August 8, 2020

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Stitching up solutions for face mask demand

Opinion

The Free Press has made this story available free of charge so everyone can access trusted information on the coronavirus.

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I can’t mask the world or even Winnipeg with my home sewing machine, but in the last day, I’ve stitched up some other solutions for you.

Sew simple solution

The Free Press is launching a new service to connect those looking for homemade face masks with those who are able to stitch together the non-medical face coverings.

The free listing will enable those who are making masks to showcase what they have available, along with any pictures of the protecting covering. We will also welcome those who have the skills and a sewing machine to let others know they are available to help, too.

The Free Press is launching a new service to connect those looking for homemade face masks with those who are able to stitch together the non-medical face coverings.

The free listing will enable those who are making masks to showcase what they have available, along with any pictures of the protecting covering. We will also welcome those who have the skills and a sewing machine to let others know they are available to help, too.

Please include such details as price, whether you are looking for donations, and contact information in a message to covidmasks@freepress.mb.ca.

The Free Press will run this new mask listing service on its website, so those needing masks can find those who are making them in a bid to make our community safer and healthier.

Since Paul Samyn, editor of Winnipeg Free Press, posted a picture wearing the face mask I made for him out of newspaper print fabric, I’ve been overwhelmed by the demand for handmade cotton coverings. I’ve received requests for about 500 masks by email, social media and telephone from acquaintances, business owners and strangers.

The requests were already filtering in last weekend, after government officials recommended non-medical fabric masks might slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus. On Saturday, I turned out three dozen for friends and family, and then offered some to my colleagues. I gave them away without strings attached, but did suggest they donate to Home Street Mennonite Church (which I attend) if they really wanted to compensate me.

(Like other churches, it is currently closed, but its expenses continue.)

Editor Paul Samyn posted a picture of himself wearing a face mask made out of newspaper print fabric by Brenda Suderman.

SUPPLIED

Editor Paul Samyn posted a picture of himself wearing a face mask made out of newspaper print fabric by Brenda Suderman.

I’m happy to sew for family, friends and newspaper colleagues, but I’m just one sewer, stitching as fast as I can on my semi-industrial home machine. Even at 1,500 stitches per minute on my 10-year-old Juki, it’s impossible to fill the demand.

But I’m not the only one out there with a sewing machine, a little extra fabric, and the skills to fashion a pleated face mask. Others have reached out to me over the last day to offer advice and even their services.

"I’m happy to do anything for anybody, if it is purposeful and helps out someone else. That’s what sewing can do," said Jan Bones, a sewing teacher with 50 years experience who has extra time since Red River College closed its doors last month due to the global pandemic.

The instructor in the apparel design program has already stitched up 80 or so cotton masks in various colours for family, friends and neighbours, inviting them to choose one from a box on her front porch during a pre-arranged, no-contact meeting.

"They’ve been fun to make and people are happy to have them," Bones said of the pleated masks made from high-quality cotton fabric.

On Saturday, Suderman turned out three dozen for friends and family, and then offered some to  colleagues, including photographer Ruth Bonneville.

SUPPLIED

On Saturday, Suderman turned out three dozen for friends and family, and then offered some to colleagues, including photographer Ruth Bonneville.

Winnipeg resident Andrea Wilson has produced more than 120 masks on her own Juki sewing machine this week, after she offered the items for $5 each through word-of-mouth and social media accounts. She’s using up quilting cottons from her fabric cupboard but keeps running out of elastic.

"Because they have to be washed so often, I make them as sturdy as possible," she says of her technique of double-stitched seams.

Home sewers with a little experience and a sewing machine in good working order can produce these masks on their own with the help of the many good tutorials on the internet. Pick one that suits your sewing skills and the requirements of the wearer and make it attractive, suggested Bones.

"It still needs to be done well," said the Fort Garry resident.

Those who don’t sew or know anyone who does have some other options. Beginning April 15, they can purchase a non-medical cotton mask produced by the Cutting Edge, affiliated with the Canadian Muslim Women’s Institute. The masks will be available for $10 through Local Initiatives Toward Employment’s shopping website (shop.lite.mb.ca) to be picked up at Pollock’s Hardware Co-op (1407 Main St.).

Home sewers with a little experience and a sewing machine in good working order can produce these masks on their own with the help of the many good tutorials on the internet.

SUPPLIED

Home sewers with a little experience and a sewing machine in good working order can produce these masks on their own with the help of the many good tutorials on the internet.

These purchases help employ industrial sewing machine operators working from home for the Cutting Edge’s social enterprise division, and also offer Winnipeggers a chance to donate a face mask or hygiene kit to the city’s vulnerable population, said Tyler Pearce, executive director of LITE.

"We’re going to sell them to individuals because we know people want them," she said of the three-way partnership developed in only 72 hours. "We’re asking the public to purchase some we can donate."

Hygiene kits containing body wash, toothpaste and toothbrush, deodorant and shampoo cost $15.

"Nobody is making any money on this," Pearce said of the mask and kit initiative. "It’s just about getting the community what it needs."

Candice Desjardins is ramping up her local sewing company, which usually produces boat tarps and gazebos, to produce masks from breathable fabric with a high vapour barrier, which retail for $10.

"I have three sewers sewing individually at their houses and I’m sewing at the company, as well," Desjardins said of the work produced by Custom Repair & Stitchery.

Sewers are generous people willing to share their skills during these unprecedented times, but please be prepared to compensate mask makers fairly for their materials and labour. (Please note I am not accepting any more requests for masks, but I welcome story ideas on how Winnipeggers are building community during the pandemic.)

brenda@suderman.com

Brenda Suderman

Brenda Suderman
Faith reporter

Brenda Suderman has been a columnist in the Saturday paper since 2000, first writing about family entertainment, and about faith and religion since 2006.

Read full biography

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ABOVE THE FOLD

Lanette Siragusa, provincial lead, health system integration, quality/chief nursing officer for Shared Health, speaks during the province's latest COVID-19 update at the Manitoba legislature in Winnipeg Thursday, March 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs Chrystia Freeland is seen during a news conference in Ottawa, Wednesday, April 8, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
A local health-care product distributor says PPE supplies have come to a halt, meaning private doctors’ offices have had to shut their doors to in-patient visits. (Chris Young / The Canadian Press files)
Editor Paul Samyn posted a picture of himself wearing a face mask made out of newspaper print fabric by Brenda Suderman.

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