San Benito Lifestyle

San Juan seamstress stitches facial coverings

Karen Stacy makes masks that combine functionality and style.
Various designs of face coverings. Photo provided by Karen Stacy.
Various designs of face coverings. Photo provided by Karen Stacy.
Stacy makes the masks out of cotton fabric, along with discarded bread bag twist ties wrapped in plastic and unused elastic hair ties. Photo provided by Karen Stacy.
Stacy makes the masks out of cotton fabric, along with discarded bread bag twist ties wrapped in plastic and unused elastic hair ties. Photo provided by Karen Stacy.
Karen Stacy holds one of her masks. Photo provided.
Karen Stacy holds one of her masks. Photo provided.

Hours after the San Benito County Public Health Department declared a shelter-in-place order last month for area residents in response to the coronavirus, a local seamstress went to her sewing machine and produced her first-ever facial covering. Little did she know it wouldn’t be her last.

“I haven’t stopped since making that first mask,” longtime San Juan Baustista resident Karen Stacy told BenitoLink, adding with a tint of exhaustion that she has made and sold hundreds from her home in recent weeks.

Stacy was encouraged to make masks by her daughter Sasha, an emergency nurse at Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula, as well as her granddaughter Ashley, a university-bound nursing student.

“We were seated on the couch talking about the coronavirus when Sasha said, ‘Mom you could make one of those [masks],’” Stacy said. “And then Ashley said, ‘Yeah, you can do it, Grandma.”

Stacy described the moment she put her years of altering wedding dresses, making draperies and reupholstering furniture into producing her mask prototype.

“Sasha said that the mask had to be made from a breathable material, like cotton, and had to be comfortable to wear for hours, and represent something about the person wearing it,” Stacy explained. 

After tinkering with various designs and getting suggestions from her daughter, Stacy settled on her current mask design that reflects functionality, resourcefulness, and style. Taking decades-old cotton fabric, along with discarded bread bag twist ties wrapped in plastic and unused elastic hair ties, she has sold over 250 masks since St. Patrick’s Day.

Each adult mask sells for $10, or three for $25. The cost for three children’s masks is $15.

Stacy’s sales have been largely through word-of-mouth.

“People who know me know how I sew and my quality of work,” she said, adding that demand could grow following the Centers for Disease Control’s recommendation that all Americans wear facial coverings when out in public.

Stacy takes orders over the phone, and often hand-delivers the finished product. She’s mindful of social distancing, placing masks in plastic bags and leaving them on her customers’ porches.

Hollister resident and longtime family friend Georgianna Froom learned about Stacy’s new endeavor through a mutual friend. When Froom received her two masks, she immediately tried one on.

“It was beautifully made,” she said. “It fit beautifully, and it was very snug fitting and comfortable.”

Froom decided to part with her recent purchase after her 79-year-old friend from Southern California attempted to make a mask from half of a bra.

“I placed [the masks] in the mail, and I now need to order two more,” Froom chuckled.

For more information, contact Stacy at (831) 537-7784.

 

Article updated with correct phone number.

 

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Frank Pérez

I’m a lifelong resident of San Benito County. I reside in Hollister with my wife, Brenda. I’m embarking on my 19th year at San Benito High School, where I teach world history and Mexican-American history. In addition, I'm moonlighting as a freelance journalist for BenitoLink. My passion is delving deeper into the nuances of the local, historical record, while including lesser-known stories of our past. My hope is that county residents will have a greater appreciation for the diversity and complexity of San Benito County, realizing that its uniqueness depends upon our responsibility as its stewards.