Hamilton

Burlington business, Stitch It, to make 78,000 masks a week to fight COVID-19

Stitch It is making masks that businesses can use to help staff feel more safe as COVID-19 cases pop up across the province.

The Stitch It masks are being sold for $4 each

Alain Baird said Stitch It will start making masks for businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Submitted by Stitch It)

Alain Baird didn't want to lay off his staff for weeks, but he says COVID-19 was leaving him no choice.

The Burlington man, CEO and founder of Stitch It Clothing Alterations & Dry Cleaning, told roughly 400 staff members they may be out of work for a while.

But as his sewing machines sat idle, Baird had an idea — he could use the machines to make face masks and try to bolster the country's dwindling supply.

"We have the capacity and we have the skills and we have the passion for doing it, so that's what we're trying to do," he said.

Stitch It is making masks that the owner said include surgical grade fabric that is washable and water-and-droplet repellant for workers amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Submitted by Stitch It)

With 55 locations across Canada, Baird said they can make up to 78,000 masks per week.

The masks are not the N95 masks, but are made from a surgical grade fabric that he says is washable and water-and-droplet repellent.

The Stitch It masks are being sold for $4 each wholesale (roughly the same cost to produce them) and will be sold online in the coming weeks. Production started Saturday.

"We have about three or four thousand cut and 2,000 made and we're picking those up, bagging them and shipping them to the people that have ordered," Baird said.

14,500 masks ordered so far

The masks are a lower grade than N95 masks and aren't aimed for use by frontline healthcare workers. Still, businesses and social service agencies are buying them for their own employees.

Stitch It is shipping out 1,000 to Villa Italia, 3,000 to Thrive, 1,000 to a chiropractor in Toronto and 4,000 to Longos.

The biggest order came from the Good Shepherd, who Baird said, ordered 5,500.

Alan Whittle, a spokesperson for the Good Shepherd, said the agency ordered the masks after seeing posts on social media. The masks should arrive early next week and each staff member will get four to five masks each.

"They were good quality masks that could be used for everyday use," he said.

"While people are in settings with more people and physical distancing is a bit more of a problem it gives them protection, not so much for themselves, but for others."

Whittle noted the masks aren't necessarily protective to staff, noting that they are washable and are not N95 masks, but said they can provide staff peace of mind.

A staff member at Stitch It wears a mask while making one. The company will make more than 75,000 a week. (Submitted by Stitch It)

Baird said Stitch It is waiting to hear back from the provincial and the federal governments about how it can do more but said it is also in talks with Stanfield's, a long john producer, about helping stitch together its hospital gowns.

Baird said workers making the masks for Stitch It are being paid 10 per cent more than usual to work during the pandemic.

"It's important that they're working and we want to make sure that we're still around for them to come back to," he said.

"It's doing our share to help the fight against COVID-19 and help all Canadians at the end of the day."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bobby Hristova is a journalist with CBC Hamilton. He reports on all issues, but has a knack for stories that hold people accountable, stories that focus on social issues and investigative journalism. He previously worked for the National Post and CityNews in Toronto. You can contact him at bobby.hristova@cbc.ca.

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