- There is a glaring shortage of face masks in hospitals and (elderly)care
- As a concerned citizen, Annemieke Koster from Enschede Textielstad would like to make a contribution
- Annemieke is collaborating with several companies and researchers to find suitable materials for the production of face masks
Making a face mask that offers adequate protection is not easy. “A bit of cotton with a tissue in between will not qualify as medical protective gear”, says Annemieke Koster, founder of Enschede Textielstad. There is more to it. You need the right (medical) material and the right production method. Many people, with all the best intentions, are making face masks using their sewing machines at home to contribute to society. These so-called surgical masks do not protect the wearer against the virus, but mainly ensure that the wearer does not spread the disease in his or her environment. Homemade face masks also offer less protection than the certified products that are produced with different materials and different production methods. “For example, the holes you create with a sewing machine can also function as openings for the virus to come through. You often see that high-quality products are ultrasonically welded or produced in another heat-involving way and not with traditional confection techniques”, says Annemieke. The main bottleneck at the moment is finding suitable material. This has to come from an alternative source since the official medical market is being overloaded.
Annemieke has not started the production yet; she wants to be certain that the face masks she’ll make will really help. “Not being able to just get behind the sewing machine and make something can make you feel very helpless. However, this feeling will not win a fight with reason. In any case, thinking about a suitable solution is my own choice. I am not going to boast about having the solution until it has been thoroughly tested. We hope to be able to do that very soon.
Annemieke is collaborating with various textile producers, workshops and researchers from all over the country. For example, she is working with parties from Elst and Sneek and some students and researchers from Saxion and the UT, who want to make a personal contribution. Certain groups of home seamstresses are also waiting for the advice she will give before they start the production. The first tests were carried out last week with several different material types that Annemieke believes to be promising. “They are going to test whether different materials comply with the specifications that emerged from our research. We hope to start an accelerated process as soon as these tests are successful, in which the tests will be repeated and certified by official bodies.”
Enschede Textielstad is a weaving mill where sustainable and often recycled fabrics for fashion and interior are made. Together with partners from the region, they process residual textile flows into new yarn and weave new textile from it. “My company is based on local production and sustainability, and we want to sell the end product locally as well. Face masks, disposable polyester products, are therefore very much outside my normal scope.” Annemieke notices that the importance of local production is becoming clearer during this crisis. “It is challenging to get materials across borders right now, so I think it is becoming increasingly clear that producing locally has huge benefits.” Enschede Textielstad is inextricably linked to Twente’s past as a textile region. Annemieke continues to pursue this tradition in a new, future-proof way while keeping the climate, environment and society in consideration. Her initiative is in line with this tradition in Twente. “I think Twente’s strength is evident from its quick solution-oriented thinking, while still giving it proper thought.”