The newly minted United We Mask sewing collective is donating 10,000 Do-It-Yourself mask-making kits to Boys & Girls Club of America.
With young people likely playing an important role in community transmission, according to the Centers for Disease Control in the U.S., United We Mask is looking to fill in educational gaps for kids starting with the launch of its DIY kits and virtual classroom this weekend. The organization is offering virtual tutorials on sewing, designing and proper health education on Unitedwemask.org.
“The goal of the tutorials are to make PPE more approachable for a diverse population, thinking of individual needs,” said Jennifer Lee, founder of United We Mask. “The videos and patterns emphasize diversity and inclusion, reusability and sustainability.”
Current tutorials offered include: “make your own zero-waste fabric mask,” “DIY PPE with dupatta scarf” and “how to add a mask with a hijab,” among others.
“The DIY component of our workshops gives community members a chance to feel a part of the process; show off their sewing skills; elevate voices and encourage leaders to pass along sound public health practices to others in their micro-communities. In return, we are able to scale quickly and empower community members along the way,” added Lee.
Inside the DIY kits are a bag, pins, instruction sheet with public health facts, repurposed fabric swatches, lanyard and children’s book “Smiling From Ear to Ear,” a book that encourages the use of personal protective equipment in a child-friendly manner.
Partners for this initiative include New York-based nonprofit Fabscrap, which collects scrap materials from designers like Marc Jacobs and Oscar de la Renta, knit company Verloop (deadstock yarns from off-cuts) and crafting marketplace Minted (upcycled fabric).
Tutorials aside, there is also a virtual workshop series that can be scheduled in advance, catering to the corporate community.
Tutorials and workshops are taught by a collective of designers and student volunteers from universities across the U.S., including University of California, Los Angeles, University of Arizona, Harvard University, Georgia Tech, and Savannah College of Art and Design, among others.
Lee brought up another concern — the environment, which is under a barrage of disposable masks. One peer-reviewed study from the American Chemical Society published in the academic journal Environmental Science & Technology estimated that the world is using 129 billion disposable masks and 65 billion disposable gloves each month.
“It is one of UWM’s missions to lower that number, by teaching communities about sustainability and mask creation with no-waste materials that are also beautiful,” added Lee.
The organization also sells “color your own mask” kits, donating on a one-for-one basis.