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!

Two smiling women behind a stand that sells masks at a farmer's market

Abby and her sister, Johanna at the Delmar Farmer’s Market in the summer. Note: masks were worn during the entirety of the market, this picture was taken prior to the start.


Many handsewn masks in different colors and patterns

Only a couple of the thousands of masks that Abby made during the summer and fall of 2020!