As the CDC's (Center for Disease Control) recommendations continue to call for more face masks due to the COVID-19 crisis, hundreds of articles and how-to guides have popped up online and thousands of quilters, sewists, crafters, DIY’ers, and members of the Maker Movement have started creating homemade masks. AccuQuilt is known for being a creative company that provides solutions to make cutting fabric fast, accurate, easy and safe. Naturally, many people reached out to us to help with cutting fabric for masks. But let's tell the story of how we got here...
AccuQuilt in the Community
It’s times like this that creative companies look for ways to help solve problems and meet needs, and the TekBrands family of companies is doing just that! When the crisis hit, we started working on how to do what we do best – cut things. TekBrands is made up of AccuQuilt (primarily focused on cutting fabric for quilting), AccuCut (primarily focused on cutting paper for schools, churches, and paper-crafters), and CustomShapePros (the custom division of the organization that serves customers ranging from Etsy shop owners to specialty fabric cutting solutions to medical device companies to aeronautics), and MemoryStitch (service-business of sewing t-shirt quilts). These niche markets all have a place in helping solve problems facing society today; we are great at cutting and sewing things!
The TekBrands machines are roller die-cutters with hundreds of various shaped steel-rule dies. With these dies, users sandwich the material being cut between the steel-bladed die and a cutting mat, and it’s then rolled through the cutters to create the desired shape.
Within days of the national "slow the spread" push, CustomShapePros, worked with the Methodist Health System in Omaha, Nebraska to design four custom face mask dies in four different styles. A local volunteer group had organized and worked with the Infectious Disease team at Omaha Methodist Hospital to create a plan to make specialty covers for the N95 masks – thus allowing them to be used five times instead of just once. This community organization kicked TekBrands into full gear! From there, we decided to do what we do best, help people cut things!
Within 36 hours of the request, AccuQuilt was able to produce and deliver four specialty dies made for the local Methodist hospital project. We teamed up with a local quilt shop and had six volunteers (one pre-cutting fabric to go through the machines, four cutting mask shapes, and one organizing the cut fabric into packets to be picked up by local volunteer sewists) and by the end of the day had over 2,000 pre-cut mask shapes ready to be sewn.
Another group TekBrands partnered with was the Unity Health System in Iowa. Local designer, Joi Mahon teamed up with the Unity Health System to determine the style of mask they needed for their healthcare workers. Once that was determined, TekBrands got to work providing a custom die for the popular Olson-style mask. Joi activated her local community and worked with large suppliers like Tacony and Fibrix to donate fabric to make pre-cut kits for volunteers. AccuQuilt donated an industrial Studio cutter and dies shaped to make the Olson mask. This design has a pocket for a filter to provide an additional layer of protection for the wearer. Joi shared:
“We are providing precuts to any sewist in our area to pick up, take home and sew, then drop off for distribution to our hospital system. They literally saved the day for a big need. I asked if others around the country could purchase the die because some of my sewing students around the country asked if they could get one. They have made the dies available and bent over backwards getting these out to as many as possible for this urgent need… AccuQuilt has really stepped up in a tremendous way… behind the scenes and going beyond the call to help out.”
Next projects on the horizon include a mobilized group at Tulane University who is organizing efforts to protect New Orleans deeply impacted area, and a New York hospital at the heart of the problem in the Bronx who is looking to speed up the process for cutting full face-protectors from plastic for medical professionals working directly with COVID-19 patients.
Slowing the Spread by Speeding Up Cuts
With any of the TekBrands cutters and dies, it’s all about eliminating the arduous process of cutting masks out by hand. These are intricate shapes that typically require making templates and rotary or scissor cutting each individual shape for the masks, but using the AccuQuilt and AccuCut machines, volunteers can cut out five mask kits in a single pass through the rolling cutter (10 layers of fabric). It’s all about leveraging our key competency – cutting – making the process safer, easier, and 90% faster for everyone working on mask projects to protect citizens, first responders, and medical professionals as needed.
The three most popular face mask designs submitted through CustomShapePros became the inspiration for the dies release for the GO! (suitable for GO! and GO! Big) and Studio fabric cutter lines. Additionally, 100% of net profits from the sale of face mask dies will be donated to nationally recognized non-profit, No Kid Hungry, a non-profit organization who helps schools and community groups across the country develop and implement new ways to feed kids that rely on school programs. Donations are being used along with emergency grant funding to feed children during the school shut-down related to COVID-19.
Each die has a specialized pattern designed to help guide sewists in their mask-making. If you're ready to up your mask making efficiency, here are the downloadable patterns for each style and links to each die we offer.
Die Specific Patterns
- GO! Olson Face Mask Die (55182)
- GO! Surgical Face Mask (55186)
- GO! DIY Face Mask-Small Die (55183)
- GO! DIY Face Mask-Medium Die (55184)
- GO! DIY Face Mask-Large Die (55185)
- Studio Olson Face Mask (50916)
- Studio Surgical Face Mask (50915)
- Studio DIY Face Mask-Small Die (50912)
- Studio DIY Face Mask-Medium Die (50913)
- Studio DIY Face Mask-Large Die (50914)
More Free, AccuQuilt-Friendly Face Mask Patterns
- GO! Face Mask with Fabric Strip Ties Pattern
- GO! N95 Face Mask Cover Pattern
- GO! Face Mask Pattern
- GO! Olson Face Mask Pattern
We will continue to exploit our strengths to help however we can! If you are leading a mask-making initiative in your community and you think AccuQuilt can help, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you have face masks but don't know where to donate, visit WeNeedMasks.org to connect with local healthcare facilities in your community. Keep up with all we're doing by checking our Quilting Under Quarantine page - it updates everyday!