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Crosscut: Seattle crafters are making DIY masks and face shields to help fight coronavirus

— 2 minute read

Crafters Against COVID-19 Founder, Candace Frank, shops for fabric

Local makers get creative to counter the lack of medical gear on the COVID-19 front lines.

The idea was to go all out: a ruffled yellow robe and feathered owl mask, orange carrot-shaped pants and an elaborate dress, plus two giant rabbit heads. The costumes Candace Frank planned to make for local performance company Lucia Neare’s Theatrical Wonders would be big, bold and whimsical. But, like so many other productions, the show (set to premiere at On the Boards in April) was postponed by mandatory coronavirus closures. And so, like many other creative workers in Seattle, Frank is temporarily out of a job.

“I’m surrounded by tubes of fabric that were going out to stitchers,” Frank said on a recent Zoom call from her home studio in Renton. In the background of the low-lit room, spools of fabric, a curved measuring tool and clothing sketches sat idle. While she will not be repurposing the costume fabric she intended for the production, Frank is repurposing her time and effort to make face masks that cover the nose and mouth amidst the global shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) in the fight against the coronavirus.

Frank’s phone buzzed. And then it buzzed again. And again. Each alert signaled yet another local crafter who had signed up forCrafters Against COVID-19 Seattle, the Facebook group Frank created to meet the sudden demand. Less than 24 hours after starting the group Thursday evening, hundreds had signed up to sew fabric masks in their own homes. “People really want to help,” Frank said. “My house is going to be a mask-making machine.”