Avery Cook '21 at her sewing machine.

Avery Cook ’21 is using her study break time to do something constructive. She’s sewing masks for healthcare workers.

Cook was studying abroad in Ireland and in the midst of final exams when she was sent home due to the COVID-19 outbreak. “I realized I would have a lot of spare time on my hands when I would have otherwise been taking trips I had planned to Italy, Amsterdam, and different parts of Ireland,” she said. “I wanted to fill the time with something that could help out in some way, so I picked up some fabric from Joann’s and began making masks.”

Cook learned to sew when she was young so that she could make outfits for her dolls, and as she got older she learned more about mending and more practical applications of sewing.

“It took a few masks to figure out which patterns would be most universally accepted and least material-intensive, which was important after fabric and craft stores were closed as nonessential businesses,” she said.

When Cook ran out of various materials, she figured out ways to adapt her process. For instance, after using all the elastic she could find in her attic and learning that online sellers are backordered on elastic until June, she switched to making bias tape and fortified ribbon.

Most of the masks Cook makes are going to facilities in downstate New York that use them either to extend the life of medical PPE or simply to protect non-medical essential workers. “My next batch of masks will be going to my mom, as she’s an administrator for a school district where the cafeteria staff is working to keep students fed from a distance, and masks are in high demand in upstate New York, like they are everywhere,” Cook said.

“Although I’m definitely not the most skilled seamstress, it has been really inspiring to log onto the mask-making websites every day to see that the numbers of donated homemade masks have jumped since I last logged on,” Cook said. “Even though my masks are just a drop in the bucket in the grand scheme of things, I’m still grateful that I can contribute.”

Help us provide an accessible education, offer innovative resources and programs, and foster intellectual exploration.

Site Search