By Dr. Elizabeth Townsend Gard
Greenbaum Fellow, Newcomb Institute
Professor of Law, Tulane University
In March, I started to see calls for masks from nurses, doctors, and hospitals. My quilting and sewing friends were getting the same requests. Of course, we could make masks. But which pattern? Which fabric? Are they helpful, or harmful? The frenzy of trying to get information continued throughout the spring, as we (the sewing community) organized and activated into a sewing army across the country. Hundreds upon thousands of organizations sprung up. Facebook groups. And of course, YouTube videos on how to make a variety of all kinds of masks.
And then, thanks to Newcomb’s sponsorship, and with the help of law, public health, and medical students, we put on the Homemade Mask Virtual Summit, a total of 10 hours of programming, with 55 panelists over two days in June. We brought scientists and sewists together. We celebrated our achievements, from the Broadway community to our local sewists. We asked questions, and we created a follow-up plan: working with scientists and sewists to create an infographic about best practices for making masks.
And so what is the (current) answer? What makes a good mask?
- At least two layers, but three is better.
- Breathable but a tight weave, a good quilter’s cotton.
- At least one layer of Polypropylene towards the world to block out smaller particles.
- A well-fitting mask with no gaps.
View Elizabeth’s handmade masks made with polypropylene and batik cotton here.