update: march 23, 2020 – OSCMS has put out a document addressing how you can help by sewing. Please look at this doc to get involved. 

For the masses of makers that are eager to help in these times of need, it turns out your needle and thread may be as strong or stronger of an ally than your filament and extruder.

Hospitals all over are running short on personal protective equipment and especially face masks. Sewing a face mask isn’t particularly difficult and it turns out that it is incredibly helpful. To be perfectly clear, these masks aren’t designed to filter or stop the virus, but rather to protect the face from airborn droplets. The great thing about cloth, as opposed to 3d printing, is that it can be thoroughly washed, and produced extremely quickly. Many people want to use their 3D printers, but 3D printed masks often have issues creating a proper seal around the face, and the porous nature of 3D printed goods (from a standard FDM process with filament) means that getting them sterile is extremely difficult to nearly impossible.

We are seeing hospitals all over the place sending out calls for cloth masks. There are nurses in Colorado sewing masks Providence hospital in Washington actually offers a sewing kit to work with, in order to deliver exactly what you need. A pediatrician in New York has been producing masks at home with her daughter.

Martina Puzanov makes a mask at her Amherst home on March 18. (Mark Mulville/Buffalo News)

To avoid confusion, parallel efforts, and congesting hospitals, it is being recommended that you look around for local groups that are making masks, or start one if there isn’t one currently. This way a single individual can interact with the hospital and find out exactly what is needed, and how best you can help. A good start may be to call your local makerspace to see if there are any existing efforts, then go to Freesewing.org and get the template and make some of your own.

[feature image: Dr. Dragnea from Antwerp University hospital wearing a Fu facemask from freesewing.org]