Fayetteville man begins making masks for charity; it turned into a side-gig for him

Brandon Odom models his mask handiwork. Photo provided.

by Robin Dorner


Editor in Chief

Brandon Odom is following social distancing and staying home. His regular job is on hold for now, but he has found a great outlet to keep him busy.  

“I began seeing reports of a need for supplies (masks, gowns, and scrubs) for healthcare workers across social media,” said Odom. “Many reports were first-hand from friends who work in the hospitals or family of those posting.”

Then, he saw an online tutorial on social media by Mark Hughes of Regalia Handmade Clothing in Eureka Springs. It was about how to make the standard 6” x 9” rectangular pleated pattern.

“With a sewing machine in the closet and all the time in the world, I knew I could help others and keep myself busy,” he said. “There are several patterns, styles, and innovative filter ideas floating around online. I found a picture of a pattern and style I liked and did a bit of research.”

After stitching four masks, he had altered the pattern and filter combination to his liking.

Odom was fortunate enough to find an affordable roll of Halyard H600 medical fabric early which he used for a sewn-in washable filter. He said the material is now impossible to find at a budget-friendly price because it has grown very popular.

“I have begun researching for another source of a similar cellulose or non-woven polypropylene fiber material,” Odom said. “Without extensive scientific research, I can only assume that all mask makers, including myself, are hoping to layer and filter their creations for the best protection. The safety of a face covering is speculative aside from the fact that it is an added layer of prevention, which is better than none.”

As we are all in this together doing what we can to help, he reminded us, “This isn’t RuPaul’s Best Mask Race!”

Odom learned to sew in his teen years while still in high school. He then added to that experience lot of research and self-teaching.

“Professionally, I was fortunate enough to work for the Walton Arts Center, where I learned from local stitchers and musical show crews that would travel through.”

Odom works in his home sewing studio, his spare bedroom, alone to adhere to social distancing and stay-at-home recommendations.

For this mask-maker, his efforts started as a charity but has become a side business. He had many family and friends who donated to him for masks to offset the cost of supplies in the beginning. What that didn’t cover, he paid out of pocket.

“My donations are starting to be outnumbered by paying customers,” he said. “I was hoping to do more for public service, but people who want to buy are using that time.”

He said he’d love to make them for free all day long, but the time and money it takes would not allow that to be possible.  

“There is a need for all to have access to face coverings,” he said and encouraged others to learn to sew.

“In some cities, there are medical needs of scrubs and gowns. This began as a nationwide movement specifically to supplement the healthcare system’s need. Now it is a public need. There are many social media groups, tutorials, and supplies out there. If you can’t sew but are handy with scissors, many stitchers need pattern cutters. Pattern cutting can take up a large amount of time.”

Odom recommends to people who want to help but are unable or unwilling to sew to find someone near you who is making masks and gift them a few dollars or drop off lunch.

“Thread costs add up quickly even if the fabric is donated. They are likely supplying some of the costs out of pocket and are too overwhelmed by requests to slow down for self-care.”  

Through the pandemic, he encourages everyone to stay positive.

“Social media is full of reasons to be disgruntled about social distancing and the politics of this epidemic response,” he said. “Unplug from electronics, enjoy time with your household family. Make memories. Support each other. Find constructive ways to keep your mind and body busy. Control what you can control.

“We are all alone together right now.”

The Gayly. 5/7/2020 @ 12:48 p.m. CST.