Above: Greg Potts in the machine shop at CU Boulder's Idea Forge.
Top: A mask sewn by Greg Potts for his granddaughter.
During the coronavirus pandemic, Greg Potts, Idea Forge machine shop coordinator, joined many others in pursuing a new hobby: mask-making. He has made over 250 masks and plans to sew at least 100 more.
"The mask-making started after cleaning out my closet during quarantine and realizing I had some old button-down and golf shirts to spare," said Potts. "My wife also donated a number of blouses and old high-thread-count flat sheets that were no longer needed."
The masks are double-layer cloth masks with an aluminum adjustable nose piece and adjustable elastic over the ears. They are made completely from recycled material. Potts said he can get about 12 masks out of a shirt or blouse and about 80 liners out of a king-sized sheet.
The first 100 masks Potts donated to CU Boulder for essential workers on campus. The others he gave to family, friends, and the Idea Forge staff. As Idea Forge staff return to campus, he said they will each receive five of his masks. The remainder will be given to anyone who needs one.
Some of the 250 masks sewn by Greg Potts.
Potts said he has another 100 masks in process, though now that he is back to work in the Idea Forge machine shop, they are taking longer to complete as he works on them part-time in the evenings. In total, one mask takes him about 45 minutes to produce. That means to produce 250 masks, he dedicated over 185 hours.
"I learned to sew when I was a teenager, said Potts. "There used to be a company called Frostline Kits in Boulder that sold goose down outdoor products in kit form: jackets, vests and sleeping bags, for example. I made a number of them with my mom's help back in the day but hadn't done a lot of sewing since. However, I had been looking to buy a sewing machine for a while to do various projects, so I thought this was a good time to get one and do something that might help in some way."
Potts said he loves teaching the process of design and engineering to students in mechanical engineering.
"It has truly been a dream job for me, doing what I love doing," Potts said.
In many ways, Potts said making masks is no different. He creates a design, then streamlines the most efficient process and works on the skills to do it. He said he doesn't think he'll retire off of mask-making, but it has been fun.