SINGAPORE - As Singaporeans stay indoors to help stem the spread of Covid-19, some people have started to sew their own masks at home - wearing them on grocery runs or giving these colourful fabrics to friends, family and charity.
More people are ready to hop on the do-it-yourself bandwagon as a new nationwide movement takes hold on social media. Called Masks Sewn With Love, it features an online tutorial video that shows people how to stitch them.
These cloth masks have two layers, with room for extra material like a dry wipe or paper towel to be inserted in between. The People's Association project was launched online by several women grassroots advisers on Wednesday (April 8).
Volunteers across the island will make masks at home, and people are invited to join in.
"Anyone can sew and learn to make cloth reusable masks, including those with a pocket to insert a filter," said Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs and National Development Sun Xueling, who is also an MP for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC.
Singapore started a stay-home, circuit breaker period on April 7, when most workplaces were closed to stem the spread of Covid-19; schools closed the day after. It is for four weeks and is scheduled to end on May 4.
Ms Sun said Masks Sewn With Love was launched "as a way to encourage everyone in the community to make use of their time at home to create a reusable mask they can use to protect themselves and their family".
"These masks can also be given to those in need... We are targeting to complete 50,000 masks in the next four weeks," she added, referring to the team of volunteers making these for fellow residents and vulnerable groups.
People can keep the masks for themselves or give them to family, friend, and charity.
Those who want to donate their masks can put them in an envelope addressed to “Masks Sewn with Love”, and drop them off at their nearest post box from April 15. No postage stamp or address is necessary.
People should indicate their name, housing estate, the total number of masks enclosed and the size of these masks at the back of the envelope.
The collected masks will be given to a range of beneficiaries, including crisis shelters for victims of domestic abuse, and voluntary children's homes.
Masks Sewn With Love sprang from a project that began earlier this year in Ms Sun's Punggol West ward, where volunteers - guided by home-based sewing studio founder Jacquelene Pang - made more than 300 masks for children from vulnerable families.
One of the Punggol West volunteers, Kitson Leonard Lee, 43, has spent the past few weeks making child-sized masks at home with his wife and 12-year-old son. It is a sleek operation, with Mr Lee doing the cutting, his wife in charge of the sewing, and his son responsible for the templates. It takes them about 20 minutes to complete one mask, and they can make as many as 10 every evening.
"We need to rally together as a community," said Mr Lee, who is the head of the Centre for Non-Profit Leadership as well as a grassroots leader.
Meanwhile, other groups in Singapore - from nimble-fingered children to local apparel firms - have been making cloth masks and handing them out for free.
Primary 6 pupil Adriel Wong started making these masks with his sister, Beatrice, 16, not long after the coronavirus spread to Singapore. The duo, who have a handicrafts Facebook page called My Ah Ma's Attic, have donated dozens of these home-made cotton masks.
Beatrice does most of the sewing and Adriel helps with the measuring and cutting. Their mother, housewife Lin Jin Ting, 41, guides them if they need help.
"My lines are a bit crooked," Adriel confessed, "so I often need to unpick the stitches and start again."
The masks - which are sewn from bedsheets and other cotton fabrics - are not perfect, but the Wongs hope they will help people who cannot afford to buy masks.
Beatrice added that the project has drawn the family even closer.
"It helps us bond better. We're working together as a family."