GTPulse: Traverse City Women Recruit Locals to Make Victory Masks

Home seamstresses are bringing out their sewing machines to contribute to this local, mask-making cause.

It’s strange to think about how different life was for all of us a month ago, even two weeks ago. Streets were filled, shops were open and sounds of chirping birds felt promising for an early return of Spring. Lately, I watch the sun come up and go down from the same window. I hear the birds but I don’t see them. I see the sunshine but only feel it for the small frame of time I allow to take a daily walk around my neighborhood. Life as we know it has gone from normal, to a bubble-wrapped simulation of what it once was and we’re all adjusting in different ways. I spend a lot of time on the phone for work and to stay connected to my friends and family. I also have been trying to work on domestic projects to make my life feel a little less cluttered. My phone calls and cleaning tasks are put to shame, however, by local Traverse City seamstresses who are using their quarantine time to roll up their sleeves and help out in a big way.

Breanne Russell, Lauren Garvey and Brittany Defillippo are the ladies behind Make Victory Masks, a local movement to encourage those who can sew to make protective face masks.

“I started doing some work with Lauren previous to restaurants and bars getting shut down,” Breanne said. 

Lauren had contacted Breanne after seeing a few other cities creating kits for people to take home to make face masks. 

“I said you’re in luck because I’m also a seamstress. [Lauren] went out and bought tons of supplies. So right now any donations we’re getting are pretty much going directly back to her to pay for all of this.”

Breanne modified a medical mask sewing pattern to make it comprehensive and accessible to make for a wide range of sewers. The website for the Victory Masks provides the pattern sewers will need along with detailed instructions.

“We wanted to make something that was simple and could have a quick turnaround. My friend Brittany did the logo for us. Lauren threw up the website and kind of deals with more of the logistics and talking to people and getting contact information. I put all the kits together and handle the distribution aspect. The three of us basically kicked it off in 24 hours.”

There are two large bins outside of Breanne’s garage, one for people interested in making masks to pick up a kit for it, and one to drop off completed masks.

“We’re trying to reduce our contact with people and really honor the Governor’s call for staying at home. We want to make sure these things aren’t getting into too many hands. So, basically someone reaches out, tells us how many they want to make, I put a little kit together, they pick that up, make the masks, and then drop them off.”

People who are interested in using the masks are asked to reach out to Victory Masks through their social media to request how many they need, with higher risk people and essential workers being a top priority.

“There are people at nursing homes, people working at CVS, drivers. People who at this point have nothing to protect themselves with.”

The masks will be more in need than ever. There are face mask shortages all over the world, and although places like hospitals were initially not accepting handmade masks, they’ve since started accepting them not as a primary form of protection against getting sick, but as an extra layer of defense to prolong use of N95 respirator masks. However, Munson is not yet accepting the Victory Masks design.

“Munson is actually calling for a very specific design that calls for more fabric and elastic, so we decided that we’ll continue to do what we’re doing but will totally support anyone who’s able to make the Munson specific style of masks.”

There is a pattern and video of how to make the Munson specific masks on the Munson website, and the ladies behind Victory Masks are more than happy to accept the Munson design masks too to distribute to them.

For those who can’t sew but still want to help, there are ways to get involved. The Make Victory Masks website encourages those who can’t sew to help out by surveying and determining who in the community would benefit most from having masks, as well as helping to coordinate getting mask kits in the hands of those who can and are willing to sew them.

“The reality of the situation that we’re now facing is there is a lack of personal protective equipment, and we are now relying on home seamstresses to try to fill the need. It’s difficult now especially because we’re all ordered to stay home and socially distance ourselves. We’ve found throughout this whole project is people just need direction. Our main goal has always been to make it a community project.”

Donations for purchasing more supplies are another way for non-sewers to contribute to the cause if they wish. 

If you are in need of masks or would like to help, the best way to reach out is through the Make Victory Masks Facebook and Instagram pages. For more information, head to


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Categories: Coronavirus, GTPulse