If you’ve seen people in Brandon or elsewhere in Westman wearing colourful face masks of late, they may be wearing a product created in Elkhorn.
Quilter and seamstress Margaret James was inspired to create cloth masks for people wanting to protect themselves, and others, from the novel coronavirus.
The Virden Empire-Advance asked James a few questions about the process:
Empire-Advance:What made you decide to create masks?
A fellow quilter (Lynda Martin) who winters in Arizona came up with the idea. She and her husband cut short their time in Arizona to get back to Canada early. While in self-isolation, she watched the news events unfolding in Canada and the US. When the mention of cloth masks came up, she asked if I wanted to make some and sell them as a fundraiser for Virden Pet Network (VPN). (Over the years James has been a supporter of the efforts of local animal rescue work)
How did you find a pattern for the masks?
Once Lynda’s 14 days of self-isolation were finished, we were able to briefly meet and come up with a plan. There are all types of patterns and You Tube videos on different styles of masks. Lynda worked with the pleated type and I chose a curved mask.
Has there been a demand?
I passed the information to Heather Reimer, President of Virden Pet Network. She posted the information on VPN Facebook page and shared it with other groups. I’m sure it was a matter of minutes and the phone started ringing and orders were coming in by email. One lady from Brandon ordered 25 for her family members. I really didn’t think it was going to take off like it did.
A member of the Seniors Access for Independent Living (SAIL) board contacted me in regards to making masks for the resource workers with SAIL and the cooks in some of the facilities in Virden (Princess Lodge) and Elkhorn (Elkview Lodge). A member of the Board supplied the elastic and I donated 20 masks to them.
Tell us about the challenges
Lynda and I have quite the time keeping up with the demand. We are donating the fabric, which is 100 per cent cotton, but getting the elastic for the ear loops became an issue. Elastic has become the new toilet paper and hand sanitizer! We purchased what Custom Creations had and tried ordering online. However, one source couldn’t ship until mid May or June. I did find some which will, hopefully, be here by the end of April.
We’re making masks. When the elastic arrives, we can just finish off them off.
How many have you made so far?
We have sold or have orders for over 200 masks so far and orders are still coming in as word gets around. I have told people about the shortage of elastic and they are willing to wait. Probably with folks encouraged to stay home at this point, people don’t need the masks right now, but once people start moving, they will need them.
Do you have lots of material?
It's been interesting looking at the fabrics for the masks - I've been going through my stuff and find fabric I forgot I had!