Face Masks and Ear Savers and Scrub Caps…oh my!

Completed masks heading out the door. Photo from personal collection.

If you live in South County and step outside, do you hear a buzz, or machinery humming? It’s not bees, or bugs, but sewing machines! Since March 25, members of SoCo Sews, a Facebook group of local Anne Arundel County volunteers, have been churning out protective face masks and other sewn protective gear for healthcare workers, first responders, and other essential workers. All of the resources to create these items have been donated, and in turn, all items created are donated to the organizations that need them.

The group started with just one woman, Heather Trimm, who doesn’t even sew, but says, “I just knew help was needed and that I could organize people.” She reached out to friends for help and created the group. As of April 29, the group has 263 members (although some joined in order to put in a request) and has donated almost 3,000 masks to a variety of organizations. Orders have been as small as 10 or 20, and some have been as large as 500. They’ve been delivered from Calvert County up to Baltimore, and to grocery stores, fire houses, daycare providers, police, hospitals and more. Additionally, although the group first started out making masks, it has expanded to include ear savers for protection from the rubbing caused by long-term use of the elastic ear loops, and has sent out hundreds of these. More and more scrub caps for surgical staff are now also being made and sent out.

Ear savers and scrub caps. Photo from personal collection.

Not all 263 of the SoCo Sews volunteers are sewers. Instead, they might be fabric cutters, washers, ironers, delivery people, and a few who manage the organizational and logistical aspects. In the business world, these people would be called “supply chain” staff or “fulfillment officers,” since they keep the various orders straight, and take care of resource management – i.e., ordering elastic and twill, and letting everybody else know what materials are in stock and when the fabric stash is running low.

Fabric pieces and strips of cotton twill cut to size, packaged, and ready for the sewers. Photo from personal collection.

Many of the sewers have been sewing for most of their lives, but not all. Some have only recently started. Some have dragged 40-year-old machines out of a closet and picked up where they left off many years ago. Regardless, the group’s members are enormously supportive of each other, and the experts help the newbies. Almost all interactions are handled online. Questions are answered through Facebook, most in just minutes. All transactions for orders, pickups, and deliveries are made via FB Messenger or within the group’s Facebook page. Next to no face to face contact has occurred, and all supply pickups and dropoff of completed items occurs by way of “porch pick ups,” where the arrangements are made online, and then bags with the relevant items are put on porches.

Completed masks of all types, ready for delivery. Photo from personal collection.

It’s a well-oiled machine, running as smoothly as any successful for-profit business.

If you are part of, or aware of, any entities with essential workers who need face masks or other similar protective gear, a request form is here. If you would like to help out with a donation, the group needs:

  • 100% cotton fabric (thicker is better, t-shirt material/sheets cannot be used directly for masks. If you can see light through it, it’s too thin.)
  • Elastic/bias tape/twill tape
  • Thread
  • Velcro
  • Sewing machine needles
  • Cash donations are also happily accepted (actual cash or paypal)

It’s amazing what can happen when we all work together! Stay safe!

Questions or comments? See our Facebook post.

Ruth Glaser is a retired retirement benefits consultant from Davidsonville who picked up a second hand sewing machine a few years ago. Prior to becoming a mask and scrub cap maker, she had only made a few basic items, none of which had elastic or curved seams.

Help the Arundel Patriot continue to bring you excellent journalism.
Help the Arundel Patriot continue to bring you excellent journalism.