“Are you making the same thing I am?” the woman asked me at Fabricland six-feet away. I was still getting used to the distance, to projecting; to reminding myself that I wasn’t being rude talking to someone from a distance.
“No, I want to make some scrunchies.” I told the woman while holding two packs of elastics. I was also buying some items for my t-shirt quilt, my big sewing project for 2020. The closing of non-essential businesses had just started and I had luckily gotten to Fabricland the day before they closed.
“I’m making masks,” the woman told me, she took a handful of elastics and put them in
her basket which already held thread, all she needed now was the fabric. “My friend’s been selling them online, she’s made six hundred dollars so far, can you believe it? All of us getting laid off and working from home and here she is sitting on her butt and making $600 for it. I might as well join in.”
She laughed even though her story made me feel sick, that while I couldn’t believe it I also wasn’t surprised that someone would take this time of panic to make money. At this time stores were still sold out of toilet paper and hand sanitizer (most are still sold out of the latter) and were reselling it online for unimaginable prices. It was only a month ago, it seems longer.
Call it intuition or just logical thinking, but when the coronavirus started getting bad in Canada I had a feeling that face masks were going to become some sort of fashion trend. Now, I’m not entirely correct about that, the CDC does recommend the use of cloth masks for safety purposes when out so that medical staff and essential workers have access to them, that all makes sense. But I could just see this vision in my head of celebrities and Instagram influences taking high-quality selfies of themselves in decorated and bejeweled masks, selling them online for your profit “safety.”
While we haven’t gone to that extent yet I think we still might. While I don’t know anyone who has bought a mask online I’ve seen people online covet the ones local businesses I follow online are donating to medical staff, and a quick search on Etsy shows me quite a few people are profiting on our panic. It reminded me how in World War II Walt Disney made Mickey Mouse themed gas masks, how even in crisis people always find ways to stay profitable. If we’re going to make masks an accessory, can we at least bring back plague doctor wear?
I sew and I’m currently working on making some masks for donations. I’m working on some for my family first, so that if I make some mistakes it’s just me wearing a messed up mask, but making masks for donations doesn’t make me a good person. As often as I’ve seen people want masks made from cute fabric and shops online profiting on it I’ve also seen tons of local shops and artists sewing their own for donation.
If you’re interested in sewing or donating a mask, check out the Canada Sews website, but don’t use the pattern to make masks to sell. This is not a time to profit off panic, it’s a time to help in the little ways we can from our homes.
(Enjoy this slideshow of masks for sale.)