Elizabeth Blanco

Elizabeth Blanco has found a way to help colleagues at Kaiser Permanente Orange County-Irvine Medical Center since mid-March when she had to stop working. Elizabeth, a secretary in the labor and delivery department, could no longer work because her pulmonary hypertension (PH) put her at high risk for COVID-19 complications.

Since then, she’s donated nearly 100 masks to the labor and delivery department, where she spent much of her career since 2008 as a surgical operating room technologist. “I knew there would be a need, so I got to work,” says Elizabeth, who lives in the town Corona, California.

Elizabeth is one of the many members of the PH community who have put their crafting and sewing skills to work to make masks for family, friends, health care workers and other ­first responders. In addition to donating masks to her medical center and another nearby hospital, Blanco has mailed masks to family and left them on her doorstep for others to pick up.

At first, Elizabeth used fabric that she had on hand. After she had to buy more, friends, family and others urged her to charge for the masks. Now she donates a mask to a health care worker for every mask she sells.

Jan Janus

Similarly, Jan Janus of New Kensington, Pennsylvania, started making masks when Patricia George, director, Pulmonary Hypertension Program, Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care & Sleep Medicine, National Jewish Hospital mentioned a mask shortage.

Now, Jan makes masks for her PH support group and a few other PH friends who don’t sew. Some give small donations to defray the cost of materials. “It’s just an honor to assist where I can. I love that I am able to help … especially since I material and nothing by time on my hands.”

See Jan explain part of her mask-making process.

Elisa Lipnick

Elisa Lipnick of Roseville, California, also started making masks when someone close to her mentioned a shortage. She wanted to get the masks to her cousin, a respiratory therapist, before she needed them. When she mailed the masks, her cousin’s husband was jealous that he didn’t get any. Now she’s making some for him from Crown Royal bags.

Elisa donates masks to nurses and first responders to honor their sacrifices. As someone with complex medical history, she notes her appreciation for health care personnel. “I want them to be protected … Staying home making masks is my way to say thank you!”

Sarah White Brackett

Sarah White Brackett of Manassas, Virginia, started making masks for her registered nurse daughter and her daughters’ colleagues at a doctor’s office. She shared fabric with others who make masks but turned down offers to pay. “I have the time to do them … Even if you cannot sew, you can phone a neighbor just to talk, mow your neighbor’s yard or get some groceries for a neighbor. Count your blessings every day, and reach out in a safe way to others however you can.”

Kelly Lynn and Riley Wiegele

Kelly Lynn Wiegele of Lexington, Kentucky, and her daughter Riley, who has PH, started gathering materials to make masks in early April. A friend taught them to make the masks via Zoom. Now that their skills are improving, they share their creations with family, friends and health care workers. “I’m always looking for ways to teach Riley to give back and help others … and this is a great way. We are so thankful for doctors and nurses and all they have done for Riley.”

How to Make Your Own Mask

Interested in making masks for yourself or others? Here are some insights from the PH community:

Q: How much experience do you need?

A: You don’t need Project Runway-level ability, just simple sewing skills. Elizabeth considers herself a beginner although she started sewing at 8 years old. Now it’s a hobby she shares with her 12-year-old daughter.

Elisa, who has a fashion design degree, regularly sews clothing, such as bikinis and activewear. She loves crafting and DIY projects. “Between crocheting and sewing different odds and ends, this task of making masks is really something easy to do and doesn’t take long,” she says.

Kelly Lynn loves crafting but had never touched a sewing machine until she started making masks. “I’ve had it in the box for two years and was afraid of it,” she says. “I figured now was a good time for us to learn to use it and help others … Mine aren’t perfect by any means but I’m getting better!”

Q: What pattern should I use?

A: It’s a matter of personal choice. You can find patterns for many styles and tutorials online. After watching several tutorials, Elizabeth found that Sweet Red Poppy’s was the easiest to adjust to her preferences. Elisa drafted her own patterns after researching on Pinterest. ­

For adult masks, Jan uses a pattern shared by Dr. George. See a video of Dr. George showing the proper way to wear and care for fabric masks.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website also has instructions for sewn and no-sew face coverings you can make yourself. If you learn better by watching, view this CDC video.

Q: What supplies do I need?

A: Most masks are made from tightly woven cotton or cotton-poly blend fabric. You can use fabric or elastic for ties that go around the ear, but elastic might be hard to find. Some people insert wire across the top to secure the mask over the bridge of the nose. Others insert fabric or other filters in a pocket between the layers.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends using a cloth covering over your mouth and nose when around others and in public settings such as grocery stores or pharmacies. The CDC provides instructions on how to wear face coverings, make homemade masks, safely remove a face covering and clean cloth face masks. Get more information on COVID-19 and PH page.

Have you been sewing masks for yourself and others? Share a picture of yourself on social media wearing or making a handmade mask. Don’t forget to use the hashtag #FlauntYourMask.