Kaja, age 8 is helping to sew masks for his friends and neighbors (photo by Angel Prince)

Czech-American family in Prague is making masks for the community together at home

How we spent our school shutdown: together with their parents, Kaja (8), Anna (6), and Jonas (3) are lending a helping hand

When Prague expat Angela Prince ordered a sewing machine awhile back she had no idea she’d be using it straight out of the box to stitch face masks for friends and neighbors to wear as a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus.

Prince, who is from Kansas and met her Czech husband while they were both studying at Kansas State University, isn’t the only one who’s thrown herself into the endeavor. Kids Kaja (8), Anna (6) and Jonas (3) are also an important part of the production line, as is husband Karel who mans the ironing board from time to time.

Pressing face masks. Photo by Angela Prince

Prince says her family needed very little encouragement to pitch in.

“The kids were curious about what I was up to, so when I told them the plan, they all wanted to help.” The English teacher, who is currently on maternity leave from her teaching job, says that the older children, “Press the pedal while I stitch, Jonas likes to sit on my lap and tells me to stop while I’m sewing so he can take out the pins, and Karel helped me on the weekend pressing masks.”

The family started making masks from their home in the Prague suburb of Modřany last Wednesday after news began to circulate that face coverings would be mandatory outside. Says Prince, “Just by chance, I had ordered a sewing machine from Lidl that I’d had my eye on for over a year and it had arrived the day before. It was really great timing.”

Face masks. Photo by Angela Prince

While the project began for personal use (“We found that with our youngest, Jonas, a scarf pulled around his face wasn’t going to work for long.”) the family has now made over 40 masks that they’ve given to friends and family and donated to their parish church, St. Thomas.

Prince initially started sewing masks from pillow cases and material she had on hand for her daughter’s doll clothes. “Then a friend brought me a duvet cover and pillow cases that were in perfect shape and really soft, so we now line the masks with those.” People from the community have also been supplying fabric for masks that will be distributed to seniors via the local radnice.

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The pattern comes from Prince’s Florida-based cousin who is currently sewing masks for hospitals there. “My cousin in the U.S. sent me a link to the pattern that she is currently using and told me that they fit was better.” (See the pattern here). The seamstress-in-training has put some extra thought into the masks’ design.

The Prince family. Photo via Angela Prince

“My friends had told me that they were having trouble with their children wearing them and being upset about something on their faces. So, I tried to find soft fabrics and also pretty patterns so that they seem like something positive rather than scary.”

Responses to the family’s project have been overwhelmingly positive. “Everyone has been grateful and in turn, given us warm hearts! They say they fit and are happy with them so that makes me really happy. I am learning as I go, so it’s really a thrill that they are useful and that the little kids will wear them.”

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She says the experience has had benefits for her own children as well. “I think it’s a great time to share with kids how we can take care of each other and do our part.” She also says that the mask-making operation is helping her cope.

Stacks of face masks at the Prince family home. Photo by Angela Prince

“When I get overwhelmed by the news or the period of time that borders may be closed in the future, I call someone or sew. Making these masks has been therapeutic in the sense that I feel like I’m doing something to help and be proactive rather than just waiting for the next report.”

For information on where to obtain face masks or donate masks you’ve made, see our article New website helps people find DIY face masks and places to volunteer. You can also contact your local municipal office; many of them are offering to delivery free masks to citizens with help from the fire department or other city workers.

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