Can you help supply face masks to those on the frontline?

Valley Church

Valley Church

Hello everyone! I’m Samantha Fox, and I am part of Valley Church and mum to Elliot (almost 4) and Thea (7 months). I am a GP local to Bamber Bridge and currently on maternity leave. You’ve probably been hearing a lot recently about PPE & face masks and based on the research I have done, I wanted to demystify some of the talk for you and ask for your help.

As you have probably heard there is a massive shortage of protective equipment,  and this is something we are trying to help with. We would love to invite you to join with us and contribute your time, skills, materials to making these for the people who need them most. We already know of needs in care homes, Royal Preston Hospital and the new COVID hospital based in Manchester. People in our church and community are working in some of these places and with your help we can help get our masks into people’s hands that need them as soon as we have them. Essentially there is a need for thousands of face masks and ear-saving headbands!

Nicola is also a mum of two and part of Valley Church. She works as a mental healthcare support worker and has recently started making face masks and headbands, to donate them for free to key workers. As of now she has managed about 90 headbands and 50 masks by using materials donated by friends and family, but is hoping to achieve much more now that news has begun to spread.  Orders continue to come from desperate staff in nursing homes who have little by way of protective gear, and she is personally struggling to keep on top of orders. If anyone can contribute it would be amazing. There are hundreds of carers in need!



How Can You Help?

  • Making Face Masks. If you are able to sew, there is a YouTube tutorial that Nicola has been following, which is simply a folded strip of cloth with sewn edges and elastic ties:
  • Making headbands. One of the downsides of PPE is the pressure it puts on the back of the ears for the wearer. These have headbands have buttons that the elastics can go around instead.
  • Sew buttons. We are happy to distribute ready-made headbands for people to help hand sew the buttons on. Nicola  has received a donation of wider elastic not suitable for the ear loops of the masks, but can be made into ‘ear savers’ by cutting into 5 inch lengths, reinforcing the cut edges with a flame from a lighter to stop fraying, and sewing on a button to each end. This piece then goes around the back of the head.
  • Donate. Materials, or the cost towards those materials, would be awesome. £5 could get enough buttons for 30 ear savers; £7.50 gets enough elastic for 10 face masks; and £10 could buy fabric for 60 face masks. You can donate here!

List of supplies to use or donate:

  • 100% cotton or 80% cotton/20% polyester fabric. This can be upcycled from material you have at home. Check it is relatively comfortable to breathe through by folding it double and testing, and that any stretch in the material is compensated for by adjusting the size of material.
  • Sewing Elastic between 3mm-8mm but ideally 5mm width for the face masks. For ear saver bands around 20mm width.
  • Buttons at 20mm + ideally 22mm.
  • Cellophane bags, 100mm x 250mm self seal.

All items can be found on online retailers or eBay/Amazon. Please ask around if you know of local haberdasheries/craft groups who may be willing to donate. Currently, Nicola has had a delivery of cotton/polycotton suitable for both face masks and headbands she is happy to share out to any willing sewers. What we really need by way of donations are sewing elastic and lots of buttons!

We can also supply information on crochet patterns and 3D templates for ear savers, if you have the resources to help in either of those areas – please get in contact for those details.

Your Contribution Matters

We would love to involve you in this time of crisis, where everyone’s sense of community is heightened, and the need to be mindful of others is more important than ever.  The masks don’t have to be fancy or pretty, they simply need to be functional. Crack out your sewing machine, raid your bedlinen or old clothes. Teach your kids to sew!! If you would like to help, contact us via our new Valley Church People Matter – DIY Face Mask and Ear Savers group on Facebook, or by emailing us at [email protected]. We can help coordinate donations to Nicola, or for her to drop off materials to you if required.

People matter, and being able to give something to protect someone is a wonderful way to show how much they are valued and loved. We look forward to hearing from you!

Sam Fox and the People Matter Team

Here is my research and medical opinion on the advice so far.

  1. It has been very well reported that there is a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) for many of our essential key workers and volunteers who continue to come into close contact with others. Staff working in care homes, care assistants, and pharmacists are people who should have proper PPE but are desperate for any form of protection at this present time. Coronavirus has proven to be particularly infectious, and whilst we understand that cloth face masks are not 100% effective, they can offer some protection with the correct use. Those who are able to acquire masks are suffering from pressure sores and bleeding ears because of the pressure from the elastics holding the mask closely to the face. There is a real and urgent need for donated supplies.
  2. WHO (World Health Organisation) as of 11th April advises that the general public do not require face masks, unless you are caring for someone who is ill, or you yourself have a cough or cold (does not need to be suspected COVID-19). We know that this is different advice compared to some countries such as the USA, where the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has encouraged the general use of some kind of facial covering particularly when leaving the house.
  3. DIY fabric face masks are not meant to replace correct medical grade PPE, but staff are desperate for any kind of protection for themselves, as well as for their patients/clients.
  4. It is important to note that the predominant reason to wear a face mask in social situations is to prevent YOU from spreading any potential infection to others. Because of the reported significant number of asymptomatic carriers, this is particularly important in the context of our key workers helping our most vulnerable. 
  5. Masks may help protect the user, not completely, but preliminary studies have shown that in certain situations particularly with short term use, they do form a barrier against droplet spread.
  6. The masks need to be laundered daily , so the aim would be to try to have at least 2-3 masks in rotation. For nursing home staff, ideally they should be having around 8 masks in a day to get through a shift.
  7. The best fabric to use is a double layer of 100% cotton or polycotton can also be used, which is usually 80% cotton and 20% polyester. Quilting cotton, pillowcases, cotton T-shirts, bedding material like duvets and sheets can be used if they fit the brief. Doubled up cotton/polycotton has shown to have a balance between filtering properties and comfort of breathing. It is also widely available. From current research, removable filters are not currently recommended or deemed as necessary. Filters may have particles you do not want to inhale (vacuum bags) and may be difficult to breathe through whilst conferring little additional benefit (coffee filter paper). 
  8. Make sure you wear it correctly. It needs to be tight fitting against your face. Handle it by the straps and not the fabric itself when removing, and launder daily at 60C. 
  9. Masks can be helpful as stated above, but is it very important to continue to follow the rules.


Whether you are wearing a face covering or not:

  • Wash your hands regularly. Use soap and water, and wash them for at least 20 seconds. Hand sanitizer is acceptable to use if you are unable to wash your hands.
  • Cover your face when coughing with a tissue or the inside of your elbow.
  • Avoid touching your face, because you could transmit the virus from your hands into your mouth.
  • Stay at home, except for essential trips outside like trips to the grocery store or to see your doctor. 
  • Practice social distancing by staying at least 2 metres away from other people. Do not physically socialise with anyone besides those in your household.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently-touched surfaces daily.

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