GreenTown Los Altos

GreenTown Volunteers Sew Masks for Healthcare Workers


Mar 2020


Last spring, in the spirit of reducing waste, GreenTown’s Waste Reduction Team held several sewing circles, creating produce bags from leftover fabric and handing them out at the Los Altos Farmers Market. It was a big hit! 

Team members’ new and improved sewing skills have come in handy during this pandemic as GreenTown volunteers have taken to sewing masks for healthcare workers. Kim Jelfs, a long-time Waste Reduction Team member, has been churning out masks – 40 so far! 

“But are these being put to use?”

One organization notes that “Many hospitals are accepting donations of handmade masks for patients and providers who are not treating confirmed or suspected COVID-19 patients. This ensures proper protective equipment is available for those most at risk of spreading or contracting the virus.” They maintain a list of hospitals throughout the country that are accepting masks here

Kim’s masks have been delivered to a friend who works in the ICU at Valley Medical and indicated that hospital’s need. Other volunteers, heeding our call to sew masks, have delivered masks directly to other local hospitals. GreenTown has researched or contacted local hospitals and hospitals that we know are accepting homemade masks include:

Kaiser Permanente Santa Clara –  In addition to accepting direct donations and donations of unopened critical personal protective gear, is accepting homemade masks. They ask that donors follow their recommended directions here

Valley Medical– Is accepting homemade masks for non-patient care staff. In addition, they are accepting monetary donations and donations of personal protective equipment. Their specifications for homemade masks can be found here

“I want to get started. How do I make one?”

One post that spurred the homemade mask-making craze was this one and the first masks that Kim made followed this protocol. The pattern can be found here and instructions here. Another option that also includes a nose clasp (made of a small piece of pipe cleaner or garden wire) can be found here. Joann Fabrics is offering free kits to make masks here. On their website, you can also find patterns for different style masks. Plus, Joann’s offers curbside pick up on any online orders!

No big surprise, but it turns out that different materials have different effectiveness. Most homemade cotton masks are not up to the task of an N-95 mask, but can be used by non-patient staff or over an N-95 mask to help it last longer. Researchers at Cambridge University weighed the benefits of different materials in protecting against virus particles. They found that vacuum cleaner bags, particularly those with HEPA filtration, were highly effective with a mean filtration efficiency on par with a surgical mask. So some sewers have taken to using vacuum bags as their fabric of choice or creating a mask insert so that a vacuum bag or other filter can be inserted into the mask. 

“What hospitals are not accepting masks and what do they need?” 

A number of hospitals in the area are NOT accepting homemade masks, but instead, like the hospitals listed above, are looking for monetary donations and donations of new, unopened personal protective gear such as: gloves, isolation gowns, goggles, eye shields, shoe covers, nurse caps, disinfecting surface wipes, and N95 and surgical masks.

Thanks for your efforts to date to stem the tide of COVID-19 and to help keep healthcare workers safe! Happy sewing.


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