Nfld. & Labrador

Mask-making has grown into another full-time job for this paramedic

Erin Cole found it annoying to wear a mask, so she set out to make a better one.

Erin Cole found it annoying to wear a mask, so she set out to make a better one

Erin Cole displays one of her masks on a mannequin in her backyard in Botwood. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

Because she knew what was so annoying about masks — especially for someone wearing glasses — Erin Cole set out to stitch a better one.

As a full-time paramedic, Cole has to wear one on every call. And when she's waiting at home for her phone to ring, she's taken to sewing them — dozens and dozens of them. 

"We have to wear the pleated, medical masks on every call we go on, and as a glasses wearer, I can't stand them," she said. "They just bend over your nose, and when you breathe heavy or whatever, they fog up your glasses."

The Botwood, N.L., resident says she avoided wearing masks as much as possible, because she found them so uncomfortable — but her own design takes care of that.

"I adjusted my pattern enough so they fit underneath my nose and I can tuck my glasses over top of them," she said. "They don't fog up and I enjoy them. I've had a lot of people say the same thing."

Cole works as a paramedic in Botwood. During her weeks on call, she will be waiting at home, and she took up mask-making as a hobby to pass the time. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

Cole says she started making masks as a hobby, something just to pass the time. During her weeks working, she'll stay on call from her home in Botwood. 

She wasn't even sure what she was making when she first picked up the fabric from Walmart. 

These days it's become more like a full-time job, thanks in part to Newfoundland and Labrador's new mask mandate that dictates everyone must wear a mask in many public indoor spaces.

"From about 1:30 that afternoon until I went to bed at 11 o'clock that night, I had taken about 85 orders," she said.

Since she started making masks a few weeks ago, she's produced more than 400 of them. She's even had to turn some orders down, she said.

"I get up in the morning at like, 8:30, 9:30, and I go out and I sit down in my chair and I don't move," she said.

Cole shows off her mask design by wearing it in her backyard. The masks she makes rise higher on a face, so glasses can tuck over the fabric underneath. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

Selling at $5 each, the hobby has even earned her a few bucks — enough to buy a sewing machine to make the process a lot easier.

After a couple of days in front of the sewing machine, Cole says, she's ready to step back for a while — but her family keeps encouraging her to sew on.

"My mom, she's always — she's in Grand Falls, she's calling me, 'Do you need any material? Do you need any elastic? Do you have enough material? If I buy this, will you make this mask for me?'

"My grandmother, she wants me to teach her how to make them."

Even though it's been a bit of good business, Cole is hoping these non-medical masks won't be necessary for much longer.

"I'm going to hope that … mandatory masks is not for the long term," she said. "But if it is, I'm hoping I'm going to make it easier for people to wear them. Because they are comfortable."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from CBC Newfoundland Morning

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