric, and I made her like 20 or so in a few days time to take back to work with her,” Henman said.

Henman was able to buy elastic bands typically used for jewelry boxes as a way to find the material.

“It took me some time to perfect the process, figuring out what works and what didn’t. The first one probably took me 20 minutes or so, starting and stopping and watching videos and reading instructions,” she said.

Now she’s got the process down around five to 10 minutes. She has donated to the hospital as well as public safety organizations.

“The majority of my fabric really came from people donating their forgotten sewing supplies to me. Most of the supplies have come from somebody’s linen closet or fabric stash that they hadn’t used,” Henman said.

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