Quilters sew hundreds of face mask covers for first responders

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Judit Gebhardt said it takes just four pieces of fabric, some thread and a couple of ponytails to make a mask cover.

"I can do about seven in an hour,” she said.

After speaking with the women of the Washington Stars Quilt Guild and watching them sew, it's clear the masks they’re making come with a few more essentials, such as kindness, compassion and support.

"I can't be in there in the ICU; I can't do that. But what I can do is I can give someone a mask to be safer,” said Gebhardt.

Recently, guild members heard health workers and first responders were in need. N95 face masks are tough to find, which is forcing many on the coronavirus front lines to reuse their masks.

“We've tried to purchase masks and, as you can imagine, there's nowhere we can get them at this time,” said Sgt. Shannon Barnes of the Lacey Police Department.

Gebhardt, her good friend Pat Zarp and the other quilters starting making mask covers themselves.

"We said we can do that, it's fabric; we know what to do with fabric,” said Gebhardt.

Guild members have given out more than 700 face mask covers to first responders in Thurston County. Last week, Lacey police officers picked up 100 from Zarp's home.

The covers protect the N95 mask.

"The exterior of the mask is very porous, so it can absorb anything that's out there and that's kind of what it does, to act as that respirator, said Detective Jon Mason, Lacey Police Department. "If any blood or any sort of other fluids get on it, we'd have to dispose of it and, luckily, we have these covers now that can take some of that brunt."

The covers can be machine-washed and used repeatedly.

The project is protecting first responders, who are putting themselves at risk to serve their communities every day.

"Four pieces, six and a half inches, save someone's life. It's incredible to me. It's just an amazing process,” said Gebhardt.

The group has received numerous calls, including some from people who live out of the state.

To help, they’ve posted a step-by-step mask cover-making tutorial on their website.