Local business, fashion designer and teacher join effort to make masks for hospital workers battling coronavirus

As hospitals struggle to keep up with supplies while treating coronavirus patients, a Fall River linen manufacturer, a Waltham fashion designer, and a North Andover High School biology teacher are dedicating their own resources to create masks for workers that need them most.

In Fall River, luxury linen manufacturer Matouk put its employees to work making cotton masks with the excess supplies they’ve stored since retail stores shut down.

Cotton linens are often used to make homemade masks, and “as a bed linen company, we have tons of that,” said CEO George Matouk Jr. “So, we were able to convert a lot of our materials into good quality sanitary masks that many institutions need right now because they’re desperate for anything.”


Despite their usual sources of revenue “drying up,” Matouk has kept its workers employed as they produce the masks, he said. Their first batch of masks yielded 2,000 masks.

“We want to put people to work,” Matouk said. “We’re willing to pay people to make those masks even if we’re just giving them away.”

From the production facility in the Philippines to the one in Fall River, workers have been making masks and bed linens ready to distribute across the East Coast. Their first shipment of masks went to a children’s hospital in Washington, D.C., and orders of bed linens for hospitals in Rhode Island and Massachusetts are currently being filled.

In Waltham, fashion designer David Josef has been creating masks in his downtime using basic materials and his sewing machine — he posted a 10-minute video on Youtube detailing how to put together the washable masks.

“As we all are either staying home, donating money, or doing whatever we can, I’m trying to do my part in putting together masks that EMTs and hospitals and nursing homes and everyone needs right now,” Josef said in the video.


Using instructions he found online, Josef walked the audience through the mask-making process, from measuring the dimensions of the cotton, to sewing the pieces together, to ironing the pleats on the finished product.

“Bing bang boom, that's it. That's all the pattern pieces you need to make a mask,” he said after cutting two small pieces of pre-shrunk, unbleached, white cotton muslin that would compose the base of the mask.

Bennett Ahearn, a biology teacher at North Andover High School, also found instructions for creating masks online. But instead of using a sewing machine, he’s using his personal 3D printers to contribute during the pandemic.

With four printers, Ahearn is able to make 16 masks every day, he said in a tweet.

“So 16 of these bad Larry’s every day to responders, or anyone who wants/needs one,” he said in a tweet. “Using my 3D printers for a practical purpose for once. Heard many nurses out there are in dire need of adequate PPE. Planning on giving these to whoever needs them.”

When asked by users on Twitter how much he is charging for the masks, he told them all of the masks are free. Just give him an address and he’ll ship them where needed.

“I got all the weather stripping to make a seal on them, as well as the highest filter paper stuff I can get,” Ahearn said in a video. “And yeah, I think this will be helpful.”


Matt Berg can be reached at matthew.berg@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @mattberg33.