BLUE RIDGE, Ga – Healthcare workers serve as the frontline of defense against COVID-19, and many work without proper protection due to supply shortages. Several professional and amateur seamstresses across the nation have answered the call to create cloth face masks for healthcare workers and those in need.
One such individual resides in Blue Ridge, Ga, Tina Rice of Tina’s Tie-Dye Store. Rice essentially turned her office into a production line to sew as many free face masks as possible for nurses, doctors, first responders, elderly, and high-risk individuals.
As of April 9, 601 tie-dye masks have shipped from her production room, and hundreds more still to be made.
When asked why sew face masks, she said, “My daughter, niece, and nephew are nurses, and they were telling me about the supply shortages in hospitals… I thought I can make masks.”
And so, she began on this journey of giving back at a time when the country needs it. Rice posted her sewing availability on Facebook, and it started to snowball from there. She has made face masks predominately for people she knows or customers, but new individuals have asked for her creations as well. Her masks go all over the country.
As far as the tie-dye element, Rice said this about her business, “I loved color, and I grew up in San Francisco. I started in 1973 and fell in love with the process. It’s something I could do with four small kids at home.”
Her love of color and helping others, not only protects nurses, doctors, and first responders but brings joy to those stuck inside hospitals or nursing homes.
Sewing for 10 hours a day, Rice likes to make her tie-dye masks in batches of 6 to 12 to keep the process flowing. From start to finish, it takes her around 25 minutes to create the final product. The sewing portion requires about 10 minutes of the process. Rice’s husband also helps out to keep production moving along.
Thus far, Rice has received “lots and lots and lots of thanks and pictures” from nurses. In her conversations with healthcare workers, Rice relayed that some of them only have her mask as protection against airborne infection.
One nurse wrote on Tina’s Tie Dye Facebook page, “Thank you so much for caring and taking the time to make this beautiful tie-dye mask for me. It’s greatly appreciated!”
Cloth face masks don’t prevent the majority of particles from reaching the face like N-95 respirators or surgical masks, but estimates report the fabric is 50 percent effective.
Her face mask pattern comes from Deaconness Hospital, and she said that many sewers across the country have based their designs on this one. The design doesn’t include the filtration pocket. Some of her mask recipients have expressed concern over the glass in the filters.
However, she will take requests for alterations to designs and keeps other templates on hand.
The masks include two separate pieces of fabric on the inside Rice uses a tightly woven flannel so it’s softer against the skin and the outside is a tightly woven cotton.
She adds the ears have been a case of trial and error to find the best fit for those wearing masks for extended amounts of time. She started with elastic, but then nurses provided feedback that they would rather have ties for comfort. Now, she uses cut-up knit shirts, which roll and are soft around the ears.
Additionally, Rice tweaks the design, so it fits over a variety of face sizes, both male and female.
According to the CDC, cloth face masks limit public exposure to COVID-19 by wearing them in public places where it’s difficult to maintain six feet of distance – such as grocery stores and pharmacies. However, everyone should still maintain the CDC and Federal guidelines to slow the spread.
Recently, Rice started taking a couple of masks with her to grocery stores and offering them to the elderly and employees. She’s received mixed responses from shoppers and employees. Some are grateful, but others decline her offer.
Masks need to fit securely over the nose and mouth. Wearers should also wash it whenever returning home from a trip into the community. Also, children under two should not wear a mask as it might inhibit their ability to breathe normally.
The CDC asks the public to ensure the mask:
- fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face
- be secured with ties or ear loops
- include multiple layers of fabric
- allow for breathing without restriction
- be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to the shape
Those interested can donate to Rice’s cause online. She has accepted some “very generous” donations from individuals in the community and “doesn’t expect to evert charge people for [her masks.]”
Individuals can order online ordering for masks or any of Tina’s Tie-Dye products.
As for her hope for the community, once the pandemic ends, Rice stated, “I hope that people look around and see the beauty of humanity.”
She is just one of the thousands tirelessly working to protect as many people as possible using their unique talents. In a world where many people believe they are more divided than ever, perhaps the silver lining of this crisis is discovering that comradery many people had lost.
“We live in a great county with good people,” affirmed Rice, and she’s right. Whether it’s through colorful face masks, food delivery to children in need and the elderly, or just calling to check on the neighbor down the street, American’s are demonstrating every day the best this county has to offer.