Sewing sees surge during COVID-19 pandemic

The need for face masks encouraged many people to get out their sewing machines and pick up a new hobby.
Published: Sep. 12, 2020 at 9:11 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - While COVID-19 has taken a negative toll on school, many businesses and everyday life, one industry as more people are reaching for a needle and thread. The sewing industry has seen many more people pick up the hobby, especially with the need for face masks.

Deborah Brown is one of those new sewers. Brown said before COVID-19, she had a sewing machine, but she barely touched it.

“It just sat around and collected dust,” she explained.

However, Brown found herself with more free time because of the pandemic, and she decided to start taking lessons. She started small, making a face mask for herself.

“I was so proud of it, I sent pictures to my kids and my mom and dad, and I was like, ‘Look what I made today!’” Brown remembered.

Brown quickly moved on to new projects, planning gifts for her family and friends.

“As you start to cut out a pattern or even really pick out a pattern you just get so excited about it," she said.

Because of people like Brown, taking up sewing for the first time, or others getting back into it, local sewing stores have recently seen a surge in business.

Jen Mulder, owner of The Electric Needle, said at one point, every surface in the stores' classroom was covered with sewing machines needing repair, as more people brought their old machines out of storage.

“They got pulled out because of this need for masks,” Mulder explained.

Repair time has more than doubled because of the demand, going from a week to nearly a month. Mulder said the store has seen fabric sales go up too.

“We’re finding that a lot of the business over the summer here has been new customers," she explained.

The Electric Needle had to cancel in-person classes due to public health restrictions, but other local sewing instructors moved online to keep up.

“I taught a class online for facemasks that was very well attended as well, and some of the people were pretty new to sewing,” said Madison College sewing instructor Denise Halada. Halada said some of those students have already signed up for more of her sewing classes.

For Brown, she said she has found a new passion, one she plans to continue working at even beyond the pandemic.

“It’s just so much fun and you really do become addicted,” she explained, adding, “Plus it gives me this awesome feeling when I have something done, or I do it right.”

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