Masquaraders to the rescue!

July 24, 2020
Julie Sweetkind-Singer

                                             Crystal Hsu

"Thank you for you & the team making beautiful fabric masks for all of us.  We are deeply grateful!" -- Crystal Hsu


Life changed for the staff of the Stanford Libraries on March 18, 2020.  Nearly all of us were sent home the Friday before and were told we would not return until the end of Spring term, March 30th, due to the spread of COVID-19.  The days at home became weeks and it was clear that the resumption of life as we knew it was not close at hand.  One specific change was the requirement to start wearing masks, which Governor Gavin Newsom announced the week of April 13th.  This requirement was coupled with the wide-spread knowledge that masks were in short supply across the county and that the existing stock was necessary to reserve for essential personnel.  I sat in a Departmental Operations Center meeting on April 14th and thought, "We can fix this."  I suggested asking the staff if they wanted to join an effort to make the face coverings ourselves.  Mike Keller enthusiastically agreed to support the project.  So began a months-long project co-led by Quinn Dombrowski to create 3 masks per person for every employee of the Stanford Libraries family.

Quinn and I quickly decided upon a pattern, which has been deposited into the SDR, based on one recommended by Kaiser Permanente.  Quinn sourced aluminum nose pieces from the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART) who were donating their resources and time to mask-making efforts such as ours.  The local Sheet Metal Workers' Union No. 104 in San Ramon filled our order for 1,000 nose pieces.  The Granary, a local quilt shop in Sunnyvale, CA shuttered by the Shelter-in-Place, worked with us to find just the right fabrics, notions, and supplies to outfit the sewists with all of the supplies.  Filtration fabric was purchased through Filti to add an additional layer of protection for our staff.  

Staff volunteered from across the library and included those who were expert sewists, those with rusty skills, and those who could not sew but still wanted to be involved.  The facilities and mailroom staff were called in to help figure out the logistics, mail out the packages, keep track of the inventory, and distribute the completed masks.  Christina Konjevich handled all of the administrative tasks and was the point person with all members of the team to ensure that the process was smooth and efficient.  Cristina Flores-Herrera, Zac Painter, Stace Maples, and Midge Owens-Hudson came to campus to create the packages that included cotton fabric, thread, rotary cutters, sewing machine needles, pins, Filti liner, rulers, cutting mats, and bias tape makers.  The bias tape makers were made on a 3-D printer at Hopkins Marine Station thanks to the quick work by Amanda Whitmire convincing Chris Garsha, the Electronics and Fabrication Shop Manager, to print them out for the group.  

Bias Tool Amanda's amazing bias tool made by Chris Garsha, at the Hopkins Marine Station.
 Greta gets her fabric Greta de Groat gets her fabric and supplies.

The group quickly named themselves the Masquaraders and Astrid Usong created a logo within an hour, which led to the inevitable creation of hex stickers for everyone's laptops.  Slack became our favorite medium for communication with the group using the #textile-makerspace channel to talk to each other, ask questions, and post pictures of our progress.  Throughout June and July the group worked tirelessly producing over 1,300 masks that were distributed first to those in most need and now to every staff member who requests a packet.  

 Masquaraders Hexi Stickers


Perhaps pictures can tell you better than words how the masks were made, how sewists integrated it right into their workday, and how they helped each other with tips and tricks to speed up the process to complete the masks in record time.  This amazing team of volunteers sewed with all of you staff in mind, knowing you would directly benefit from their efforts.  It brought us all a deep sense of satisfaction knowing we were making a concrete difference during this unsettling and stressful time.  As we continue to move forward into the unknown, the Masquaraders have this advice: stay safe and WEAR YOUR MASKS!!

 Prepping the materials

The fabric arrived cut in one yard increments.  It needed to be further cut into 5 or 6 mask components (rectangles and ties).  The Filti fabric also had to be cut to size.  The ties had to be folded using the bias tool and pressed into long strips.  At that point the construction could begin.  


Naomi Dushay cutting fabric Naomi Dushay prepares her music fabric for cutting.

Jun Yao materials 

Jun Yao has all of the pieces in place to begin making her assigned masks.

Greta de Groat binding Greta de Groat shows all of the steps in the process to make the ties using the bias tool.
 Astrid Usong fabric and filti Astrid Usong combines the cotton fabric with the Filti fabric in batches streamlining the process of sewing.  Whitmire chain piecing Amanda Whitmire suggested the sewists chain piece the rectangles together rather than making each mask from start to finish one at a time.    Whitmire folding hack Amanda Whitmire shared her folding hack.  By notating where to fold on the paper, she made it easy to measure accurately where to fold on the fabric.


Setting up the work station

Sewing machines varied from old to new, small to large, but all got the job done.  

Betsy Shelton machine Betsy Shelton wins for smallest machine to produce a mask. 
Naomi Dushay machine Naomi Dushay's machine was from the 1950's.
Christina Rea machine Christina Rea used her trusty Kenmore that includes the ability to make fancy stitches.


Hard at work

Different rooms of the house were commandeered to provide the space needed to go into production.  Some of our sewists set up their machine right next to their computer workstation allowing them to switch from one task to another.  And yes, there were cats.  Lots of cats.

 Aparna Sharma at work Aparna Sharma commandeered her dining room for mask production.  Astrid Usong and cat Astrid Usong's cat kept a keen eye on her to make sure her work was up to standard. Virtual Zoom sewingQuinn Dombrowski hosted a sew-along one Friday afternoon attended by Amanda Whitmire. 
 Hannah Frost at work  Hannah Frost's work area is optimally set up for mass mask production.  Leah Strauss workstation Leah Strauss finishes her mask by completing the final step, adding the ties.

 Mary-Ellen Petrich at work   

Mary-Ellen Petrich's kitchen provides the space necessary to cut and iron the yards of fabric.


The end results

The Masquaraders ended up making over 1,300 masks, more than enough for each staff member to be issued 3 masks a piece.  Special thanks to family members who sewed on behalf of three of our staff members: Siham Arsalan, Stephanie Maples, and Giovanna Neveu Gibson.

Aparna outputA rainbow of masks from Aparna Sharma.     Charles gets help from his kids    Charles Fosselman's kids were very excited to help with the creation of his masks.       Juanita Chabot outputJuanita Chabot lines up her prodigious output on her trusty ironing board.

 Siham Arsalan output     

Siham Arsalan, Karim Arsalan's daughter, participated in order to practice her newly learned sewing skills.

 Prema Desai output Prema Desai is delighted to see her hard work pay off.  Sonia Lee outputSonia Lee's colorful masks are ready to be sent to Green Library for distribution.


Masks for all!

 Superheros to the rescue  Superheros helped Jun Yao get her masks done.
 Jill Sison output Jill Sison knows that even the smallest amongst us is better off with a mask.
 Stuffed animals stay safe Siham Arsalan kept their whole household safe.
 Einstein and his mask Aparna Sharma provides everyone in Li & Ma with a mask, including Albert Einstein.


The Masquaraders

  • Organizers: Julie Sweetkind-Singer, Quinn Dombrowski
  • Administrative support: Christina Konjevich
  • Sewists: Siham Arsalane, Juanita Chabot, Greta de Groat, Prema Desai, Kristen Domingo, Naomi Dushay, Charles Fosselman, Hannah Frost, Michelle Futornick, Giovanna Neveu Gibson, Regan Murphy Kao, Jib Kiattinant, Sonia Lee, Nancy Lorimer, Rita Lunnon, Stephanie Maples, Margarita Nafpaktitis, Sarah Newton, Laura Nguyen, Midge Owens-Hudson, Mary-Ellen Petrich, Christina Rea, Kelly Roll, Beth Ryan, Aparna Sharma, Betsy Shelton, Jill Sison, Chiao Jen Song Chang, Leah Strauss, Astrid Usong, Chong Vang, Aisha Wahab, Rebecca Wedl, Amanda Whitmire, Deni Wicklund, Jun Yao
  • Materials preparation and assembly: Cristina Flores-Herrera, Midge Owens-Hudson, Stace Maples, Zac Painter
  • Facilities support: Brian Kerrick, Jerry Alabastro, Chito Cuenco, Ian Chipeco, Roberto Guerra, Michael Reyes, Julio Vazquez
  • Bias tool maker: Christopher Garsha, Hopkins Marine Station


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