Creativity Shell Creative Director Shelancia Daniel said the Kingwood nonprofit originally asked students to make masks for themselves while also participating in other at-home lessons, such as cooking and art.
"The mental health of our children is really important, and we have lots of kids who come to our studio who are on the spectrum and suffer from anxiety," she said. "So our main goal throughout all of this was not really to do stuff for the community but help kids who we know are practically on the verge of a nervous breakdown."
Then the need for masks increased, as the CDC advised in early April that the general public should wear face masks or fabric coverings—such as scarves or bandanas—in public when leaving home is necessary to help protect others and themselves from the virus.
With the community's needs in mind, about 16 of the studio's students—ranging in age from 8 to 15 years old—sewed almost 300 masks in about four days, Daniel said. Over the next week, Daniel said the students aim to complete 1,000 masks before making gowns for patients in local hospitals.
Creativity Shell staff members provide students with pre-cut fabric, and students can build the masks at home and drop them back off at the studio for donation. The hand-sewn masks have been given to immunocompromised and elderly residents for free as well as donated to Humble ISD personnel, first responders and local hospital personnel.
The masks are available on a first-come, first-served basis at the Kingwood studio between 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Mon.-Wed. and on Fridays. While anyone is welcome to get a free mask, Daniel said the studio wants the vulnerable populations to be able to get masks if they need it.
For those who want to make their own masks at home, Creativity Shell offers a free mask tutorial on YouTube with printable patterns. Click here for the tutorial.
"We knew that with the demand of everyone needing masks, it would be impossible for anybody to make as many as needed," she said. "So we've just been trying to get as much out there as possible, and we're not charging anybody for it—just download it, print it, and if you can sew, you can definitely make it at home."
Meanwhile, another Kingwood craft shop has also switched its focus during the coronavirus from offering crafting and art classes to sewing face masks.
About three months ago, Krafty Shack received a donation of three sewing machines and fabric—which at the time felt random to owner Ruth Ugarte-Pratt. Now, she said she feels like it happened for a reason.
"I am scared, very scared of this virus, so I thought, 'How can we prevent people spreading this virus everywhere?'" she said. "So I thought, I have this fabric, I talked to my kids and said, 'Maybe we need to do this, and maybe these machines came to us for that reason.'"
Ugarte-Pratt said she made the decision in early April to start sewing and selling $4 masks for adults, children and toddlers to help stop the spread of the virus. In the first two days, the business received at least 2,000 mask requests from the community. Now, she has roughly 4,000 requests for masks.
The demand for masks allowed Ugarte-Pratt to hire back her two staff members as well as six additional part-time people to help sew masks from their homes. Each staff member can make roughly 12-15 masks per hour, she said.
Ugarte-Pratt said she does not profit from the mask sales, with all profit going to pay the employees instead. Krafty Shack is asking for donations of fabric, elastic, thread, resealable plastic bags and even sewing machines, as two of her machines recently burnt out.
"I'm not making money doing this, but I have the satisfaction of being able to help people and that [my employees] at least are making some money," she said.
The washable masks can be picked up five to seven business days after the order is placed. Community members can text 281-359-7775 to place an order.