Fantastic Faculty :: Maskmaker! Maskmaker!

Lifelong Wellness Professor Renee Hoppe says making masks wasn’t something she’d ever thought about before 2020, “but now, making twenty masks or more a week is just part of my schedule.” It all started last July. “I hadn’t taken my kids, ages 4, 7, and 8, anywhere and realized that this virus wasn’t going away. I couldn’t keep us in a bubble forever, but I tried. I knew we would need masks, but how uncomfortable was that?! I had watched the news, and just about everyone I saw wearing them had ineffective, ill-fitting masks, and I wasn’t impressed.”

“I started YouTubing patterns and sewing designs. I went through a few styles before finding a pattern developed by an engineer who created a mask design for kids at St. Jude Children’s Hospital. It’s a 3D style mask, so it doesn’t touch the nostrils or mouth. I could get on board with that, but could my kids? I was pleasantly surprised how well received this design was. Now I was onto something!

“By the end of the week, I had six pattern sizes to custom fit everyone in the family, but I was still pretty slow at making them. I could make two masks an hour on a good day. Eventually, I started turning them out faster and customizing the design. I ramped up my collection of different-sized bendable nose pieces, different colors and sizes of elastic, matching thread colors, sizers, fun fabrics, and several different thicknesses for polypropylene filters to fit inside the masks. Several of these materials were not easy to purchase for a good portion of 2020, but now there are many options for available.

“For anyone who knows me, of course, I’m going all out and probably over the top to make sure the masks I make are the most effective and comfortable they can be. My kids now have to wear them seven or more hours a day, so I was going to give it my best effort. Fortunately, I did pretty good. People would see our masks and notice how well they stayed on and asked where we got them. Plus, the patterns screamed fun, from Baby Yoda to Unicorns to Red Wings – I made them all. The conversation always ended with me offering to make the other person a mask. This caught on like wildfire, and I couldn’t help but to keep offering. I wanted people to be as comfortable as possible and give them options. One of my kid’s teachers loved his mask so much, he said he was going to wear it every day he had to be at the school. Well, of course I couldn’t have that, so I made him twelve more to allow for a variety. I also started using my Circuit and making custom logos and designs on the masks. Oh yeah, I ramped it up a notch to make it more fun for those on the receiving end.

“I have to say, there were lots of late nights trying to stay up with the requests, but it felt good to help out, and I liked the joy it brought people. They were so thankful, just for a mask. The kindness and appreciation keep me going. One night, I sat down and said to my husband, ‘I bet I’ve made over 500 masks already.’ He said, ‘At least!’ It made me feel good to reflect on how many different people were wearing them: schoolteachers, healthcare workers, coaches, players, grandparents, grocery store workers. I thought, ‘I did something good in this pandemic.’ It felt awesome.

“After a while, people would reach out to me and want to purchase a mask. I said I wasn’t selling – I was just making them whenever I had free time for those that needed one. Almost a year later I am still watching JoAnn’s for sales and coupons, so I can continue to sew masks for those that need them. At this point, I believe I am close, if not over, 1000 masks, and I don’t see myself stopping until masks stop being a top accessory when leaving the house.”