Craft Store Finds Creative Way to Help

One local craft store is staying creative to make ends meet and provide an essential item.

As soon as Sew Inspired Fabric and Crafts closed its doors to the public on March 21, owner Natalie Wilson Mauffray began designing, testing, and producing protective masks for the public.

“It was sort of out of desperation,” Mauffray said. “We still had to pay our rent.”

Mauffray’s masks are not as effective as medical grade masks, which can trap more than 90 percent of bacteria. Those masks are typically reserved for workers in the medical field.

But guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encourage the public to wear masks at the grocery store or other crowded places.

The CDC reports that face covering may slow the spread of airborne illness and anyone who has COVID-19 unknowingly is less likely to spread it when wearing a mask.

“Anything is better than nothing,” Mauffray said.

The mother of four has provided more than 2,500 cotton masks in the past six weeks.

“We tried a couple patterns online…We probably went through 20 prototypes,” Mauffray said.

She tested each mask pattern rigorously, wearing them for long periods of time. She made several pleated surgical masks with free patterns found online, but found they always developed gaps.

Mauffray designed a mask she believed had the most comfortable fit while still providing the best protection a non-medical grade covering can have.

“Ours are fitted around the nose, so it’s contoured to you face,” Mauffray said. “They’re just more comfortable.”

Another feature of Mauffray’s masks are their lack of ear loops. Instead of a constant pulling around someone’s ears, she designed an elastic band that fits around the neck.

When she got the design just right, her father cut pattern templates out of plexiglass sheets. Mauffray began sewing with the help of her friend, Brenda Donahoe, and family; her sister, Ebby Dedeaux, and parents, John and Angela Wilson.

The crew started making around 250 to 300 mask each week.

Mauffray used her business’ Facebook page to host live sales each Wednesday evening. The next day, customers formed a drive-through line at the shop.

Masks are $10 each with a $4 flat shipping rate. For those without Facebook, Mauffray keeps extras for sale at the shop.

In addition to local sales, Mauffray says her shop has shipped across the U.S.

“We have shipped all over,” she said. “We’ve made masks for local business and some in the state, (too)."

Her mask customers have been a mixture of the general public and the medical community.

The now coveted N-95 masks in short supply, medical staff try to make those masks last longer.

An entire medical clinic on the coast purchased masks from Mauffray’s shop.

Mauffray said the staff have been placing her cotton masks over their medical-grade coverings to try and safely extend their usage.

“All of our customers seemed very pleased,” Mauffray said.

Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, Mauffray's shop stayed busy with shoppers and custom orders were frequent. She hosted sewing and needlework classes for adults and children at least once a week.

Making masks is beginning to slowdown, the sewing machines still hum with work. She is still producing close to 150 each week. Her 11-year-old daughter, Anna-Kate, started using a serger. The two youngest, Jackson and Caroline, help too.

Sew Inspired is still closed to the public for right now. Mauffray says she will continue to produce masks as long as there is a need to fill.

“We are going to continue our curbside service for a while longer, but we are looking forward to seeing our customers when we feel it’s safe to welcome them back into the store,” Mauffray said.