SIBLEY, Iowa — For 20 years, Roxanne Hayenga owned and operated Textile Treasures in downtown Worthington. The business sold fabric and sewing machines, and also did custom sewing for customers.
Hayenga’s business closed in 2010, but she still had plenty of material and supplies on hand. And they’re coming in handy now.
Hayenga has been busy sewing for just about the last month, during which time she’s made at least 400 masks to help protect people against the novel coronavirus. Most of this work has come in the evening hours, as she works from home as a customized training representative for Minnesota West Community & Technical College.
Hayenga described her efforts of sewing masks in the time of COVID-19 as “kind of a spontaneous thing” that came about as a result of a correspondence on Facebook.
“A gal I graduated with lives out in Washington state and they were one of the first places hit (by the coronavirus),” Hayenga shared. “She had randomly posted that she worked in a healthcare facility … and asked if anyone made masks. I sent a note and said, ‘I’d love to make masks, and I have a pattern.’”
Using leftover fabric from her Textile Treasures days, Hayenga brought out her machine and started sewing. She also happened to have plenty of elastic — currently a high-demand item — in reserve, and “that kind of got the whole ball rolling.”
Hayenga sewed some masks for her friend and posted them on Facebook for fun, she said.
“Then people would send me messages, asking ‘Could you send some here?’ or ‘Do you have some for me?’” she explained. “So, every night since then, I’ve been sewing masks.”
Before Hayenga founded Textile Treasures, she’d earned a bachelor’s degree in apparel design and manufacturing. She opened her store in 1990 and operated it until 2010, after which time she took a job with Iowa State University Extension. About 18 months later, she was hired at Minnesota West.
Typically, Hayenga has been in front of her computer at home by 8 a.m. weekdays to get started on her Minnesota West work. Sometime after 3 p.m. or so, she’ll often engage in some type of exercise with her two teenage boys, and dinner will soon follow.
“I’ll usually start sewing around 7:30 or 8 p.m.,” she said. “I’m a night owl, and many nights I’ll work until midnight or 1 a.m.
“From start to finish, if I’m on a good roll, I can probably do nine to 10 an hour.”
Hayenga once hosted a regular “Pajama Party” event at the store, and still had plenty of fabric remaining from then. She’s now sharing her materials with teens attending Sibley-Ocheyedan HIgh School.
“The hospital down in Sibley (Osceola Regional Health Center) is doing a mask drive and is looking to get 3,000 masks,” she said. “The last few weeks, I’ve been working with the high school. For kids to graduate from high school in Sibley-Ocheyedan, they need 60 hours of community service. Some of these seniors had been worried about not being able to get their community service done because of the pandemic, so this will help.”
Those without sewing skills can assist by simply cutting fabric, Hayenga noted. And there are students who aren’t seniors that are participating, as they’re able to get a head start on the community service hours requirement.
Out of the 30 bags of material she gave to the high school, 750 masks should be created. That will result in one-fourth of the 3,000 masks sought by the hospital in its drive.
“Personally, I think I’ve made close to 400,” Hayenga said last week, estimating 1,100 to 1,200 masks have been created.
“Here’s my theory — that fabric could be sitting in a tote doing nothing, or It could help someone to do the essential tasks they need to do,” Hayenga said.
She isn’t the only one making masks — and recognized not only others who are doing so, but people who have stepped up in other ways to help during the pandemic. She mentioned several small businesses who are making and selling masks, and that purchasing them locally is a great way to support them.
Hayenga admitted she was fortunate to have the remaining fabric and elastic (she has ordered more of this) that she did.
“I always knew that being a hoarder would be beneficial,” she said, laughing. “We hope, obviously, that a situation like this doesn’t come up, but everyone has a talent … for me, it’s sewing. I work all day and I’m trying to get my kids to do their schoolwork, and I’ve got a couple of rental houses. … This is my downtime.”
Hayenga estimated that about two-thirds of her masks are being used in some type of healthcare facility. With the case numbers across the region expected to grow further, all that leftover fabric may wind up on the faces of a lot of people.
“What has kept coming to my mind through all of this are the verses from Esther where Mordecai is telling Esther that she needs to use her position to help the people around her that aren’t in the palace, and he admonishes that she was placed there ‘for such a time as this,”’ Hayenga said. “So I have the talent and the materials, and I have chosen to use them for “such a time as this” — safe at home and sewing.”