Need face masks? Salvation Army captain crochets his own

Apr 23, 2020 | by Brad Rowland

Need face masks? Salvation Army captain crochets his own

By: David Ibata

As a young child, Salvation Army Captain Dakarai Darby lived for a time with his grandmother, and she taught him his numbers by having him count the stitches as she crocheted.

"By watching her do it, I picked up the pattern," said Captain Darby, corps officer at the Atlanta, Georgia, Peachcrest Corps. "One day, she left a project sitting out, and I finished it for her. She was upset at first, but when she realized it was me, she said, ‘Oh, that's pretty good.' I was six or seven at the time."

To this day, Captain Darby can crochet. With the outbreak of COVID-19 and the urgent need for face masks for people to wear to stanch the spread of the virus, that skill is a potential life saver.

"My mother-in-law is in a nursing home and she needed one, so I looked up a pattern online and made it," the captain said. He's also made a video showing how.

A crocheted face mask by itself is all holes and yarn and does nothing to block viruses. So, it's important to put in a liner – cut from a 100 percent cotton T-shirt, for example, with space to insert a filter. Captain Darby uses disposable N95 mask filters from Amazon.

To finish the mask, attach ear hooks – elastic hair ties or ponytail holders will work – or cloth strings, to tie behind one's head like doctors and nurses do.

"I've done close to 40 masks so far," Captain Darby said. "It takes me 30 to 40 minutes to make one; I might get 15 out of one skein of yarn. I'm using leftover yarn from old projects. They're all kinds of colors – orange, red, teal, blue, purple, yellow. I even made one in Salvation Army colors."

Captain Darby has made masks for family members, the corps, social services staff, and officers at other corps. People have asked him to teach them, but that's tricky.

"It's hard for a left-handed person like me to teach crochet; when you look at it, it looks wrong   until you're finished, then you flip it over and it's OK," he said. "I don't mind trying to teach people, but it's going to be really hard on the brain."

So far, anyone who's asked Captain Darby for a mask has gotten one.

"I'm going to keep making them till we don't need them anymore," he said, "and I'll keep giving them away until my hands cramp up."

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