WINDSOR, ONT. -- A local grassroots group of people who sew want to hear back from those individuals who have used their homemade personal protective equipment (PPE).

The Windsor-Essex Sewing Force (WESF) mobilized early in the pandemic to make face masks and scrub caps for frontline workers.

Later it provided PPE to vulnerable and high risk groups like seniors, low-income families, migrants and people with disabilities.

Now, beyond a full year of the pandemic, a survey has been launched to better understand how the masks fits, as well the mask’s comfort and usefulness.

“Volunteers knew they wanted to make the best masks possible for our community,” said WESF cofounder Rebecca Rudman. “It was natural for us to reach out to local researchers at the Great Lake Institute for Environmental Research (GLIER) with its expertise in quality control and materials analysis, and WE-SPARK Health Institute with their network of experts at Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare, St. Clair College, the University of Windsor and Windsor Regional Hospital.” 

Lead researcher on the project, Dr. Ken Drouillard, professor, GLIER and School of the Environment, University of Windsor explained: “Most mask surveys have been focused on healthcare professionals. We are leading a new mask survey of the public to understand their perspectives on mask fit, comfort and usefulness. Understanding the experience of people in the community is critical as public mask mandates have been shown to be a vital public health tool. We have a unique opportunity to improve tools for the remainder of this pandemic and prepare for the future.”

Already the group has made more than 50,000 homemade masks and scrub caps.