Mask Making: Keeping Our Community Safe

We have a nice story to tell! Creativity and generosity are common in our industry. Inside the industry we are so used to that generosity that we often miss seeing it, but 52% of crafters make to give. They spend money to buy product, then spend their time to create something new for someone else! 11% of crafters make specifically to donate to non-profit organizations. This industry is extraordinary, with a heart of generosity. That heart for generosity is alive and well at Notions Marketing as well. We see it in our people and the way they support and care for each other. We see it in our choices, and we see it in our Core Values.

In early March, when the US was bracing for the unknown as Covid-19 approached our shores, we were all looking east to Europe as a sign of what was to come–and PPE shortages were already in the news. We started seeing mask making how-to videos pop up from China then Netherlands, followed by same from Americans. NMC sewists & crafters started making masks at home to donate to care facilities. Conversation turned to handmade masks being a way crafters and sewists could contribute to health and safety in a very meaningful way. 

Anticipating demand, Notions purchased all domestic narrow elastic the 2nd weekend in March. With inbound inventory assured, we felt good about meeting new demand from our retailer customers. On Monday morning we learned the quantities had been “redirected to Federal." With elastic in short supply, we published a mask pattern, emailed free to all customers, that used the least amount of elastic possible–just 14” per mask. Elastic was suddenly a hot commodity!

Local shortages of PPE began to hit our local news and we began to wonder how many employees could (or would) make masks if we asked them to join an effort. That answer is 418 handmade masks…in 4 days! Notions in turn donated those masks back to provide every employee that wanted a face covering a handmade mask. We began to imagine donating handmade masks to our community and donating mask kits to our community as well. The Notions can-do attitude was in motion. Yes, the can-do attitude is real and official–check it out here in our Core Values.

 A superstar employee not intimidated by complexity, took the helm to strike up inventory and kitting assembly so we could make and donate mask kits into our local community. Within a few days we had an assembly process to churn out mask kits. We launched another employee campaign, Make2Give1, that provided employees with free materials. We made and gave 200 kits to a neighborhood non-profit that supports a community of Bhutanese immigrants without access to masks. We made kits for distribution via the food program at our neighborhood elementary school. We made mask patterns for small children for proper fit. We made kits for distribution to the K-2 parents coming to the local charter school for homework packets. Today, we think about people and families, right here in neighborhood sewing together, or for those they love, and by doing so enhancing health and safety for their families and community. What a beautiful thought! 

 Over the same timeline we approached two women-run local sewing workshops, a social enterprise business and a non-profit organization, about making masks. Both employ immigrant women with serious sewing skills and are within walking distance of NMC...both enthusiastically joined the effort! Through those partnerships Notions has been able to donate a 2nd handmade mask to every Notions operations employee, donate 900+ handmade masks to employee family members and donate 150 finished masks to Bethany’s local refugee worker community. So far we have donated over 1500 handmade masks! Each and every one made in a home, at a sewing machine, by someone dedicated to using their time and skill to give to others.

This is a story of can-do attitude, but it's also a story of community and supporting each other. Thank you to Richlin Fabrics and Dyno (Singer, Stretchrite) for expedited orders, to Rich at Joann Stores for the donated fabric. We send our appreciation to crafters everywhere who are joining the effort to keep their families and communities safe and healthy by using their creative skill set to make handmade masks.

In Michigan last week our Governor wrote an order that handmade masks are necessary in enclosed public spaces. We are ready and looking forward to serving our neighbors in new ways. There are endless stories for how sewists and crafters are contributing in this time of need for our country.

Thanks for what you are doing to support your community and the craft industry every day!

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