Overland Park seamstress sewing masks for neighbors and strangers alike during pandemic

Sharon Sheldon has made hundreds of masks for a variety of folks ranging from Johnson County neighbors to complete strangers in New York. She offers the masks free of charge. Photo courtesy Sharon Sheldon.

Overland Park resident Sharon Sheldon is making masks for those who need one, including first responders and elderly folks. She has turned her living room into a mask production factory and has stitched and donated about 400 so far.

“Obviously, if COVID-19 is as easily spreadable as [they say] it is, everybody needs to have access to masks,” she said. “I popped online last week just to see what masks were out there: People are charging $10 and up for masks that are handmade. Not everybody’s going to be able to afford that.”

After offering mask donations on Nextdoor a couple of weeks ago, she has received a steady flow of requests, even from people as far away as New York. Needless to say, it’s been busy for her.

“I was sewing, I think, 10 hours a day because people kept asking,” she said.

Sheldon has recruited some of her friends to help with mask production, including cutting fabric, preparing elastic bands, stitching and packaging. She also receives cash donations, fabric and elastic for her efforts — even from some who haven’t received one of her masks.

“Every time I was running low on something, somebody would leave a bag of fabric on my doorstep,” she said.

Sheldon experimented with a few mask styles before settling on her own design that is efficient to stitch and replicate on a Serger machine she bought last year.

“I don’t follow recipes, and I do things my own way and they turn out great,” she said.

Sewing masks was a natural step for her. A seamstress with a degree in interior design, Sheldon has made clothes for her children’s theatrical productions. For the past eight years, she’s been involved with behind-the-scenes productions for Stage Right, a Lenexa-based performing arts company. She also hems and alters clothing for others and occasionally teaches her friends how to sew.

“It’s a skill that’s kind of going out, but it’s a necessary skill,” she said.

Sheldon said she’s just one of many seamstresses and sewers who have jumped in to help during the coronavirus pandemic.