Sewing Masks for Rhode Island

Sewing Is Good For Your Health

Westside sewing studio sews masks, caps, & gowns for health workers and the community

We can all breathe easier knowing The West Side Sewing Studio has got us covered! Over the past couple weeks, our neighbor and tenant Patti Barnatt and her fabulous army of sewing students and colleagues have made hundreds of masks, gowns, and caps for various medical facilities and the general public.

Patti was interviewed on ABC 6 News discussing how individuals can sew their own fabric masks. We asked Patti a few questions to discuss how she and her colleagues got involved and to talk about the ART of mask making!

WOW! Patti, over the past couple of weeks you’ve been sewing a storm of face mask and scrubs. How did all of this start?

The past weeks have been such a whirlwind, Chris! For a while, it has felt just like production in the studio but it wasn’t until I finally saw photographs of health workers wearing the pieces that I made that things got really real. I was moved.

It began because over and over I kept seeing the need for masks, I saw an appeal that someone posted on FB regarding mask sewing. I responded to that and then passed on the info to my student list.  A couple of days later one of the coordinators of the group asked me if I knew everyone in RI who had a sewing machine. I didn’t understand what she meant because, of course, I don’t know everyone but evidently over one hundred of my contacts responded to the appeal!  My students are amazing!  

How many masks and scrubs have you made so far?

Many people have sewn more than I have but I’ve made 50 something scrub caps for Newport Hospital, and 20 something masks for Lifespan; that was volunteer sewing using their materials. In addition, I’ve gotten a donation for materials from Providence Community Health to sew 15 masks. There have also been numerous masks for family and friends as well, most kindly compensated for materials.

Are you using any kind of fabric? Where’s it from?

Lifespan required that we use the ER sheet/operating sheets which are a poly-cotton. They provided the sheets but we provided the rest of the supplies. Fortunately, years ago I was given yards and yards of twill tape that I thought I’d have forever. I could finally use it and was able to donate the rest to other makers! Now I’m waiting on an order for another 750 yards for the next round of masks. The rest have been whatever fabrics we have on hand that are primarily cotton. I’ve been giving away fabric to other sewers including someone who drove all the way from Newport to pick it up.

How do you make them? Is there a special kind of design?

Yes; Lifespan provided their own OR sheets (poly-cotton blend) and asked for a specific Deaconess pleated style mask. It looks just like that standard hospital mask that’s fairly recognizable. Also latex-free elastic.

What would you recommend for community members?

For everyone else, I’d recommend the Covenant Mask. For the sake of wearing and making and how it shapes to the face. If you are making your mask be sure to wash first because the fabric does shrink. I’d recommend using grosgrain ribbon! Avoid satin as they are too slippery for tying. You can also use shoelaces, elastic, or I saw some creative solutions online using a deconstructed bungee cord.

What about the caps?

I was sent a specific pattern. It’s a difficult cap and thought there HAS to be a better design. I spent the day online and looking through youtube and finally found the right pattern. The thing is making one of something is fine- but I was making 50 and that requires a design that makes sense for production. But honestly, I think the hospitals are doing exactly what I’m doing and searching for what looks to be the best thing!

Are you working alone or as a team? 

For the Lifespan masks and the scrub caps, I worked with a local group SewHopeSNE because they impressed me with how organized they were. One of the coordinators, Dawn Grattan Kerr,  lives on my street on the West Side which makes pick-up and drop-off very convenient for me. Here is an article that tells more about the group.

For the other masks, I’ve either reached out or have had people contact me because they know I sew.

Where are the masks and scrubs being donated? 

The ones I made were for Lifespan and Newport Hospital. HopeHealth Hospice has recently asked for help with sewing hospital gowns.

How can someone get involved if they want to help out? 

 Go to the SewHopeSNE FB page to offer your help. They have coordinators throughout the state.

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