Homemade face masks are a labor of love

Jackson family members and Rustic Log employee Adam Gylling show completed face mask kits ready to be distributed for sewing; from left, Micah, Angie, Caden and Ben Jackson and Gylling.

ALAMOSA – In times of uncertainly and fear due to Covid-19, it’s heartwarming to find a related “feel good” story. Answering a need expressed by San Luis Valley Health, Randy and Micah Jackson of Rustic Log Furniture put their knowledge and equipment to work manufacturing face mask kits that can be used by medical personnel.

Dozens of volunteers have since joined the effort to help build the kits and sew the final product from a pattern originally designed by SLV Health but improvised by the Jacksons. The end result is that 1,300 mask kits have been made to date and given out to volunteers to sew.

The homemade masks, made with denim material on the exterior and cotton on the inside, include a pocket where a HEPA filter can be inserted. Filters are cut from dismantled heater filters with a high particulate and allergen level, according to Micah Jackson, similar to what you replace in a forced-air furnace.

Micah said staff at SLV Health derived the idea of using furnace filters. Rustic Log’s computerdirected laser, purchased about a year ago to cut upholstery fabric for the company’s furniture business, is used to cut both the material and filters based on the final pattern designed by Randy Jackson.

“There are a lot of different mask patterns out there,” Micah said, “but SLV Health tested this pattern with their staff to get approval.” The kits include all of the materials required to build and sew a mask including interior and exterior cloth, bias tape for binding the top and bottom and to provide straps for tying the mask on, and a piece of wire for over the nose. The end result is masks of varying colors and patterns.

Going one step further, Micah Jackson created a “how-to” video on how to build the masks with the help of Nicole Broyles Mortensen. The video is available on Rustic Living’s Facebook page (shorturl.at/evVZ2). Micah said the whole project began around 3 p.m. Friday and computer programing and testing continued into Saturday and Sunday with a number of the Jackson’s children and friends jumping in to help.

Among those joining in the “impromptu work session” were the Jackson family, Roxann Sittler, Abi Sittler, Dr. Martin and Lorna Sowards, Evan Sowards, Denice Broyles, Candace Broyles and Greg and Nicole Mortensen. By mid-day Tuesday, the Alamosa and Manassa stakes of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) had distributed 1,000 kits to church members to begin sewing. “Monday was insane, Micah said, “with people offering to donate materials and help put kits together.” Other local businesses offered to help, according to Micah, Kristi Mountain Sports volunteering to remove the frames and wire covers of the furnace filters and Weiss Dry Cleaners offering to flatten the accordion-shaped filters using a clothing press.

Micah said Randy’s computer expertise has been critical to the operation as well as those who have the knowledge to operate the laser cutter, mainly Rustic Log employees and the Jacksons’ children. In putting the kits together, she said bias tape was the hardest material to find as donors gobbled up everything Walmart had in stock. Some kits come with strips of cloth instead with directions in the “how-to” video on how to make bias tape with a hot iron.

Each mask requires 80-inches of bias tape. She noted that the masks are reusable as the fabric part can be washed and a new filter inserted. Since posting a video on Facebook, Micah Jackson said they have been contacted by hospitals in Arizona and New Mexico requesting the pattern and the video, as well as staff from the hospital in Salida who she is meeting with on Saturday.

Material donations are still being accepted: denim, canvas or tightly woven fabric (not cut-up jeans) in minimum one-yard pieces, bias tape (1/2-inch double fold preferred), cotton fabric (one square yard pieces) and 20-gauge wire.

Call 589- 0656 ext. 11 to coordinate drop-off. Donations will be used for any surrounding hospital. Micah said the project has been a positive thing for the Valley and a lot of other communities. “It’s been an amazing project to be involved with,” she said. “Now let’s just remember that when all of this is over, support local businesses.”

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