Rebecca holds tray of her masks while wearing one.

Humans of the U: Rebecca Walsh

several of rebecca's homemade masks stacked on top of one another.

If you’d like to make a donation for Walsh’s masks, send a request to unews@utah.edu.

“My mom made sure both my sister and I knew how to sew. I grew up in Draper and a lot of us were in 4H. I didn’t do the cow or sheep raising part, but I did do the cooking and sewing part. I sewed my own doll at one point and some clothes in high school. I had sort of stopped sewing for a long time, but this has gotten me going again.

About the time we shut down campus I looked online for masks like everyone else and couldn’t find any. I didn’t want to take the surgical masks because I knew doctors and nurses needed those more than I did. So, I thought ‘well, I can sew.’

I started reading about what fabric was best and then started using ponytail holders because you couldn’t find elastic anywhere and they’re about the right length for ear loops. It’s a weird subculture, those of us who are making masks. You read about all the different studies and what patterns and materials are best. I’ve learned a lot about face and ear shape too.

Initially, I was only making them for friends and family, but then I started getting a lot of requests and people offering to pay me. It was getting expensive to buy fabric and other supplies, so my colleague, Brooke, gave me the idea to charge and then donate whatever comes in above my costs.rebecca holding a tray displaying several of her homemade masks.

I knew the student emergency fund was running out of money and we were hearing about students losing their jobs, so it seemed like a good place to send the money. So far, I’ve donated about $400. I’ve mailed masks to Colorado, Wyoming and California and a lot of my co-workers have some.

It has done some wear and tear on my sewing machine but that’s okay. I’ve probably made about 500 masks and it takes about 30 minutes each. Mostly has been a great way to deal with the anxiety of COVID-19 because I feel like I’m doing something to protect the people I love, and when you can’t do much else during this pandemic, that’s a good feeling.”

—Rebecca Walsh, communications manager, senior vice president for Academic Affairs

several of Rebecca's homemade masks lined up and stacked on top of one another.