For Tammy Pham, she never thought her sewing skills would one day be put to use to make potentially life-saving equipment.
But as the COVID-19 crisis deepened in Michigan in March, Pham, from suburban Detroit, turned a pastime into a purpose by making face masks to help limit the spread of the coronavirus.
Pham, 32, founder of ‘So I Sew Detroit,’ isn’t alone in the effort. People around the country are pitching in and sewing homemade masks for their communities. This, amid a global shortage of personal protective equipment caused by rising demand, panic buying, hoarding and misuse, according to the World Health Organization.
After seeing social media posts from her family and friends on the front-line about having to reuse N95 Respirator masks, which filter out at least 95 percent of airborne particles, Pham said she couldn’t sit back.
“The thought of having my loved ones out there trying to do something for the greater good and not being adequately protected, it frankly scared the crap out of me.”Tammy Pham, founder, so I sew Detroit, in a phone interview
”I wanted to make sure those people who I cared about and the people who were truly trying to help the public had what they needed,” Pham said.
Using curbside delivery service at a fabric store, Pham loaded up supplies and set up shop at home.
She says she’s made about 250 masks so far for front-line workers and friends, and has mailed them out or dropped them off at doorsteps. Pham also made sure essential workers weren’t left out, including Starbucks employees.
”I went to drive-thru, ordered my drink and handed a bag with a little note in there thanking them for showing up to work and doing what they do, even though they might be overlooked or under-appreciated,” said Pham.
Pham is seeing demand grow, especially after a friend in healthcare posted a selfie wearing one of her masks, which featured a Michigan State University print. The school reposted the photo on its social media accounts.
“I’ve had dozens of messages from fellow Spartans across the country who are interested in these masks. I have started to make more of those and just send them wherever these people are. I’m not doing it for profit. I’m not making anything off of them, because right now I feel like that’s what I have to offer. And it makes me feel better to know that I helped in some way, no matter how big or small it might be,” Pham said.
With Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s new order requiring people to wear homemade face coverings when they enter enclosed public spaces, Pham will likely be even more busy. She aims to expand her line of offerings to include surgical caps and headbands that help hold masks in place through buttons, relieving strain on the ears.
A majority of the masks have been donated, however, to keep up with supply costs, Pham plans to charge for future orders.
Not only has sewing become a passion for Pham, but she says it has given her a sense purpose during this difficult time. In fact, she picked up sewing as a hobby last year after facing a “midlife crisis.” Pham had quit her demanding corporate job that left her stressed and exhausted. Shortly after, Pham took a retail position as she transitions careers. But after Michigan instituted a stay-at-home order in March and grounded several nonessential businesses, Pham found herself, like many others, with extra time. And sewing became a bigger focus.
For Pham, sewing runs deep. It allows her to spiritually reconnect with her late-mother, who spent a lot of time embroidering.
To learn more about Tammy and ‘So I Sew Detroit’ visit:
Facebook: So I Sew Detroit
Instagram: So I Sew Detroit
To donate to her mask effort: