Kathy Dyck doesn’t consider herself much of a sewer.
But she spends a part of most days of self-isolation making masks, knowing there is a need for them she can fill.
She knows she’s not the only one making masks, and others can sew faster and produce larger volumes. But when she heard about a need for masks from her daughter Julie, who recently opened Niagara Stone Road Pharmacy, she decided she could use some fabric she had on hand to help out a few people who were looking for them, including some local personal support workers and a farmer looking for washable masks for his workers.
After making about 100 masks, she told Julie she thought she was finished with that project — until Donald Ziraldo, one of Canada’s most important figures in the Canadian wine industry, and also one of the best-dressed, talked to Julie about a mask-making project called Shirt Off Your Back. It was launched by King & Bay, a Toronto custom clothing store where Ziraldo has had some of his signature stylish shirts made.
The clothing store organized volunteers to sew masks from some of their shirting material onhand, and challenged others to do the same. With that in mind, and knowing Kathy was making masks, Ziraldo donated about 100 dress shirts to be recycled into masks.
That donation gave Kathy “new life” to continue her sewing, says Julie. “This was the motivation she needed.”
Each shirt can make about eight masks. Ziraldo’s shirts tend to be plain colours with flashy collars and cuffs, and Kathy says she’s having fun designing masks so that the colourful bits dress up the plain fabrics. It takes a little longer, but makes it more interesting, she says.
Julie, who donates the masks to her pharmacy customers, says her mother misses out on the priceless reaction of the recipients when they see the masks — they are delighted with the fabrics.
“The shirts have been inspirational to me,” says Kathy, who likes planning how she will use the collars and cuffs.
“We don’t especially like to wear masks, but I like to think of them as brightening the day, and making it a little easier to fulfill the obligation we feel to wear them.”
Ziraldo is distinguished gentleman, she says, who as well as being a very successful businessman in the wine industry, also wants to give back to his community, and is doing so by providing the material for masks.
And although her method is not as quick or efficient, Kathy likes the idea that she is recycling Ziraldo’s shirts into something useful, based on the pattern provided by a local group of volunteer mask-makers. “It’s fun, and it’s what keeps me doing it,” she says. “I also feel it’s honouring him.”
At the moment, she’s run out of elastic, but is hoping to receive some soon.
The mask movement, including local volunteers such as Fran Boot and Julia Buxton-Cox, says Kathy, “is organic. People needed them, and volunteers stepped up to help.”
And the need doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon, she adds — with healthcare workers requiring the surgical and N95 masks that have been in short supply, hand-crafted fabric masks will continue to fill a need for those who want to do their part to reduce virus spread in the community.