Colorado couple, David and Giselle Williams, had neither a sewing machine nor experience sewing. Yet, that didn’t stop them from restoring a 100-year-old sewing machine and teaching themselves to sew in order to make and donate masks for frontline medical workers and essential employees around the world.
From that unlikely start, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) recognized the continued service of Darin Williams, a U.S. Air Force veteran. They chose him to serve as a spokesperson for the VFW’s #StillServing campaign, aiming to bring to light to ways America’s veterans continue serving even after leaving the active military. It all began when the COVID-19 pandemic brought Giselle Williams’ Arvada, Colorado, hairstyling business to a halt. She sought a purpose for her time and talents and decided to join the growing army of sequestered mask-makers. She just had two problems: She didn’t have a sewing machine, and she didn’t know how to sew.
That’s when she remembered her great-great-grandmother’s sewing machine. The family heirloom, a 1922 Singer Model 66 “Red Eye” treadle sewing machine, was being used as a piece of decorative furniture in her guestroom. After decades spent idle, it was inoperable, so Darin, a U.S. Air Force veteran, set to work restoring it. After many YouTube videos, a good cleaning, lubrication and a new leather drive belt, the Williamses had a functioning sewing machine.
Then Darin got to work teaching Giselle to sew. As a young boy, Darin spent summers with his grandmother, a seamstress, and learned to sew by sewing hand puppets with her fabric scraps. He used his skills and taught Giselle how to thread the machine, wind a bobbin and sew a straight stitch.
“I haven’t used a sewing machine since my grandmother taught me back in the 1970s,” Darin said. “I looked at this old thing and thought, ‘Well, it’s fundamentally probably the same.’”
Together, the couple found a pattern and purchased fabric to begin prototyping. They also received donated fabric from friends, family and neighbours to support the effort. After a few days practicing, the team officially began their mask-making operation.
Their first requests came from local healthcare providers and a distillery that was producing hand sanitizer for first responders. Since those first weeks, the team has ramped up production and has provided more than 450 masks to churches, restaurants and businesses across Colorado. They have received requests from frontline workers as far as Japan and Thailand.
Currently, the team is at work producing another 50-75 masks to be sold at-cost at the Fetch Markets at Stanley Marketplace in Aurora, Colorado.
By RoseAnn Sorce