These are some of the 125 cotton masks that Rochelle Coulombe of Chilliwack has made. (Facebook)

COVID-19: Fraser Valley crafters are busy sewing cotton masks for health-care workers and others

One Chilliwack woman has made 125 masks so far, and is still going strong

A group of Fraser Valley crafters has been sewing up a storm lately as they make masks for health-care workers and others in need.

Rochelle Coulombe and Julie Connelly are two Chilliwack women who are part of a Facebook group called Fraser Valley Craft Guild where they’ve been chatting with fellow sewers since Saturday about how to make the cotton masks and get them to people who need them.

Coulombe, who is a professional sewer and runs her own online children’s clothing business Tickle Me Trendy, has switched from sewing kids’ hoodies and baby dresses to masks.

“I have stopped orders temporarily to help out with the sewing needs of the country these days. [It] allows me to feel some control on a time where I think we all feel a little helpless and at the mercy of the virus,” Coulombe said.

So far, she’s made 125 masks.

They must be made from 100 per cent cotton material, and the tighter the weave of fabric the better to allow for maximum amount of filtration. The cotton masks are not replacements for N95 masks, which are more form-fitted to the face and offer more protection.

But “with the supply demands they are better than nothing,” she said.

“Currently I am seeing requests from health-care workers who are not dealing with COVID-19 patients directly, but are using them to assist with keeping stock of proper PPE [personal protective equipment] for those that are,” Coulombe said. “I am also seeing requests from frontline workers (retail grocery and airport staff) as paper masks get harder to buy.”

Coulombe has already sent a batch of her homemade masks out to a paediatric ward nurse in Abbotsford, a nurse at Peace Arch, and a health unit nurse in Surrey.

The next batch she’s sewing has no home yet, but she’s working with the Fraser Valley Craft Guild group to get them to where they can be used.

That’s where Connelly comes in. She is helping to organize where the masks will go and how to get them there.

One of the problems with the cotton masks is that they have to be laundered after use, Connelly said. With a centralized laundry system in place for the hospitals, once any cotton masks leave to be laundered, there’s no guarantee they’d be returned to where they came from.

Currently Connelly, who works in home support, brings her own masks home every day and washes them herself. Her mother, Kathryn Vodden-McKay who lives in Abbotsford, made them for her out of scrap material.

Connelly has even heard that some people are making masks out of bedsheets.

Others with the Fraser Valley Craft Guild group have made things like cotton drawstring bags for workers, who do bring their masks and scrubs home, to put their soiled clothes in.

FabCycle, a fabric recycling company in Vancouver which repurposes scraps of material and damaged fabrics, has also joined the movement. They hosted an online mask-making tutorial on Sunday and will be hosting another one this Sunday, April 5 at 10:30 a.m. Search FabCycle on Facebook to find the link, or see the video of their first tutorial below.

Those who wish to help can join the Fraser Valley Craft Guild group.

Click here for a link to the blog where you can find the pattern.

READ MORE: Sewers stitch masks to free up supplies for front-line health-care workers

ALSO READ: Chilliwack companies offer free meals, discount on gas for health-care workers and first responders


 

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Email: jenna.hauck@theprogress.com
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