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Local seamstresses make masks for health care workers

Local artists and designers are using their talents to create medical masks for health care workers taking care of non-coronavirus patients.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — In the face of N95 mask shortages for health care workers across the country, sewist and seamstresses in our area got to work making as many masks as they could to help those impacted.

A sewist is a relatively new term, combining the words "sew" and "artist", to describe someone who creates sewn works of art, which can include clothing or other items made with sewn elements. 

Arkansas Arts and Fashion Forum is the group behind the thoughtful donations.

“The little thing we thought we could do is at least try to get some kind of protective barrier in front of the faces of these people,” said Robin Atkinson, CEO of Arkansas Arts and Fashion Forum.

Seamstresses around the country are answering the need for more masks in hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

This week, sewists including Amy Johnson sat down in front of their sewing machines with one goal in mind, face masks for health care workers in need.

“I’ve got three, but I have about 50 cut out that I will probably crank out between today and tomorrow,” Johnson said.

Johnson says each mask is cheap and easy to make.

“It can take 5-10 minutes and you’re looking at about a dollar,” Johnson said.

Atkinson took to Facebook to recruit any designers or seamstresses who want to donate their time to make masks. She said she came up with the idea after seeing a hospital in Oklahoma requesting for masks to be made. She says the shortage hits close to home for her.

“For me, it’s very personal. Knowing that my brother is in a hospital in New Orleans and they are running out of masks is really terrifying," Atkinson said.
"Knowing that my dad is going to work every day and not getting the type of protective gear that he needs is very terrifying.” 

Atkinson asks anyone who is participating to make either of the two mask patterns recommended by the CDC. The first option offers more coverage.

“We are thinking that’s more appropriate for actual healthcare professionals that might be in lower areas of the hospital," Atkinson said about the first pattern.

About the second, Atkinson said, "that’s more of a rectangle that’s pleaded and we are thinking that will be perfect for patients in oncology offices.”

Whenever you finish making the masks, there are drop off locations the nonprofit has posted on its website. The group then takes it from there.

“We wash them when they get to us," Atkinson said. "We inspect them for any holes or any defects in the construction. Then we send them to the hospital and the hospital will wash them.”

“This is one way you can help and stay safe yourself and also keep others safe as well,” Johnson said.

As of right now, the nonprofit has made a little over 100 masks, but the goal is 1,000.

Volunteers plan to deliver the first round of homemade masks to Highland Oncology Group Wednesday (March 25).

Click here for more information on how you can help.

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