Sewing up a storm for front-line workers


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Richard Lavallee is accustomed to making masks, but he never expected to be making them for front-line workers during a global pandemic.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 07/04/2020 (864 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Richard Lavallee is accustomed to making masks, but he never expected to be making them for front-line workers during a global pandemic.

The Winnipeg resident and self-described “crafty bastard” is an amateur costume designer who got his start making elaborate Halloween attire for his children before being introduced to the world of cosplay. His video game character costumes have garnered attention at Winnipeg comic and sci-fi conventions, and he’s made a small business out of creating outfits and props for local cosplayers.

For the last two weeks, however, Lavallee has focused on outfitting retail and health-care workers with face masks and mask accessories using his industrial sewing machine and 3D printers.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Richard Lavallee, an amateur costume maker and self-described “crafty bastard,” sews masks and 3D prints “ear saver” mask clips at his house in Winnipeg.

“I noticed that there was a dramatic shortage of masks and gloves and all sorts of things,” he said. “I’m scared for everybody.”

Lavallee estimates he and his wife have sewed and distributed roughly 500 homemade masks to retail and grocery store employees who are working through the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think I’m going to blow out my sewing machine,” he said.

He has also been busy printing hundreds of plastic mask clips, known as “ear savers,” for front-line health workers. The clips are based on a design he found online, and made to hold mask strings on the back of the head, reducing pressure on the wearer’s ears.

Each clip takes about 15 minutes to make, and Lavallee has enlisted friends with 3D printers to help keep up with demand.

On Tuesday, he delivered 150 clips free-of-charge to the Health Sciences Centre and has dropped off orders at Concordia Hospital and the Children’s Hospital of Winnipeg — staff at the latter presented him with a card thanking him for his efforts.

“It was worth it just for that, to be honest,” Lavallee said.

Twitter: @evawasney

Eva Wasney

Eva Wasney
Arts Reporter

Eva Wasney is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.

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