PHOTO: Danette Riddle, Hon. AIA|LA

Supporting Nurses During a Pandemic
Danette Riddle, Hon. AIA/LA, on the Masks She’s Sewing and Why We Need To

If you follow @driddle007, the Instagram feed of Danette Riddle, Hon. AIA|LA, you’ve been viewing the many masks she’s been sewing at night to donate to nurses as they care for patients while facing extreme shortages of supplies. We talked to Riddle, who is Vice President, Buildings + Places Marketing Director at AECOM, about the urgency of the project which has her sewing from 3:00AM to 5:30AM, and again late at night, as well as the details of the PPEs’ design. By the way, to date about two hundred of her masks have reached nurses across the country or are en route.

Why did you step forward?
It is remarkable to me that in this country we have a shortage of basic medical supplies, and that we are asking medical professionals to help those who are ill with no protection. I just wanted to help in some way – this seemed like a way to make a real difference even at a small scale. I did some research on line and found many patterns and videos about masks. They are a bit more nuanced than one might think: Filter pockets to insert additional protection, ties vs. elastic (apparently, elastic hurts the wearer’s ears after several hours and can’t be sanitized as well as cotton ties), wire in the nose bridge vs. a dart, fabric weave, and so on. It’s important to say that these are in NO way a replacement for N95s. Medical professionals are using the home made masks to cover an N95 or other mask or for less critical situations so that N95s can be saved for more serious use given the current shortage.


When did you start this project?
A few weeks ago, I saw a post on Facebook or Instagram about the mask shortage and how some hospitals were accepting home made masks. I subsequently asked a nurse I know if she thought this would be ok, and her response was, “Yes, I’ll take them, please send.” Within a week, I posted a few masks I’d made on Instagram, and one of my neighbors forwarded a note that Frances Anderton was doing a story on face mask makers. Frances connected me to a Facebook group, Stitched Together, and since then I’ve joined that fantastic community and have been sewing in my free time (basically from 3 a.m. to about 5:30 a.m. and again later at night). You can hear Frances’ story on KCRW at this link.

How did you collect your amazing series of fabrics?
I’m a quilter so I buy fabrics that interest me. Like most quilters, I collect far more than I sew! One of my favorite collections is by Carolyn Friedlander who got her BA in architecture, and you can see that influence in her textiles. (Friedlander’s textiles are featured far left, or first, in the series of images above.)

How do you disseminate them to healthcare workers?
I connected with some nurses on my own and then through Stitched Together. My first set of masks went to a nurse in Louisiana, the second to a hospital in Whittier via Stitched Together, and I have two more sets to make – one going to Florida and the other to Riverside. I’m not as fast as many of the sewists making masks because I get obsessed with details and take longer than perhaps I should. But I’m getting them made despite a very busy full-time day job.


All images: Danette Riddle.