Coronavirus: Local crafters make masks for Jacksonville medical workers

In Jacksonville, crafters are sewing their own surgical masks and donating them to medical personnel to help ease the national personal protective equipment shortage caused by the coronavirus.

By Emily Bloch, The Florida Times-Union

Right about now, Cheryl Woodall would probably be sewing something frilly. The owner of Little Bloom Boutique specializes in floral printed onesies, ruffled bloomers and Peter Pan collared tops for babies and toddlers. Instead, this week, she’s making face masks and delivering them to medical personnel in need.

“I saw a pattern on Instagram,” the Fernandina Beach seamstress said. “There was a link on

By the week’s end, she had halted all other orders and had a bag full of elastic. Woodall is sewing masks and filters and delivering them to expectant moms and medical workers. All at no charge.

“Nurses, nurse practitioners, chiropractors and expecting moms have requested them from me,” she said. “I am delivering them straight to the person that is requesting them from me.”

Within six days, Woodall said she’s made 50 or 60 masks and 75 or 85 filters.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Little Blooms Boutique product if it wasn’t colorful, too. Woodall dove into her collection of floral, fruits, paisleys and other whimsical prints to make the masks with.

“I absolutely love fun fabrics,” she said. “So I have a giant stash of adorable fabrics. I figured that the mask might make a brighter day for a patient that is being taken care of by someone in the medical field.”

According to Woodall, the masks are made of two layers of heavy quilting cotton and the inner filter is made of two layers of new sheets she got at Target. The mask is intended to be used over the N95 respirator masks medical personnel are already using.

N95 masks are tight-fitting masks that filter out at least 95 percent of small and large airborne particles, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. They’re currently in short supply and are recommended for health care workers treating the coronavirus or those caring for someone who has it.

As noted by USA TODAY, homemade masks, on their own, resemble loose-fitting surgical masks and don’t meet N95 standards.

Still, it hasn’t stopped crafters from making their own.

In Springfield, Bobby Kelley, who owns BobbyK Boutique, filmed a tutorial for people stuck at home to learn to make their own.

Following high demand, he’s since started selling them for $10. With each purchase, a second mask is donated to emergency personnel.

Within an hour, he sold 100 pre-orders, including orders to a Navy submarine crew. By the end of the day, more than 300 were purchased.

Kelley said the sales revenue will help him pay his employees while the store is closed.

“It’s truly amazing to see people supporting each other like this,” he said. “I basically plan on not sleeping the next few days [to fulfill orders].”

And while the masks alone won’t block the spread of COVID-19, experts say they can prevent some germs from spreading and keep people from touching their faces so much.

As noted by USA TODAY, face mask supply is becoming limited because of the increasing demand nationwide. It’s prompted companies like Joann Fabrics to launch initiatives to help replenish the supply. Last week, the craft store started giving away free fabric and elastic so customers could make masks at home and donate them to hospitals.

Locals like Audrey Cailin Cheng, 15, a sophomore at The Bolles School, is sewing face masks on her personal Singer sewing machine now that she has extra time at home.

“I started making masks because I wanted to help our healthcare workers,” she said. “I wanted to help support them in any way I could. So far I have only made about eight, but I have enough materials to make a lot more.

Cheng plans on donating her completed masks to Baptist Medical Center — which, along with other Jacksonville hospitals — is treating cases of the coronavirus.

Others, like Cecil Pines Adult Living Community’s Gifted Hands ladies group and The Community Hospice & Palliative Care Clinical Team are also making and donating masks.

The Times-Union reached out to spokespeople at local hospitals for guidance on donating masks. Each are approaching donation requests differently.

“At this time, Mayo Clinic does not need donated masks,” spokeswoman Tia Ford said, saying the clinic has a “robust conservation plan” to deal with the nationwide supply shortage.

At UF Health, spokesman Daniel Leveton said the hospital’s needs are “not as critical as some,” but that they appreciate the community’s trying to help.

“Many people have reached out asking how they can assist,” Leveton said. “We are very appreciative of these generous offers. Any items we receive will undergo an internal evaluation to verify the equipment meets guidelines as well as effectiveness based on standard protocols.”

While Ascension St. Vincent’s is accepting donations, spokesman Kyle Sieg said the hospital could not accept handmade donations right now. Individuals or companies interested in making a donation to St. Vincent’s should call (904) 308-2619.

“We are working with local and state health officials to determine if such items could be an option in the future,” Sieg said.

Baptist Medical Center, on the other hand, is happy to accept hand-sewn personal protective equipment right now, anticipating a need for gowns, especially.

“The Baptist Health Foundation is also accepting hand-sewn isolation gowns and face masks,” a news release said. “Please use 100% cotton fabric that can be laundered and bleached.”

The medical center went as far as including links to patterns and instructions for sewing the gowns and masks.

Hand-sewn materials can be dropped off at the Baptist Medical Center Jacksonville parking garage P5, located at 1350 Flagler Ave. Drop offs are from 9-11 a.m. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

Crafters like Woodall feel like making the masks is the least they can do.

“I figured this is one way to give back to the Medical field,” she said. “They need to be protected as much as possible and given the supplies the need to take care of us properly.”