WILLMAR — As area health care facilities brace for an expected increase in COVID-19 patients, they have put out a call for help from people with sewing or craft skills.
In a news release Monday, Kandiyohi County put out a call for donations of new personal protective equipment and provided links to patterns and instructions for face masks, scrubs and face shields.
Patterns for two types of masks were posted over the weekend in the Facebook group It Takes a Village Willmar.
One is the pattern linked by Kandiyohi County. The other is a mask designed by a local retired physician and a medical design expert from the University of Minnesota.
Joanne Kujawa of Spicer has already sewn about 40 masks. She is going to give most of them to her daughter-in-law who works at a clinic in Alexandria. She gave some to her dentist’s office when she had an appointment the other day.
Kujawa, a quilter and crafter, said she has been working through her closet of fabric. “This need came up, and I thought, what better way to use up some of the stuff, for this cause,” she said. She was also thinking of the safety of her daughter-in-law and her coworkers.
Kujawa is now making up kits for her granddaughter, who wants to make some, too. The main problem: She’s running out of elastic.
Anita Flowe, an area quilter, posted the pattern for the new mask to the Facebook group Sunday evening. It was created by Dr. Kathryn Nelson-Hund and Shannon Smith-Williamson of the U of M.
Monday morning, Flowe said she had already started going through her quilting fabrics and prewashing fabric. She had ordered 300 yards of elastic.
“If the need is there, I’ll go through it all,” Flowe said of her extensive stash of fabric, even if some of it was intended for a specific project.
“We’re stuck at home, and everybody wants something to do,” Flowe said, “and Kathy Nelson-Hund said she senses that, too.”
Nelson-Hund said their mask has not been approved yet by Rice Hospital or Carris Health. “We just happen to think it’s a good design,” she said. “It’s not endorsed by anybody.”
There is no financial gain for the designers, and it’s not patented. They are freely sharing the pattern and instructions.
“The idea of this is to have a more complex mask that could have more uses,” Nelson-Hund said.
The design is a little more complicated than some mask patterns, because it is more fitted and includes a pocket for a disposable filter, like a coffee filter. Casing at the top of it holds a pipe cleaner or wire to give a snug fit around the bridge of the nose.
After use, the filter and wire can be removed, and the mask can be washed in hot water and dried, she said.
The designers hope their mask will help preserve the higher-grade medical equipment.
The best thing that could happen, Nelson-Hund said, is for all the masks volunteers make to go unused.
“What’s really important is what we do in our community,” she added. “I can’t say enough how important it is for people to just stay home.”