The Helpers: Theatrical Designer Crafts Face Masks for Immunocompromised

Susie Hamilton wears one of her hand-sewn face masks

Even before Mayor Ron Nirenberg and County Judge Nelson Wolff issued stay-at-home orders, San Antonian Susie Hamilton had been approached by immunocompromised friends who asked her to sew face masks, a commodity in short supply and high demand due to the spread of COVID-19. 

Using up fabric from her design and sewing days, she soon had more masks than her friends needed, so she posted on the internet that she had them available to sell. Twenty minutes later she checked her phone and had 50 messages asking for masks.

A theater-arts graduate of UT-El Paso with a specialty in theatrical design, Hamilton  has worked as a costume designer and free-lance clothing designer. The rapidly spreading virus put a halt to her free-lance work as a location and set stylist for commercials, TV shows and movies. She concentrated more on homeschooling her kids and working on the house she is renovating with her husband.

In response to the need for masks, Hamilton began to work on adding to her website to streamline the ordering and shipping process. The next time she checked her phone, she had 120 messages and the orders continued to roll in.

Her masks come in several sizes and prints, as well as black. There are two styles, one basic and one deluxe, with a wire so that the mask can be fitted across the nose and a pocket for insertion of a HEPA filter. Because of high demand, Hamilton  is asking customers to order from a class of patterns rather than requesting a specific one. (The black is for “people who don’t like surprises,” Hamilton says.) Each mask comes with elastic that can be removed so that a shoestring or ribbon can be substituted, for people who prefer to tie the mask on.

Hamilton  cautions that her masks are not a substitute for medical-quality personal protection equipment, but with the CDC now saying masks can be useful for those who can’t stay home all the time, they can be helpful. She adds, “And at least they will help keep you from touching your face. They’re also great for people with allergies or asthma.”

Masks range from $10 to $14, depending on size and style. To order, go to www.sixmodseven/shop. Expect eight to ten days for delivery.