Making Homemade Masks for Heroes

Patti Carpenter began making her homemade masks for employees at Olympia Orthopaedic Associates and Emergency Department at Capital Medical Center. Before long, she was outfitting members of local government, pilots and firefighters.

Patti Carpenter loves to sew. And make no mistake, sewing is not simply a pastime for this active community member—she used her skills to financially support her husband, Dr. Clyde Carpenter, as he completed medical school. Her past sewing accomplishments include making wedding dresses, tackling upholstery projects, and outfitting out her kids and grandkids with head-to-toe looks.

For Patti, sewing has always been a fulfilling profession, filling her with joy when people, especially loved ones, wear her carefully-made creations. So when she realized there was a need for fabric masks in her community, she leapt into action. “As we watched the unfolding of this virus,” says Patti, “We knew that supply-and-demand was going to be hugely impacted by this. I know a lot of people at OOA and I care about those people. So I decided right then that I was going to start sewing to help them.”

Heading to her beloved craft room, Patti began pulling out fabrics from her huge stash that she thought might work well for cloth masks. She then chose a mask design with long ties that could easily be tied behind the wearers’ heads, similar to the surgical masks her husband wears in the Operating Room. But instead of boring blue, Patti’s masks are filled with bold colours and patterns, complete with cartoon characters and superheroes. The first one she made was for Dr. Carpenter, made out of fabric featuring The Hulk.

“I do this because I love the community and I want to be useful in my own way.”

Dr. Clyde Carpenter, OOA spine surgeon, and wife, Patti, sporting her first handmade masks

She then began to spread the love to her husband’s workplaces, bringing stacks of  homemade masks for employees at Olympia Orthopaedic Associates and the Emergency Department at Capital Medical Center. Once enough of those workers were kitted out with maks, Patti turned her attention to other community members. She started by looking within her own friend circle, which included members of the government, airline pilots, and members of the fire department. She started making masks for those individuals so they could feel safer at work.

Next, she started to search out overlooked community members. One day, as she waited in the car outside Capital Medical Center, she noticed a few security guards outside without masks. She thought, Why don’t these people have masks? Immediately, she went home and created custom masks for the entire security team, carefully selecting fabrics that she thought might appeal to them.

“These were not designed to be sold, they truly are a labour of love.”

There is an old adage amongst sewing circles: “She who dies with the most fabric wins.” Over the decades, Patti had collected thousands of swatches of fabric, attending fabric fairs and carefully curating her collection. But now, Patti is cashing in her chance as a contender for the title by transforming those swatches of her choicest fabrics into homemade masks.

As the pandemic drags on, the main challenge now is getting enough supplies to keep producing masks. Ever resourceful, Patti has started to make her own bias tape for the mask ties once she ran out of the pre-made version. It slows down the process a little, but it means that she can truck on in her efforts to spread joy and love throughout her community.

At OOA, we are so grateful to our amazing team of employees and their families, who support each other and the community that they are glad to call home. Thank you, Patti, for sharing your love and skills with our work family.

If you want to learn more about OOA staff and their long legacy of success and commitment to each other, you’ll enjoy “The Legacy of Olympia Orthopaedic Associates.”