Residents make facemasks

Pictured is a facemask hand-sewn by Port Lavaca City Engineer Jody Weaver. The masks are a last resort in case of a shortage due to COVID-19. (Contributed photo)

Since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, there has been a growing concern about shortages of facemasks used by doctors and nurses. This shortage has prompted local residents to make hand-sewn masks to contribute to healthcare and other frontline personnel.

Jody Weaver, City of Port Lavaca Engineer, said she saw an article posted on social media by her cousin. The article said that an Oklahoma hospital was looking for seamstresses who could sew cloth masks to help combat the storage.

“I shared the article on my page, and my daughter’s mother-in-law, who is a nurse, messaged me that she would pay me to make her some. ‘Seriously,’ she said. So, I told her I would make her some – no charge of course,” said Weaver. “I have been hoarding leftover material from over 20 years of sewing theatre costumes, so I literally have tubs and tubs full of material to use,” she continued.

After researching dozens of videos and patterns online, she selected one that had been shared on Facebook and got to work. She posted a finished product on social media.

“Another friend, who has a son who is on the front lines of this virus in Atlanta, asked me to make some she could send him. So I’ve got started on four for him with a Texas-themed material,” she said.

Weaver said she has plenty of material, and she is willing to share with those who have more time. She will continue to make masks in the evening as time permits while there is a need.

“I’m using 100% cotton, and my research tells me the filter material for the pocket should be non-woven like tee-shirt material, non-woven facing, or the material that reusable shopping bags are made from,” said Weaver. “So, I’m washing and cutting up some bright pink bags I got recently from Port Lavaca Chevrolet.”

Weaver said the masks are not as safe as medical grade.

“The CDC issued a statement last week (it’s on their website) that stated where facemasks are not available, homemade masks, bandanas, or scarves may be used as a last resort,” she said. “Sadly, this is where many hospitals are at around the country. I’m an engineer, not a health care worker, but want to support them however I can, and I can sew.”

Local business owner, Jean Wehmeyer, of Before It’s a Quilt, said she asked her friends in the medical profession if there was a need for homemade masks. The answer was, “very much so.”

“I emailed all of my customers and asked them to help,” said Wehmeyer. “We are using 100 percent cotton fabric. It’s a very simple design. I understand those with filters are needed as well, but filter material isn’t readily available. People are using filters cut out of air conditioning filters and pipe cleaners to make the nosepiece. We will deliver to the clinics and hospital as we get them made,” Wehmeyer said.

Wehmeyer said there is a shortage of elastic that is used to hold the masks over the ears, so they are making ties that take a little longer to make.

Port Lavaca mom and owner of The Mum Shoppe, Amanda Cervantes, said she decided to make masks because her 8-year-old son asked her to make him one since there was a shortage.

“I noticed more friends and family were in need, especially those of us who are still working,” said Cervantes. “I have made only a little over 20 masks, but I have my 11-year-old daughter helping cut out material, and my oldest daughter, who is 23, helping me make them as well since she sews, too. If I have the help I can make more, depending on what time I get out of work.”

Cervantes plans to make as many as she can to help anyone in need. She said it takes about 30 minutes to make five masks. She uses a cotton material, usually quilter’s quality, since it is thick and lines them with the material used from the reusable shopping bags.

“This helps block out air from going by through them, and the other side is lined also with cotton or flannel so it can be washed,” Cervantes said.

Weaver said she saw a post on the Facebook group “Port Lavaca Listens” that other women were also making masks.

“I believe there is a small army all over the country doing this. If someone would like to help out, there are oodles of online tutorials, and Facebook has pleas from many hospitals around the country,” said Weaver.

The ladies are willing to make masks for anyone in need as materials and time permits.

Wehmeyer can be reached at her store, located at 119 E. Main St, in Port Lavaca, or by calling 361-920-0767. She is also asking for donations of elastic to help construct more masks.

Cervantes can be reached through her Facebook account or by texting 361-482-8464.

According to the CDC website, homemade masks are not considered to be personal protective equipment, since their capability for protection is unknown. Caution should be exercised when considering this option. Homemade masks should ideally be used in combination with a face shield that covers the entire front (that extends to the chin or below) and sides of the face.