Seasoned costume-makers and seamstresses are breaking out the Singers to sew their way through the quarantine, making masks to make ends meet and save lives.
thousands of New Orleanians are sewing, beading and glittering their
their hearts out in preparation for Mardi Gras, St. Patrick's Day,
Super Sunday, Halloween, Easter, etc. Literally any excuse to dress
up and revel with our friends is a good one, even if that, in and of
itself, is the only reason. Members of Mardi Gras Indian tribes spend
years sewing incredible costumes with elaborate bead-work and
colorful feathers; the city's many marching krewes are stitching
together ideas for next year's costume before this year's
celebrations are over; and your "average Joe" parade watchers and
revelers are getting their outfits together to get in on the fun
while showing their support. New Orleans knows how to sew, and now
we're in the position to take our tailor-made talents and once again
make masks, but this time it's not to celebrate, it's to save.
Both amateur and
professional seamstresses and costume-makers in the Greater New
Orleans Area have taken the initiative to sew their own face masks,
mostly using scraps of leftover fabric, to sell and/or donate since
Governor John Bel Edwards issued the stay-at-home order almost a
month ago. Rather than take the medical-grade or N95 masks out of the
hands of people who truly need them, these folks are providing safe,
affordable, and sometimes even fashionable alternatives for the
general public. Why use a hastily-tied bandana or scarf when you can
get a hand-made mask locally while supporting your neighbor at the
a.k.a. Katrina Brees, is a local artist who among other things is the
founder and Mother-Shucker of the Bearded Oysters, a parade
organization "devoted to sisterhood, fun, art and personal growth"
that's been rolling around town since their first parade in 2004.
Brees is also the leader of the Krewe of Kolossos which features
fantastically creative trikes, designer of Fantastic Caskets and the
Mardi Bra and the author of the "no-gun" self registry initiative
called Donna's Law.
the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and stay-at-home mandate, Brees
found herself back in front of the sewing machine. "I started
making them [face masks] to give to nurses in my krewe and began
making them available to my neighbors on Nextdoor" Brees explains.
"My phone blew up with neighbors wanting to buy them last week!"
Since she began her new cottage industry, she's had demands for
hundreds upon hundreds of masks, and she's sewing like mad while
trying to navigate the safest way to deliver her much-needed product,
even to the point of hiring an assistant. Creating the face masks has
been both an emotional and financial boon to Brees, and she's
grateful that due to the demand, she doesn't need to file for
unemployment like so many others. "It's also connecting me to
millions of people around the world, amping up production of
covid-era protective gear," says Brees "[We're all] fighting this
pandemic united, but strangely apart." For those interested in
ordering one of her $10 cloth, reusable face masks, you can contact
Katrina at email@example.com.
mask-making organization called Mask Dat popped up in early April.
Local sewing manufacturer Tam Huyhn and her team are making 100%
cotton masks, many of which are created from colorful African wax
print cloth collected by the team's founder Rhonda Findley, who also
happens to be the owner of Decatur Street boutique shop Funrock'n &
Pop City. Not only do customers receive two Breathe Easy(sm),
reusable, double-layer masks for $22, Mask Dat donates one mask per
order to a New Orleans first responder.
Mask Dat, among
other local mask-making organizations, have recently become part of
SewDat.com, an online directory of mask-making folks launched through
a partnership of the New Orleans City Council, the Mayor's Office and
the New Orleans Department of Health. The site provides an outlet
where residents, non-profit organizations and businesses sewing masks
can offer donations to non-medical essential employees around the
state, from public transportation workers and volunteers at food
pantries to grocery store employees. SewDat.com also offers a place
for residents to purchase masks for themselves in the hopes of
reducing competition for N95 and surgical masks which are in high
demand for healthcare professionals across the state.
Finally, about a month ago Cathy Dickey founded the Facebook group Face Mask Shortage (New Orleans local area) Sewing Initiative. According to Nola.VeryLocal.com, members of the group are seamstresses, artists and creators from Mardi Gras krewes all over the area who are donating their time, money and skills to making masks for all of those hardworking folks on the frontline, from doctors and EMTs to delivery drivers and funeral home employees. By their last count, the group has made and distributed 2,270 masks, has over 500 members and has helped "first responders from as far as California find groups able to make them masks locally."
If you have the time, skills, or even the desire to learn, it's past time to get ready to sew!