I am a quilter, and for a number of years, I have worked to grow what I like to call my “quilty side hustle.” I make quilts, pillows, pouches, and totes and sell them via Etsy, maker’s markets, and through custom orders. At the beginning of 2020 I applied to be vendor at my local farmers market. My plan was to vend one weekend a month. After all, I thought, there isn’t a huge market for quilts and flannel pillows in the summer months. Then the pandemic hit, and I started making face masks. First for my family and friends and then as donations. I asked the market manger if he thought there was a need for a mask maker at the market; the answer was a resounding “yes”! Soon, my once-a-month market attendance turned into every Saturday from early June to late November. And my primary product became face masks.
On average I made about 250-300 face masks a week. Most Saturdays, I would return home from the market with only a handful left. I sold them for a nominal fee, mainly reimbursing for my time and materials—I wanted the masks to be accessible, not pricey. I also fully embraced the thought that if we all have to wear face masks, we might as well make it fun! I offered different patterns and prints every weekend and the themes also changed with the season to embrace the holidays (there were weeks that I could not keep Halloween masks in stock)!
Mask making and preparation became a family affair. I created an assembly line and sewed while my husband and step-daughter trimmed, beaded, and bagged every mask. This all happened while working full-time. At the end of the work day I would turn off my computer, turn on my sewing machine and sew for hours. I assumed that “mass mask making” (as I often called it) would be for one summer and fall, but it has carried over the winter and now looks to be something that will continue well into 2021!