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A Sewing Army, Making Masks for America

  • March 26, 2020

A group of medical workers tried them on and smiled.

In Washington Crossing, Pa., Dawn Gehrsitz saw someone on Twitter calling for people to make masks. Ms. Gehrsitz, an industrial engineer, didn’t know how to sew. So she searched her house for old fabrics — plaid drapes, an unused shower curtain — and enlisted her son and his girlfriend to help. Sitting at the dining room table with Jimi Hendrix on the stereo, they used a large paper cutter to slice sheets of fabric into 6-by-9-inch patches.

Ms. Gehrsitz’s neighbor’s daughter is sewing the swatches into masks, which have gone to a number of hospitals, she said.

In Ventura County, Calif., the shortage of protective gear has become so acute that hospital officials are actively seeking homemade masks from the community.

“A lot of our elderly population in particular want to help,” said Amy Towner, who runs the Health Care Foundation for Ventura County, which is working with a group of about 150 volunteer sewers. “In World War II, women were making bullets to protect our country. Now, they are at their sewing machines.”

It’s not just amateurs and the elderly. Crews of professional sewers are lending a hand as well.

A group of costume and set designers for the Minnesota Opera in Minneapolis, which has canceled all performances, is stitching masks out of gowns sent by a local hospital, said Corinna Bakken, the opera’s costume director.

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