The Almaden Mask Fairy
With 3.9 million Coronavirus cases in the United States, wearing face masks has become the new normal for many Americans as it is critical to slowing the spread of the virus. Some venture outside with a bandana tied tightly over their nose and mouth while others display the highly coveted N95 or surgical masks. Most people don a simple cloth mask.
However, crumbling global supply chains in conjunction with an exponential increase in demand are causing the prices for masks— especially the good ones— to skyrocket. Many people who need a mask are unable to acquire one.
Meet Parvathi Natarajan: A computer science engineer from India with an MBA in Technology Management. She is creative and resourceful; her range of hobbies extends from jewellery making to knitting and crocheting. She also cares deeply about her community, serving as “an active volunteer in the PTA at Simonds and Castillero” and as a “board member [for the] Shri Krupa Dance Company”.
Motivated by the Masks for Healthcare Workers movement and having noticed the lack of masks readily available, Parvathi decided to create masks for her community. From April until now, she has tirelessly sewn over 150 masks – all for free.
Ironically, Parvathi has “always hated sewing, and never really wanted to learn that particular craft”.
Despite being new to the art, she was determined in her endeavor. Initially, she attempted to sew the masks by hand, but quickly realized that it would not be feasible to do so. Two hours and a slew of needle pricks was simply too much pain for each mask. So, Parvathi “bought a sewing machine, and spent a few days learning how to sew.”
After conducting thorough research that included parsing different websites and “looking at several tutorials and patterns”, she decided on a modest but effective mask design: one that “fits closely to the face and has a nose wire to make sure glass-wearers can wear the mask without fogging their glasses.” In order to create masks compliant with CDC guidelines, she used two layers of 100% cotton fabric with a non-woven fabric placed in a pocket in the middle to act as a filter.
Parvathi proceeded to post “pictures of the masks in friends’ and neighborhood WhatsApp groups” to determine if they needed masks. The online publicity helped– her mask-making effort began to swiftly ramp up on orders. At first, the task of making 65 masks led her to feel “a little overwhelmed.” Still new to sewing, she was unused to making that many masks within such a short period of time.
Moreover, there were many other factors to consider. Since masks were in high demand, even the materials to make them were not readily available. She also needed to work out how to deliver each mask to the recipient without posing as a potential vector for the virus.
Therefore, Parvathi streamlined her mask-making process. She began to meticulously plan out her materials, even accepting donations of fabric from the community when stores were sold out. She left the masks in her mailbox, incorporating contactless pickup for those who ordered from her, and “delivered the masks within a week”. After two months, she successfully created 165 masks, shipping not only to Almaden residents, but also to those in Sunnyvale, Cupertino, Dublin, and even Boston.
In these troubling times, Parvathi has helped her community feel safer. She is “very grateful for the support [her] community and friends have given [her]”, and is “glad that [she could] serve [her] community in a small way”.
She is happy to be supporting ASAWA’s social service campaign. “I hope you will all join me.”
Parvathi also has a website with the jewellry and clothing she creates. Visit the website at www.paruscreations.com.
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