Mask Up: Local Crafters Help Rhode Islanders Stay Healthy

Rhode Islanders got crafty during the crisis.
Face Mask

“Color Your Mask” by Dr. Cassandra Sams

Rhode Islanders have gotten crafty in response to COVID-19 by making their own reusable masks at home. For Classical High School sophomore Lily McGuinness, making masks was a way to take up time during the stay-at-home order. She began making masks for friends and family and before she knew it, her hobby turned into a small business.

“In early June [2020], I began selling the masks at my mom’s practice [Avalon Salon in Cranston] and on my neighborhood website to people in my area,” says McGuinness. “The masks were $4 each and I probably sold about eighty every week.” According to McGuiness, the process was relatively simple and only took her about ten minutes to make each mask.

“Every mask begins with three pieces of fabric, two for the back and one for the front,” she says. “I pin and start by cutting the two for the back out and iron them to fold it in half. Then I pin the front-facing fabric and two back pieces with the elastic for your ears and sew around it inside out. I flip it so it’s right side out and iron it and I put the nose wire piece in and pleat it. Then, I sew around the mask one more time.”

Screen Shot 2021 01 21 At 103048 AmAnother Rhode Islander making reusable masks for the community is pediatric radiologist Dr. Cassandra Sams. After sending a homemade mask to her two-year-old nephew in St. Louis, Missouri, his preschool teacher asked her to make masks for all of the students in his class. Sams says that was when her idea for “Color Your Mask” took off.

“I gave my four-year-old daughter some markers and fabric to color her own mask,” says Sams, who works at Rhode Island Medical Imaging. “I thought, ‘Wow, maybe other people would like to do that as well.’ ”

Sams sells her “Color Your Mask” masks on Etsy and customers can choose from several different hand-drawn designs including a dinosaur, a rainbow and blank options for kids who want to draw their own. Adult sizes are also available.

“I thought that if the kids could make their own masks they’d be more likely to wear it,” she says.

All funds from selling the masks are donated to Black Girls Code, a nonprofit that provides technology for girls of color to gain computing skills.

“I wanted to donate to a cause that promoted women and science, and in these important times I felt that [Black Girls Code] was a place where I could make an impact,” says Sams.

Additionally, the masks make a difference in promoting more sustainable options and preventing littering and excessive waste.

“The sustainability of having a reusable mask is huge because even just walking around the streets now, you see disposable masks that people are dropping and leaving behind,” she says. “I’m a big fan of the masks that you can wear multiple times and then wash in really hot water to make sure they’re clean.”