A local fabric supplier and a group of Woodinville women have joined together to produce face masks for individuals performing ancillary services in pharmacy, radiology and other departments in area hospitals.
Their efforts are aimed to help alleviate the shortage of N-95 medical masks needed in the emergency rooms and intensive care units created by the COVID-19 virus.
“I quickly realized this urgent need in our community to provide masks and other PPE for our area hospitals,” said Susan Webster, owner of the Gathering Fabric Quilt Shop. “I was inspired to do this after hearing of a challenge by Providence Hospital in Everett to produce one-hundred million masks.”
The challenge was near and dear to her heart as Webster is a former registered nurse, with a bachelor of science in nursing from the University of Colorado School of Nursing.
On March 15, she reached out to some of her long-time quilting customers to see if they were up to the task as well.
“We have a large community of quilters and home seamstresses — I have a huge email distribution list and I put the word out on as well as our social media platforms,” Webster said. “They have the time and energy to do this and many said they want to do this.”
Jan Erickson was one of the many who answered the call.
“My home is for sale and I am staying with a friend who has a sewing machine and I convinced her to join me in making masks for Susan's delivery system,” Erickson said. “It is a great cause and we felt like we were doing a very small part to help others.”
Erickson began making the masks part-time on Friday, March 20. It initially took her about 20 minutes to sew one, but she has cut that time in half now and has produced upward of 150 masks to date.
Maxine Edwards, a former nurse who retired from Evergreen Hospital having spent the majority of her time in Critical Care, joined in the effort as well.
“I started making masks this week (March 23-27) after Susan sent out an email that they were needed,” Edwards said. “Since I am sheltering in place, I have time to make masks and try to help the medical workers who are struggling to get supplies.”
Webster said the masks are made of high-quality tightly woven cotton and a non-woven interface with an extra layer of filtration and elastic straps to hold them in place. She said she has materials to make isolation robes, gowns, scrub and hats too.
As of this writing, the group had produced more than 700 masks. Several hundred were delivered to Evergreen Health Care on March 23.
Staff at Evergreen were very appreciative of the groups’ efforts.
“As one of the nurses at Evergreen, I want to thank you and everyone working on this effort from the bottom of my heart. It is so incredibly touching to have so many people coming together to work towards protecting all the healthcare professionals on the front lines. You guys are all so amazing. It brings tears to my eyes.” — Joan Beade
“I just received word that you have donated an astounding 400 hand-made masks to EvergreenHealth. This is such a generous gesture with each mask demonstrating the love that each of you has for your community. We are so grateful! These masks will be put to good use in the pharmacy sterile compounding area, thereby allowing the surgical masks to be reserved for direct patient care. You and your team are heroes. Thank you!” — Elisa Vila, pharmacy director
Webster said she’s been in touch with administrators at Overlake, Virginia Mason and Swedish Hospital too. The masks have also been distributed to Fairwinds Brittany Park Retirement Community and Haggen Food and Pharmacy and can be dropped off at local clinics and veterinaries if requested.
Webster is telling those making the masks to be sure and wash the fabric in hot water and dry on a hot cycle as well. The group is practicing the social-distancing rule in place by putting the masks in zip-locked baggies and dropping them in a collection box outside of Gathering Fabric Quilt Shop.
The March 23 “Stay home, stay healthy” order issued by Gov. Jay Inslee that requires all non-essential businesses to be closed for two weeks has shut down the retail traffic at Gathering Fabric Quilt Shop, but Webster said she feels it’s vital for mask production to continue.
“I have listened to and read the order from our governor. I respect his action at this time so our shop will be closed to non-essential shopping,” Webster said. “But I have appealed to his office through Senator Manka Dringha to allow us to remain open for the express purpose and sole goal of distribution of materials and supplies to manufacture and dispense personal protective equipment (PPE) for our area hospitals.”