Outer Banks Mask Makers group seeks help to keep up with requests

Published 9:22 am Saturday, April 11, 2020

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When Ruth Stetson accidentally purchased 10 bolts of surgical fabric three years ago, she never fathomed it would one day contribute to a much greater cause.

With masks becoming more of an increasing necessity in communities nationwide, Stetson and many other local seamstresses have banded together to answer a very important call.

Stetson is a costume designer with blood lines that course the veins of the Outer Banks. Creating costumes from all sorts of fabrics is something Stetson told The Coastland Times she does all the time.

mask makers

Ruth Stetson, also known as costume designer/host Jackie Craft. Courtesy Ruth Stetson

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With the unused fabric spotted throughout her home and a pandemic on the rise, Stetson began sewing. “When this all started, I figured I should probably make masks and about three weeks ago, I was ahead of the curve.”

After the first masks were made and distributed, Stetson realized she needed more hands on deck. That’s when she was connected with local resident Rebecka McDonald, and from there a group of about 40 individuals came together and began cranking out masks for the Outer Banks community.

As of mid-week, the Outer Banks Mask Makers had delivered and mailed out around 140 masks. Stetson herself delivered 65 masks before the group came together. Accepters like UNC were requesting masks early on for their newborn intensive care unit.

Now, the local wonder workers are currently receiving requests from nurses, senior centers and individuals who are high-risk in the area. For example, Stetson said the group delivered a bag of masks to Peak Resources and has provided masks to individuals who are battling cancer. “When they ask, we answer,” she assured.

mask makers

Clockwise, from top left, are Abel McDonald, Gabi McDonald, Rebecka McDonald, Adam McDonald and Seth McDonald. Courtesy Rebecka McDonald

The mask makers have been informed by Stetson and McDonald how to follow safety guidelines and make sure that the masks can be sterilized and will hold up to washing processes. With her background in biology/chemistry, Stetson said she extensively researched the virus and how to properly create a protective mask.

Not only are these masks protective, but they just happen to be stylish as well. Stetson shared that she has been using the material originally meant for costumes like Alice in Wonderland, Elizabethan era attire and even camo prints to create unique masks for everyone.

Local seamstresses such as Lisa Penosky, Beth Galbraith and Lynne Belsches have all donated masks to help answer the requests that have been piling in. However, McDonald stressed that the team cannot keep up with the demand.

“We need more masks then we are able to turn out,” McDonald said. Stetson offered to deliver her surgical fabric and material to anyone who chooses to help sew.

McDonald, who assured she is not a seamstress by any means, noted that mask making is easy to learn. “I taught myself to sew in an evening with YouTube,” she said. Now, McDonald has made three different styles of masks in just a couple weeks.

mask makers

Courtesy Ruth Stetson

Both Stetson and McDonald have their reasons for wanting to give back to the community in this way. Stetson recognized that the older residents are like “lightning in a bottle.” “They’re some of the coolest people ever,” she said. Stetson added that she has found mask making to be a morale booster. “It gives us purpose in a time that can be really dark.”

McDonald stressed that this virus is not something to take lightly. She mentioned how people can be asymptomatic, so individuals should treat themselves and everyone else as such. “Going out with a mask is like caring for other people,” she said.

The Outer Banks Mask Makers are seeking the help of anyone who knows how to sew or is willing to learn and can donate masks to the community. If interested, message the group at www.facebook.com/groups/813054092515479, or call McDonald at 252-573-8689.



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