Billie Wilson closed the doors of her own brick-and-mortar Brevard store to the public, Three Oaks Fabric Company, before the companies were officially asked, and as she and her husband heed the order of stay at home in North Carolina, his days have passed. longer and busier.
“I couldn’t sleep at night if I didn’t help somehow,” she said. “I have always been a woman who advocates for a cause.”
The tiny cottage on her farm where all of Three Oaks Fabric’s work takes place, mostly for online orders through her Etsy store, now has a secondary focus.
Every day since March 24, Wilson has worked hard to assemble 180 kits with the hardware for 1,800 homemade face masks to ship or have home delivery to those who wish to join the sewing effort.
“What started out as a goal of 800 and then 1,000 masks blossomed. It is a real community effort. He’s growing up, ”Wilson said.
A retired home economics teacher at Rosman High, Wilson decided to put his skills in measuring and cutting fabric to good use for the current growing need for personal protective equipment in Transylvania County and beyond, as the Covid-19 virus continues to wreak havoc.
“This is personal for me; they are my students and my students have children now and their children go to school with our grandchildren. I just want to keep our community safe, ”Wilson said. “I hope everyone is listening and it doesn’t hit Transylvania County or anywhere here like it has in other parts of our country.”
It all started when Wilson saw an Asheville doctor’s call for help in a video posted to Facebook. Dr Carly Brown of Ashewell Medical Group recently started Masks of Love WNC, an organized emergency effort where sewers in western North Carolina can sew homemade face masks and then put them back between the hands of medical workers and others in need.
“Dr. Brown had screamed at masks – it was truly a touching Facebook video. I saw her by chance, so that night I emailed her and she responded the next morning; she said, ‘You are my angel,’ ”Wilson said.
“I told him we were going to start in Transylvania County and ordered rubber bands that night. As soon as we received the documents, we immediately started. Everyone reached out for kits.
Wilson and her daughters, Christy and Amy, who she owns the fabric business with, put together a short video on March 22 asking for help from people sewing masks for medical staff in light of the shortage current PPE.
Less than a week later, the video has been viewed over 4,000 times, and people in New York City, Nevada, Wisconsin and across North Carolina contacted Three Oaks to request kits, which are free.
Wilson initially funded the effort out of his own pocket, but donations of money and fabric started pouring in from those who wanted to help but couldn’t sew.
As many set to work on their sewing machines to make homemade masks while still adhering to administrative segregation measures, Wilson took the idea of mask kits a step further.
Not only has she cut exact measurements for the masks, but Wilson has designed her own mask pattern aimed at simplicity and efficiency for those who sew, while maintaining efficiency for those who will wear them.
It’s a family-friendly effort, as Wilson’s daughters assemble the patterns for each kit and cut rubber bands and pipe cleaners from their own homes while Wilson’s husband Rocky twists the fabric.
“I had the cloth and the big cutting table and I’m quick with that, so for the people who don’t have the right rules and the right rotary knives, they spin their wheels. I can cut flat doing it day in and day out, ”Wilson said. “It was more productive for me to cut the fabric and then hand the masks back to the ladies who sewed.”
The top priority for her was to only require one piece of material – rather than the typical homemade mask designs that require three pieces – and to include a pocket in which to place a filter for more effective protection.
“Dr. Brown said,“ I need a mask that I can put a filter in that we can wash and use over and over again. ”There are many mask designs that use three pieces of fabric. I sew. since I was 5 and I’ve been making my own clothes since I was in seventh grade, and I’ve always rewritten the patterns, ”Wilson said.
“I looked at these models and thought to myself that it is not effective and it is not easy to learn how to do it. So it was obvious to me to rewrite a mask model that only requires one piece of fabric. The result is exactly the same, but the simplicity is what matters.
While these homemade masks are not a substitute for N95 respiratory masks, the Center for Disease Control has stated that homemade fabric masks are acceptable as a last resort for healthcare professionals.
For non-medical professionals who still engage in some way with the public, doctors are increasingly encouraging homemade masks to protect themselves and those with whom they come in contact.
“I emailed the boss to so many people. I took a bunch of patterns, looked at them, and I said, “How the hell do I get someone who hasn’t sewn in a long time can easily do it and contribute?” Everyone who has used it said it was really easy, ”Wilson said.
Each kit includes 10 pieces of high quality 100% cotton fabric pre-cut and serged, elastic, pipe cleaners and the corresponding template for instructions.
The majority of the filled kits have been returned, with several sewers asking to keep some of the masks to distribute to medical staff in their own communities or to keep for themselves.
So far, the masks have been delivered to Ashewell Medical Group for Masks of Love, Accordius Health, Transylvania County Bus Drivers garage for those delivering meals to neighborhoods for school-aged children, Jarrett’s Brothers Grocery in Rosman, Schenck Job Corps in Pisgah Forest, Transylvania Public Health, Brian Center Health and Rehabilitation in Hendersonville, health professionals in Transylvania and Henderson counties, child care workers taking care of children from the team of emergency response from Transylvania, Lake Toxaway Post Office, and individuals in the community who requested the masks for use due to medical conditions that put them in higher risk categories.
Many locally requested kits from Wilson to help with the sewing effort, with members of the Waightstill Avery chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution in Brevard providing the bulk of the local effort.
With the first round of 180 mask kits almost fully distributed, Wilson is aiming for the next round. It has ordered enough material for 130 additional kits, which means 1,300 additional masks.
“We are now trying to keep the masks in our little corner of the woods,” Wilson. “The hospital didn’t say they needed manufactured masks, so we’re focusing on people who are essential workers and making sure they get them. “
The masks that will be distributed to essential workers in public safety agencies, such as police, firefighters and the public works department, will also include filters to be inserted into the pockets of the masks. These filters will come from Masks of Love WNC.
For completed masks that don’t include filters, Masks of Love uses 3M Filtrete 1900 air conditioning filters, which can be found at stores like Home Depot and Lowes.
For more information on how to assist in the mask-making effort by Three Oaks Fabric, or to download Wilson’s mask pattern, visit Three Oaks Fabric Company on Facebook or https://threeoaksfabric.com.
“Our goal of 1,000 masks has now turned into 3,500 masks, but as long as I have people who can keep sewing, I will continue to cut the fabric and we will continue to make these kits,” Wilson said.
“I think in our own way in our community we all do things and it makes a difference. “