Austin Couch Potatoes, an Austin furniture store that launched its handmade furniture line about a year and a half ago, started making masks and gowns two weeks ago. Now the owners have extended the effort to bring in people who sew at home.
Interested people can order a kit through the email email@example.com or through a Wufoo form on its website austincouches.com. Each kit comes with the supplies to make 50 masks as well as a mask to wear while you are sewing. Already about 20 people have signed up.
Austin Couch Potatoes also has a checklist of things to do before, during and after you sew such as taking your temperature and sterilizing your work area. They are creating a video with instructions as well. It’s the same process its employees do in the factory.
If you sign up to sew masks, volunteers will deliver the kits and pick up the finished masks from you. The delivery drivers also practice sanitary measures.
"Our prayer is that while you are sewing, you are thinking and praying for the frontline medical professional that will be wearing these in just a few days time," says Austin Couch Potatoes co-owner Brian Morgan. "This beautiful step of volunteerism is giving people purpose during these trying times."
The goal is to make 1,500 masks and 6,000 gowns a day through both the factory and volunteers.
Austin Couch Potatoes’ journey to making masks began when the owners realized that the same fabric the company uses to line the cushion cases of its couches was the same fabric used for medical masks: nonwoven polypropylene.
They started talking about making masks on March 19. By March 20, they were taking apart a surgical mask and making a template. They went looking for materials for the ties, but couldn’t find any elastic at local stores. They’ve turned No. 19 rubberbands into ties.
By the night of March 20, they put a blurb on their social media pages and told people that if they were on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic and needed a mask, to reach out to them at firstname.lastname@example.org. Within minutes their inbox began to be flooded with message from surgeons, pediatricians and nurses, as well as people handing out public school lunches, people with autoimmune disorders, and people who are caring for elderly family members, Morgan says.
By March 23, they had 1,000 masks to give out, and are continuing to make masks and now gowns.
The company has now stopped making furniture and is only making masks and protective gowns. IT is using Austin Disaster Relief Network to distribute most of their masks.
The owners has worried about running out of supplies, but Morgan says, "God keeps providing raw material. It’s amazing."
Morgan is hoping to keep the 15 people he employs busy, and has created a Go Fund Me campaign on the company’s website so that they can continue to buy the supplies and donate the masks to those who need them for free.
Morgan says they have been preparing for a year and a half to learn how to sew, to buy equipment, to train a workforce, to use the same material in their couches as is needed in surgical masks, without knowing that something like the coronavirus pandemic would happen.
Morgan says, "You cannot make it up; it’s a God story."