What does it take to make 1,500 masks in two weeks? A local New England couple explains how they have transformed their flannel-themed clothing store, Wicked Flannel, into a mask-making production center. Molly and Ben St. Jeanne have helped hundreds of individuals access free masks during the fight against COVID-19.
Walk me through the process of making a mask. How long does it take? Where do the materials come from?
We make our masks with 100% Flannel Cotton, lightweight fusible interfacing, and latex-free elastic straps. We gather our materials from multiple sources (local whenever possible). Materials are scarce right now, so every day we are contacting vendors and trying to find more elastic and fabric so that we don’t run out. As a team, we are able to complete roughly 20 masks per-hour. We have streamlined the process by dividing the labor and each focusing on a different task – one preps and cuts the materials, one sews the elastics in and then flips and closes the seams, and one pleats, finishes, and packs the masks.
Each day we aim to start sewing between 7:30 am-8:00 am, and then we offer curbside pick up at our shop from 10 am-10:30 am. We then go back to sew until about 2 pm. When we are done making masks for the day, we review all of the packages and break them up into three categories; shipping, hand delivery, and curbside pick up. Once we have the packages organized, we contact everyone waiting for curbside pick up to let them know their packages are ready, and we send tracking numbers to everyone waiting for their masks to be shipped. Finally, we are able to begin hand-delivering packages to locals anywhere between Salisbury, MA and Portsmouth, NH. We usually finish deliveries between 6 pm-8 pm and then make sure we have enough materials prepped for the next day.
How many masks have you made so far?
We just recently packed our 1,500th mask and we have become efficient enough that we are able to produce and deliver around 100 masks a day.
How effective is flannel as a material for making masks?
Flannel cotton is actually one of the most highly recommended materials for hand-sewn face masks. The tight weave of flannel is extremely effective, and we add the fusible interfacing to make it as high quality of a product as we are capable. Heavy weighted flannel can get extremely warm, so that is why we work hard to find quality medium to lightweight flannel material. We make sure the product is as beneficial to the wearer as possible without becoming insensible for everyday wear.
Where is the furthest your masks have traveled to?
We have sent the majority of our masks to New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, and Florida. We have even shipped a few masks to Alabama, California, Hawaii, Utah, Colorado, Washington, and Illinois.
Every time someone from another state contacts us for a mask, we are surprised that they heard about us and we are thrilled that we are able to help so many people.
What kind of feedback have you gotten from consumers?
We have been overwhelmed with thank you messages, emails, and letters from the people we have sent masks to. We are humbled by the outpouring of gratitude that we have received. We are happy to help, and we are just doing what we feel we should – it is really amazing to know that we are able to make a positive impact in the world. We are saving every single note we get and we will be saving them to look back on in the future.
What has been your favorite part of the process of making masks? What has been the most challenging?
Our favorite part of making masks has been doing something that truly feels bigger than ourselves. I think that if you had asked us 2 months ago if the three of us could produce 1,500 face masks in 2 weeks we would have laughed.
The most challenging part of making masks has been maintaining a solid supply chain. We have definitely had some stressful days of not knowing if we would be able to get more materials, but we didn’t give up and kept calling different vendors and we currently have enough supplies to make at least 1,000 more free masks.
How can people order a mask from Wicked Flannel?
Anyone who wants or needs some masks is welcome to contact us through Facebook, Instagram, our website, or our email with how many masks they need and what the best delivery address and we will add them to our production list and get them to them as quickly as possible.
Our masks are totally free for anyone! Just email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Donations have helped make it possible for us to make 25 masks a week for Gather, 21 masks a week for Easter Seals, and hundreds of masks for anyone who can not otherwise afford them. Anyone who wants to make a donation to help us cover the cost of making masks is welcome to do so through our business Venmo, @WickedFlannelCustoms.