The art of sewing runs in their blood for ninth-grader Henrietta Edmonds and her mother Elizabeth of Bayport. Elizabeth’s mother was a seamstress, but never got around to passing down the skill. One year, Henrietta received a pillow-sewing kit for Christmas, wanting to pick up the lost skill, but the present ended up collecting dust. It wasn’t until a few months ago when the COVID-19 pandemic hit that Henrietta and her mother found the time and purpose in quarantine to learn their mother/grandmother’s gift. It came naturally to the duo, who have spent countless hours in their self-deemed “project mask room,” some nights up until 2 a.m., with snacks and ice cream, of course.
“We really wanted to give the masks to the community,” said Elizabeth of the reasoning behind making the masks for donation. “We have handed them out to groups at bus stops, laundromats and to health care workers. We wanted fashionable, good masks for everyone to wear.”
The masks are beautifully made, pleated with nice designs and matching elastic in varying sizes for everyone from ages 2 and up. They also come with pockets for removable filters, if desired, and most are reversible with no pattern on the other side.
They learned the patterns and craft from YouTube videos with a little bit of background from home-economics class, and mostly winging it on an old sewing machine found in their attic. The fabric they started with was from Henrietta’s pillow-making kit. From there, donations for fabric started to pour in at a bucket set up on their doorstep after making requests on Facebook collection groups.
Thus far, they have donated about 370 masks to the Angels of Long Island, Costco, Stony Brook University Hospital and a children’s shelter in Bellport, just to name a few, as well as to family and friends around the country, including the United Kingdom! They also donated over 20 masks to the Long Island Advance, Islip Bulletin and Suffolk County News for the mask contest, who distributed them to local workers. They were selected as the winners awarded with a gift card to a local restaurant and notoriety as the best mask makers in town.
Last week, to keep up with the demand and to be able to provide free masks to more people in need, they began selling some by request and have now sold about 40 masks.
“Neighbors wanted to buy them. They loved them and we changed [the] style with the elastic behind the ears and head,” Elizabeth said, explaining that they originally didn’t want to sell them for money, but soon realized if they did, they could use the money to make more masks to help more people.
A few thousand dollars is what Elizabeth estimates they have spent out of pocket to be able to make the masks, including three failed sewing machines.
Henrietta and her mother now hope to raise enough money to buy an industrial machine that will hold up and be able to produce more product.
Elizabeth works for a hotel company in the finance area, but has been working from home ever since the virus began to spread, and her husband has a flower wholesale business, which has been temporarily decommissioned, leaving plenty of time for schoolwork and sewing with Henrietta.
“I just wanted to help people and help my mom achieve her goal,” Henrietta said of the project, also noting that their time spent making the masks has brought them even closer together.
“My daughter has become the master sewer, working faster on the machines than me,” her mother Elizabeth happily admitted.
Their goal? To simply give back to the community and help them get what they need. What hits hardest? Elizabeth said knowing that summer is coming up and children will be seeking masks to fit their size to simply play outside.
“There really isn’t a number; we just want to do as much as we can,” she added, stating that they will keep making them as long as there is a need. “Wear a mask! It’s the right thing to do.”