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Sewing for safety

Sewing for safety

KINGSBURG – As the ramifications of the coronavirus outbreak continue to evolve, local residents are realizing they can make a difference by volunteering to drive food to seniors, donate funds to local food banks, share scarce household supplies, read to children through the internet and share online resources to help families cope with quarantine requirements.

Medical facilities are curtailing visitors in an effort to lessen the spread of the disease and make the best use of the staff and supplies they do have. As medical supplies have started to run low that protect medical staff and patients, local residents stepped up to provide what they could – face masks.

Kingsburg’s Nicole Mitchell was among locals who saw social posts people in high-risk fields of work having to do without personal protective equipment because of the high demand of masks and other items.

“I read that you can use reusable masks to extend the life of disposable masks, as well as use masks that might have been damaged or the ear loops were broken. The masks I have made do have filters, but are not medical grade.”

Mitchell said she has family members who are in the medical field and that she also works in career where she comes in close contact with those who may be ill. Even though she is still working through the medical crisis, she decided to go ahead and make masks on her own time.

“I just wanted to use any supplies I have at my home for a good cause.”

Since she had a sewing machine and keeps scraps of leftover material for future projects, Mitchell had enough spare material to use.

“Whenever I have a sewing project, I keep all the left-over supplies. The tightly woven, 100 percent cotton material was left over from a skirt I made for my sister, as well as the elastic.”

She’ll give the masks she’s made to a family member who will then distribute them co-workers in need.

For others who would like to join in this effort, Mitchell said she’s followed the guidelines at Sierra View Medical Center’s website: for instructions on how to sew masks appropriate for medical workers.

At Sierra View Medical Center’s website, it states the advantage of the fabric masks is that they can be washed and re-used, and there is still a need for more.

“A large supply is needed, as each healthcare worker will need to change their mask several times during their shifts, as the mask becomes soiled or damp – for maximum protection.”

They also emphasize that function over fashion should be considered first:

“We aren’t worried about looking stylish, but are concerned about functionality. Non-matching fabrics, thread, binding strips are fine, but a well-sewn mask with no frayed edges or missed seams or holes is important.”


  • Pre-wash 100 percent cotton fabric in hot water to avoid shrinkage. Only use 100 percent cotton fabric. Please no inappropriate prints.
  • Do not insert inner lining yourselves. Sierra View Medical Center will take care of this step once the masks arrive.
  • See their video tutorial at:


  • Elastic can be flat 1/4" to 3/8” or 1/16” to 1/8” round cord.
  • If elastic is not available, fabric ties can be sewn on the mask. Cut four ties measuring 18 inches in length each. Sew on one tie on each of the four corners. You may use ready-made bias tape. Ties should be approx. 1/4" wide, sewn in such a way that there are no frayed edges and long enough to be tied into a bow on the top of the head, for the top corner and behind the head for the bottom corner.
  • Only use pipe cleaners or twist ties for nose area. No paperclips, please.

Completed masks

  • Enclose completed masks in a closed, plastic zip lock bag or plastic box.
  • To donate, contact volunteer coordinator Robin Cunha at (559) 788-6076. Arrangements will be made for donors to deliver masks by driving up and dropping them off at the front of the hospital. Someone will come and get the completed masks so you do not have to enter the hospital. Sierra View Medical Center is at 465 W. Putnam Ave., Porterville.

Selma’s Lauri Bremseth Linder is likewise making face masks to donate to Adventist Health. Adventist will accept the masks from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays and Fridays at 450 N. Greenfield Ave., Hanford. Call 537-1580 to make arrangements.

Kingsburg’s Shannon Guss said she decided to donate some of her fabric for the effort since she wanted to help a Fresno cousin who was going to make the cloth masks for Valley Children’s Healthcare.

She was also motivated to help possibly save lives of her own loved ones as she has friends in law enforcement and health care, and a son-in-law who is a firefighter here in the Valley.

“All these emergency workers may come in contact with this virus. It is about protecting your family and your community, however you can. If that fabric that is going to waste in my closet can in anyway help my loved ones stay safer, I would donate it all. It is a small sacrifice for a much larger picture.”

Guss works as a CPA in Downtown Kingsburg and doesn’t enough time to sew herself, but was willing to share her stash of fabric.

“I thought that I could at least offer up my fabric to those in our community who want to make masks.”

Guss shared that Authorized Vac & Sew has also posted a pattern at for those who want to help.

Not all hospitals and clinics accept the masks, though.

American Nurses Association President Dr. Ernest Grant was quoted in the Wall Street Journal on March 27 saying that nurses shouldn’t wear the cloth masks alone since they “don’t afford significant protections.”

Other doctors, however, say the masks at least encourage people to not touch their face.

Dr. Esther Choo is quoted in the same article to say “any face mask is better than no face mask.”

The masks may be deemed sufficient for workers such as receptionists and janitorial staff at health care facilities who might not have access to hospital-grade personal protective equipment.

Dr. Bryan Wolf, a Portland, Ore.-based radiologist in the article said, “There is literature out there that supports the use of homemade face masks.”

Instruction for Wolf’s mask and face shields can be found online at:

The reporter can be reached at 583-2427 or

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