Costume students produce face masks

Cornell College costume students are putting their skills to use making fabric face masks during this pandemic.

Jasmine Makabi with masks
Jasmine Makabi

Juniors Samantha Slaymaker and Jasmine Makabi work in the costume shop for their work-study jobs. Now, working from home, they are both producing face masks. They have individually sewn nearly 50 masks each and will continue to make them unless they run out of supplies. Both are contributing the masks to people who need them in their hometowns.

“A lot of them go to nursing homes, the University of Iowa, grocery store workers, and other essential workers,” said Slaymaker, who lives in Williamsburg, Iowa. “I hope these masks will help keep people safe and healthy, and participating in this helps me feel a little less alone in the world.” 

Makabi, who is majoring in studio art, said she has made a few masks for her family, but her main focus is on donating masks to West Ridge Care Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

“My Grandma lives there and all of the nurses and staff have been working so hard to keep the residents safe,” said Makabi, who lives in Cedar Rapids. “For the masks that I’m donating, I made them a bit larger with the hope that they would be more comfortable when used over the top of the N95 masks. I feel very grateful that I have the skills and resources to be able to do this. It makes me feel good to know that I’m doing my part.” 

Kelchen demonstrating mask making on Zoom
Kelchen demonstrating mask making during class on Zoom

Slaymaker and Makabi aren’t the only two who have these sewing skills at a time when they are desperately needed. Costume Shop Supervisor and Lecturer in Theatre Jenny Nutting Kelchen sent many students videos and instructions on how to make the masks. Plus, her Block 7 course was Costume Construction, and mask-making became part of the class.

“Happily, I was able to send everyone in the class quite a bit of quilting fabric and supplies from the shop when we found out we were going online, so most of the class has enough fabric left over from their projects to make a few masks. They can also use fabric or things they have around the house to make more,” Kelchen said.

Students in the class got creative to find and use items around the house like twist ties, pipe cleaners, and coffee bag ties to make the bridge over the nose.

First-year student Regina Bermudez-Smith opted to make masks for her family and nurses for her final project of the Costume Construction course. Others made them for their practicum hours. Kelchen said several students even taught younger siblings how to sew for their hours, so the cycle of sewing keeps going. 

“I’m excited to have another class of students ready to go with skills that are once again proving to be very valuable in the real world,” Kelchen said.

  • First-year student Regina Bermudez-Smith showing her final project

    First-year student Regina Bermudez-Smith showing her final project on Zoom

  • Jenny Nutting Kelchen's masks

    Jenny Nutting Kelchen's masks

  • Jenny Nutting Kelchen's masks

    Jenny Nutting Kelchen's masks

  • masks

    Samantha Slaymaker's masks