The spread of the coronavirus has kept Pennsylvanians inside and away from social gatherings, but it hasn’t kept Pamela Ptak from sewing face masks for front line workers in need.
The co-founder of the Arts and Fashion Institute (AFI) and Upper Bucks resident posted a video to YouTube earlier this month giving instructions on how to sew fitted face masks. A PDF of the mask’s design can be downloaded from the AFI website.
Ptak has been sewing hundreds of masks and distributing them to workers, both locally and nationwide, to help limit the spread of COVID-19.
One destination for her masks was the Giant in Hellertown, which she visited last week.
“I had noticed many of the workers were working without masks, and I felt so bad for them,” Ptak said.
She decided she would set out to sew masks for all 220 of the store’s employees.
The first batch of 110 masks was delivered to the store Friday, April 10. Ptak is working on finishing the remaining 110 masks and delivering them later this week.
Fortunately, Ptak has had help sewing the masks from former AFI students. Brenna Sulimay and Annelise Davis have been assisting her with sewing, and another former student, Jonathon Davis, has been helping trim fabric and packaging finished masks in sterile resealable bags.
Once the Giant masks have all been delivered, Ptak will begin working on another order of masks which will be sent to a pediatric ER unit in the Washington, D.C. area.
Ptak has also sent out smaller mask orders to other front line workers, such as letter carriers. Her masks have even been sent to a post office in Connecticut.
“The masks are going lots of places,” she said. “We’ve shipped them out to several different parts of the country where people connected with us and expressed need.”
Ptak is a self described “fabric-aholic” who has been collecting the fabric she’s using for the masks for five years.
Her husband and AFI cofounder, Scott Hanna, is a celebrated comic book artist, so most of the masks are made from superhero-themed fabric. Other masks are made from Dr. Who, Hello Kitty and My Little Pony fabric.
Ptak believes the superhero-themed masks will bring more joy to people than a plain fabric design.
Her belief may be grounded in science. Ptak has been spending time researching ways to help people strengthen their immune systems, and said she has found evidence that activating the prefrontal cortex region of the brain can provide an immune system boost.
“Laughter, joy and silliness access the prefrontal cortex,” she said. “The goofier and the cuter these masks are, the better!”
Ptak and her husband have been doing their best to spread goofiness and positivity as much as possible. Recently, the two have been dressing up as superheroes and walking around their neighborhood to bring laughs and smiles to their community.
The pair have also been taking to YouTube and Instagram to post brief art tutorials for the public for free. These tutorials can be found on Instagram by searching using the hashtag #AFIfreeartclasses.
The couple plan on taking their art to the streets some time this week to bring chalk art to areas where people walk and jog.
For more updates on Ptak’s and Hanna’s efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic, visit the AFI website.
Ptak can be reached via direct message on Instagram, or by phone at (610) 346-6071.
View this post on Instagram
1st delivery of 110 Hero Masks from ARTSandFASHIONinstitute.com to protect our Hellertown Giant employees because they protect us and our food! WFMZ-TV came to cover the good news story. They’ll be sharing it tonight on 6pm news. Thank you WFMZ! Hopefully we’ll inspire more folks to share their skills to help their neighbors. We live in an incredible community! (At AFI we’re working hard creating face masks for local heroes. Each mask takes over 30 minutes to make properly, so 10 well made masks take 5 hours of labor.) Free video instruction “Sewing Fitted Face Masks” on Pamela Ptak’s YouTube channel. FREE PDF patterns are on our www.AFIartschool.com website😊 #afifreeartclasses #pamelaptak #artsandfashioninstitute #facemasks #sewingfacemasks #diyfacemasks
Under a Pennsylvania Department of Health order announced Wednesday, the use of masks or face coverings inside essential retail establishments such as grocery stores becomes mandatory for both customers and workers this Sunday, April 19 at 8 p.m. The order and other new regulations are part of the state’s ongoing efforts to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, which has continued to spread within communities, in some cases infecting local retail workers.
The Fresh Market, which has a store in Upper Saucon Township, Lehigh County, recently became one of the first grocery stores in the area to require that all customers and workers wear masks or face coverings. Most other supermarkets and convenience stores now provide their employees with masks, and in many cases mandate their use.