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When Houston photographer Kat Mack revived her desire to sew, she had no idea just 90 days later she would be where she is today. Years earlier, Kat had begun sewing a quilt which she came across in January and decided to finish. So in February, she flew to Chicago to work on the quilt with her aunt, a master seamstress. They enjoyed a week together, sewing and chatting while they completed Kat’s quilt. Little did they know, the skills Kat gained would be of great help to her and countless others in the coming weeks.
As COVID-19 news began to spread, Kat realized she could use her newfound skills to make masks. She searched online to find a pattern she felt comfortable enough to make. She researched and tried many different techniques before arriving at her current mask design. Once she made a few masks, she posted them on her Facebook page on March 25. After three days, someone saw them and contacted the local news channel, Click 2 Houston, who contacted Kat and interviewed her for the 10:00 news. (See the interview here: https://www.click2houston.com/news/local/2020/04/01/top-health-officials-may-recommend-masks-be-worn-in-public/). Kat was the first person to be interviewed about making masks. She said, “Before the segment was even over, orders started coming in!”
That first week she awoke at 5 am every day and split her time between sewing and fielding Facebook messages to answer questions about the masks. When people began ordering quantities of 50 and 100, she knew she was in over her head. But if you know, Kat, that wasn’t about to stop her. She already used Photobiz for her photography website so she developed an order form on her website home page so people could order the masks online (www.katmackphotography.com). She placed all the details on the order page. Kat doesn’t charge for the masks, she just asks folks to cover their own shipping costs and donate, if possible, to help fund the purchase of fabric and sewing materials. Her good friend, Davey Dave, helped her set up a video about creating a mailing label so she could ship the masks securely and her fabulous husband, Bob, prints the orders and helps keep them straight.
News soon spread about Kat’s #Covid-19Kindness project and others wanted to join in to help. Her first helper was her neighbor, Nicola, a sixth-grade home school student who had recently attended a sewing camp and had a new sewing machine on hand. In fact, Nicola made over 150 masks by herself! Her family even came up with the idea Kat uses for sewing the pleats into the masks. The next person to join was Laura Thompson. Kat said, “She’s been my right-hand mask maker! Laura also worked day and night completing over 300 masks, sometimes in yoga pants and sometimes donning a funky Halloween costume!”
Additional neighbors now assist with the various tasks of fabric washing and cutting, nose bridge making, sewing, and stuffing envelopes. Kat calls them her Dream Team and says their help really streamlined the process. The time to create the masks has also decreased from 30 minutes to 6 minutes per mask! As of 3 days ago, they have made 1,500 masks with 1,346 masks on faces! They currently have a surplus. Kat said, “One mask turned into maskageddon! But what a great way to get through the whole pandemic thing. When life hands you lemons, make lemonade. And I got a lot of lemonade!”
Kat operates on a zero-waste policy. When she runs out of useable sizes, she sews her scraps together to hodgepodge more fabric in the kids’ patterns because that fabric is harder to find. She keeps even the tiniest of scraps to use as filler in other projects. Kat even made a mask tutorial video on her Facebook page and began holding Facebook Live chats to lift people’s spirits. As for the donations, all donations go to purchase more materials. Once the pandemic is under control and things return somewhat to normal, Kat intends to donate the remainder of the money to the Houston Food Bank. Kat said, “There have been so many cool, feel good moments over the last four weeks for us. While I have been concerned about the status of my business and whether I will be able to recover, having something that keeps me so focused and the support of my husband, who I could never ever in a million years have done this without. It’s a great, great feeling. Plus, I get to wear yoga pants every day!”