NANAIMO -- Quilters and stitchers on Vancouver Island have been busy during their self-isolation, stitching new protective masks, caps and gowns for healthcare workers and the wider public.

“It’s been really wonderful,” says Nikki MacCallum of Ladysmith, who runs an interior design business. “I didn’t even know there were so many sewers out there still.”

MacCallum, along with six others she recruited, have made over 200 masks in the last couple of weeks. The masks are made from a tightly woven cotton fabric, that is machine washable. She also created a how-to video on YouTube to encourage more people to help with the cause.

They are mainly being given to non-hospital workers. “It’s for people that just need the extra protection when they’re working with the public,” says MacCallum.

She also helped create the pattern and sample for a protective gown that a quilting group in Nanaimo will be making. MacCallum says that 300 gowns will be made for the Nanaimo Regional General Hospital. 

In the Cowichan Valley, emergency room nurse Terra Lee took to Facebook last Thursday asking for any local sewers to make protective caps for health-care workers in the Cowichan District Hospital in Duncan.

Her post was shared 950 times in 24 hours and she has collected approximately 150 caps to date.

“Everyone’s loving them, every staff member is wearing them,” says Lee. “The nurses, the doctors, the housekeeper, support staff, everyone in the hospital wants one right now.”

Ilka Bene, a sewer from Mill Bay, has made 21 caps so far and felt the need to answer the call for help.

“I was thinking about those nurses that are going to be using them,” says Bene. “I put my best energy into it and I hope they feel that, when they wear them.”

Lee says caps are typically worn by operating room personal only but she and others felt the caps would be a great extra layer of protection for the staff as well as the patients.