Published on March 27, 2020

Now is the time to rally around small business owners—and not just because they’re the people behind some of the most cherished objects in our homes. A ton of makers, from fashion designer Christian Siriano to Ellen Marie Bennett, the founder of culinary workwear brand Hedley & Bennett, are stepping in to help end the shortage of face masks, gowns, and other personal protective equipment (PPE). The goal is to get the right supplies to those on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis, including doctors, nurses, first responders, and even grocery store employees. “I’ve always been a wake-up-and-fight kind of a girl, and in times of crisis, you need to be able and willing to adapt and change,” says Bennett.

So where can you start? Buy a mask that gives back. Hedley & Bennett’s 100 percent cotton Wake Up and Fight masks are not direct substitutes for N95 surgical masks, but they can reduce person-to-person droplet transmission of the virus. Each one features an interior pocket for a filtration device, and for every product purchased, the brand will provide a mask to a hospital, nursing home, or other organization in need. 

“It’s been absolutely amazing to see the sewing community come together to help our medical professionals,” says Ugly Rugly founder Lauren Hansen, who has been creating her own fabric versions based on designs released by Masks4Medicine (you can see Hansen’s how-to tutorial here). The idea is that these DIY options can be allocated to low-risk workers and serve as a protective cover for procedural masks that must be thrown away once they’re soiled. These homemade iterations free up the FDA-approved ones for the people who need them the most.

Baltimore-based denim repair company Merchant Tailor and minimalist apron brand Cam Cam, which already has a couple hundred masks ready for delivery, are doing similar work. Additionally, mattress brand Avocado has repurposed a large part of its factory to the production of cotton canvas masks. The brand is selling the elastic- and plastic-free product at cost ($30), so they’re not for profit. In addition to masks, EJ Victor is working on a disposable gown prototype made from surgical-grade paper as well as an adjustable cot/bed that can be put together in minutes and curtains for triage centers.

Can’t sew? You can still do your part by connecting makers to caregivers of vulnerable people (Stitchroom has set up a page on its site to direct crafters to the right donation centers). Or, if you have a vehicle, you can drop off gear to those in need. “This is a time for us to try to be of service to one another in any capacity we are able to,” says Hansen. Know of other brands and designers jumping in to lend a hand? Drop us a line, below. 

This story was originally published on March 23, 2020. It has been updated with new information. 

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