Mask Makers

The Gorge Makers Collective rallies volunteers to fight the COVID-19 pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) for medical professionals and essential workers, and communities around the country are coming up with creative ways to address the crisis. One such group, the Gorge Makers Collective, is rallying community members to produce a stockpile of handmade masks to be used as a last resort should supplies run out.

In the photo above, Holly Higdon-Wood marks a pattern for a mask pattern on a piece of quilter’s cotton at her studio in Hood River. Higdon-Wood owns and designs for her company Colony Collective. She is one of four founding members of the Gorge Makers Collective, all of whom are women business owners.

Higdon-Wood cuts a pattern for a mask at her studio. She created the design and then received helpful input from local healthcare workers to fine-tune the mask pattern so it would fit over an N95 respirator. The design also allows for a filter to be inserted and could be worn immediately by delivery people, store clerks, volunteers handing out school lunches, and people who are ill or caring for someone who is ill. Currently the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is reviewing its recommendations about community mask use.

The Gorge Makers Collective is also creating posters and a short film on how to properly launder the homemade masks. Gorge Makers Collective has created more than 400 masks to date and now has companies involved including Dakine, Renewal Workshop, Melika Swimwear, and Venture Swim. They are using lycra straps donated by Melika instead of elastic now because they have had difficulty sourcing elastic straps.

Higdon Wood demonstrates to her son, Aiden, how to shape the aluminum sheeting used in the cotton masks to shape a nose stay to keep the masks in place. Her other son, Cooper, far right, measures the aluminum sheet before cutting.

Cooper Wood, left, and his brother, Aiden, cut small pieces of aluminum sheeting for the nose stays used in the homemade cotton masks.

Camille Hinman, right, hands completed nose stays to Sherie Lacrosse-Zack, center, as Holly Higdon Wood, left, looks on. Lacrosse-Zack is also one of the four founding members of Gorge Makers Collective. Although it is newly formed, the Gorge Makers Collective currently has more than 500 members. Hinman alone made one hundred masks in three days.

Sherie Lacrosse-Zack holds a homemade mask kit where Gorge Makers Collective is collecting and distributing supplies. Each kit includes materials needed to produce ten masks: precut pattern pieces, fabric, elastics, aluminum nose stays, and instructions. As of March 30, Gorge-area sewers and volunteers had created more than 300 masks.

Theresa Perry sews a mask pattern at her home sewing studio. Perry is a physical therapy assistant at Skyline Health Hospital in White Salmon, Washington, where she has worked for more than twenty years. 

Debi Budnick, the community health and outreach coordinator for Skyline Health, says, "We are becoming better positioned to respond to a potential surge of COVID-19 patients thanks to the exceptional creativity, initiative, and generosity of our community partners." Budnick is in charge of coordinating all of the community-sourced PPE.

Sailworks, a small manufacturer of windsurfing sails in Hood River, has begun producing protective face shields using plastic intended to make windows in sails. Above, owner Bruce Peterson tries on a face shield. Local beaches are currently closed for windsurfing.

“Sailworks has retasked our staff and sail loft to make medical face shields," Peterson says. "It took a week to get stocked up on materials and get the ten-step cutting and production line set up, but they can now make 400 to 500 shields per day."

Dale Cook, a sailmaker at Sailworks, cuts foam headbands for the protective face shields. 

Sailworks undertook the face shield project in conjunction with the Hood River County Health Department and HMB 50, a new nonprofit working to procure and donate PPE to health and public safety workers in the Columbia Gorge and beyond. HMB 50 stands for “Hand Made Brigade, 50,” fifty being the number of hours it took to start the effort after the first request from local medical professionals.

“We at Sailworks are stoked that we are able to help fulfill a portion of this need in our community,” Peterson says.


Civic Life, Community, Economics, Health


4 comments have been posted.

Is anyone in Oregon donating mask to evacuation families?

Sharon Rasmussen | September 2020 |

Great story and super images!

Ruth Berkowitz | June 2020 | Hood River

Is mask pattern available online?

Robin L | June 2020 | Washington state

This is so cool! Love you son-in-law Dale! Stay safe!

Kathleen Hornstuen | April 2020 | Coos Bay, OR

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