Instead of buying disposable masks during the COVID-19 pandemic, some University of Connecticut students are turning to their sewing machines for a solution.
Shivani Doshi, a sixth-semester biology major, has made almost 100 masks for herself, her family, hospitals, healthcare workers and anyone who needs them.
“[I am making masks] to help people on the frontlines protect themselves and because disposable masks have been running out,” she said.
Although she did not know how to sew masks prior to the pandemic, she taught herself via YouTube videos, Doshi said. She is using cotton fabric she already owned and elastic she had to order for the masks. The elastics took a long time to arrive but she said they make for a better fit.
“We are making one with pleats and elastic because they have more layers which protects better and elastic because it fits tight around the face,” Doshi said.
Doshi said her favorite pattern she has used is a vintage UConn Husky print.
“[I used the Husky print] to donate to UConn medical residents,” she said. “A family friend has sons at UConn medical school and asked us to make it for them and their resident friends.”
Kaitlyn Wallace, an eighth-semester political science, communications and Arabic and Islamic civilizations triple major, said she has made about 40 masks. She has known how to sew since high school, but it took her a few masks to figure out the art behind them.
“The first couple masks were a trial period,” Wallace said. “The first pattern I used was too small to cover both the nose and the chin, so that needed to be tweaked. I’m very proud of how my masks have come out since.”
According to Wallace, her brother asked her to make him a mask in the beginning of April for his job at a grocery store. Now, she is selling masks and taking requests for special patterns.
“I recently had a request from a nurse to make a custom Elvis mask,” Wallace said. “That was a lot of fun because I made the print for the fabric on Photoshop and then printed it onto fabric sheets. It was truly a one-of-a-kind mask.”
Wallace said she owned enough fabric before the pandemic because she was planning to make bibs and stuffed animals for her future niece or nephew. However, she is starting to run low on supplies.
“I had a little bit of the elastic used to go around the ears, but I quickly depleted that supply,” she said. “None of the stores near me have any elastic in stock. Yesterday there was no thread in stock either. I’ve been cutting thicker elastic in half instead, but I’m running out. I will have to get more creative soon.”
Emma Geissert, a sixth-semester psychology major, said she owns two handmade masks that her boyfriend’s mom made for her. She said they are both double-sided with varying patterns. One has gummy bears and letters while the other has plain yellow and black and white polka dots.
“I like the gummy bear one because it’s a really cute pattern and the inside is soft and doesn’t irritate my face,” Geissert said.
Emma Pereira, a fourth-semester business management major, said her cousin made her and her dad masks. She said her cousin used fabric and elastic that she currently owned.
“I knew we wouldn’t be able to find any at the store, so I knew I would need to make them but then my cousin texted me asking if I wanted one and that she was making them so I took her up on her offer,” Pereira said.
Nathan Larsen, a fourth-semester mechanical engineering major, said his family made around 30 masks. They used whatever fabric and materials they had available, he said. Some have cows on them while others are a solid color.
“Since masks are in low supply and health care workers need medical masks more, making masks allows others who need them more to have it,” he said. “The masks we have are also washable and can be reused.”
Doshi said it is environmentally friendly to make your own mask.
“Because it is reusable, environmentally friendly and that way, we can save the N95 ones and disposable ones for people working on frontlines and those who are not able to make them,” she said.
Rachel Philipson is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.