Abby brought her community together to make masks for the medical staff

Updated: Apr 19, 2020

“I live in Denver, Colorado with my husband and two kids. I have always worked out of the home as a designer and sew athletic headbands for my brand called Rhubarb Union. My background is in Textile Design and I love, love and love to sew. I always think it is a form of therapy for me. The rhythm of sewing just makes sense to me.

Abby Anderson
Image: Abby Anderson

About three weeks ago a friend, who works as a nurse, from my hometown in Louisiana reached out to me on Instagram. She knew about my headband brand and the fact that I could sew. So, she asked whether I could make a mask for her? The confidence she showed in me gave me the motivation to figure it out and I said, “Yes, what the heck! Let’s do it”.

I started talking to many people in the medical field to understand their needs. Also, I researched the guidelines on CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Keeping all the guidelines and precautions in mind, I started making masks at home. My masks are 100% machine washable and dryable. These are made out of very tight woven cotton fabrics to make it less permeable and I have designed it in a way that there is a pocket, in which the doctors and nurses can add a filter too. This way it’s a three-layer mask and the filter can be disposed of daily or after every shift. I love to pick some fun prints and I feel that it is my smallest way to bring some smiles on the faces of our medical staff when they use these masks.

It started small but now I am getting requests from all over the country.

Since I am a mama of two kids and our schedule has changed a lot because of homeschooling, I realized that time is short and I need to create a more productive system to satisfy the demand.

Abby's front porch with mask supplies
Image: Abby's front porch with mask supplies

One, I spread the word out on Facebook groups to find people who can sew in my neighborhood. Now I have support from approximately 40 seamstresses, including an aunt who is in her 80s and she is sewing the masks too. She is so excited because she is able to contribute to the community in this phase.

So, people donate cotton fabric in the box on my front porch. I pre-cut the fabric, make little kits with other supplies and put it out on the porch. All those who have volunteered to sew masks pick up as many kits as they like, sew them into masks and put the ready masks back on my porch. I then wash, sanitize and dry those before shipping them out.

Two, I created an easy-to-follow tutorial and have shared my tools to a network of about 25 seamstresses across the country. They are now following the same system in their neighborhood to create masks for their local hospitals.

So far, we have shipped out over 600 masks. They are completely free. A lot of wonderful people are donating fabric, giving their time to sew and my father-in-law’s company is generously covering shipping costs. This way we can get the masks delivered in 2 days provided we have the supplies. I am also working towards restocking the elastic, which is a challenge right now.

A family of four - father, mother, daughter and son
Image: Abby with her husband and kids

My husband and kids are very supportive too. My kids put arrows and banners on our sidewalk saying “get your medical masks this way” pointing to our house.

Everyone in my house is familiar with the sound of a sewing machine. The moment they hear that the machine is on, they know “Mommy is working, can’t talk to her right now”. They keep asking me “Mommy, how many are you going to make? Are you going to make masks for everybody?” And my answer to that is “Yes, as long as there is the need and as long as I have the supplies and people willing to help, I'm going to keep making these.” Regardless of the challenges, getting to do this has brought a lot of joy and perspective on things and seeing people stepping up to help and donate is just wonderful.

My sister and brother-in-law both are nurses and it hits us daily that both are on the frontline every single day. I feel like I am helping them in the process.

Because of my passion, I have hoarded all kinds of fabric over the years. My husband has always made fun of me and now all that fabric is coming to use. I can’t be more than happy to do my bit in serving humanity as a whole. I hope we can continue doing this especially for smaller facilities that are low on supplies. I want my kids to learn by my actions and take my example to understand what’s happening around and have a bigger awareness of the community and the people around them.”

Click here for Abby's mask tutorial.

You Humanity pays respect and gratitude to Abby Anderson and to all volunteers who are going above and beyond to contribute towards Humanity. If you know someone who is working for others, please share the story

408 views0 comments