Songhui Kim felt helpless when the novel coronavirus first started to reach Georgia early in March.
“I wanted to do something for what’s happening, but I felt like I couldn’t really do anything,” Kim said. “I couldn’t even leave the house.”
About 10 days after her quarantine started, however, Kim found exactly what she needed.
One of her friends sent her a message from someone online asking for help from anyone who knew how to sew in getting masks out to medical workers in area hospitals. Her friend sent it directly to her because Kim has been sewing since she was a teenager.
After years of sewing and eventually moving away from her previous career, Kim even wanted to start a sewing business much like the one her sister owns in downtown Cumming, called Sue’s Alterations. Kim started working in drapery and décor, and then later on she stepped back after having her two daughters, Chloe and Emma.
Even as she has stepped away from work to be with her daughters, Kim still sews all the time, and she holds sewing classes for her daughters and their friends over the summer. Her husband eventually dedicated a spot in the basement for her and turned it into a workshop where she can get all of her sewing and crafting done.
Kim’s experience with sewing and her need to help out people in the community during such a devastating and confusing time is what ultimately led her to jump at the opportunity that her friend had sent her to make masks.
“I think it was 10 at night when I saw the message, and I got up early the next morning and I got started on it,” Kim said.
Kim already had plenty of fabric at home from when her kids were younger and she would make them clothes and different accessories, so she dove right in. She started making masks and working with another woman in the community who would come and pick them up off her doorstep after she had finished a batch.
Her husband’s elderly parents are living with them at home, so Kim felt more comfortable with someone else coming to pick up the masks and deliver them to hospitals and medical workers. She said she was fine just knowing they were going to those in need, and sometimes she said her friend would send her pictures of medical workers wearing her masks.
While Kim loved to see them wearing the masks, she said she loves seeing her kids’ reactions to the photos even more.
“What they were wearing are like leftover pieces of their dresses or their blankets or their tote bags that they made,” Kim said. “This was the same fabric that they have used for other projects. Their reactions were just priceless.”
After that, her daughters started to want to get more involved with what she was doing, and they started counting how many masks she was making, which is how she now knows that she’s donated around 1,000 masks to hospitals and businesses in Forsyth County and neighboring states such as Mississippi and Alabama.
At first, she was able to make around 130 masks with the materials that she had on hand, and her friends from church and her family members even donated money to her in the beginning to help pay for supplies and materials. After the C.D.C. recommended that everyone wear face masks, though, she said the demand for her masks skyrocketed. She started spending more than 16 hours in her workshop just sewing masks in one day.
“As soon as I opened my eyes, I was in my workshop, and I was there until I crashed at night,” Kim said.
She ended up having to switch over to an Etsy shop to help pay for materials, but she said after she realized many may need to keep wearing masks for the foreseeable future, she turned the process into a full-blown business, called Stitch Works Boutique, with her sister.
Now, she is making better quality masks for kids which fasten so that the inside of the mask stays clean, and with her sister’s help, she is making more fashionable masks that people can wear in all different settings.
Although Kim said that she has started the business, she said that does not mean she is done donating.
“Still if anybody from the hospitals, if they ask for donations, I don’t think twice about it,” she said. “I’ll donate more.”
You can find Songhui Kim on Facebook or email firstname.lastname@example.org.