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These 3 Etsy shop owners have each sold hundreds of cloth face masks since the pandemic started

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Photo courtesy of Infusion

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, there has been a shortage of protective face masks on a global scale.

In response, many have started making and wearing homemade cloth face masks, a practice the CDC recommends.

There are two main reasons to wear a mask anytime you leave your home, the CDC says. The first is to slow the spread of Covid-19. The second is as a precautionary measure in case you have the virus so that you can avoid transmitting it to others.

To help meet the demand for masks, a number of Etsy sellers have dedicated their online shops to creating and selling cloth face masks.

CNBC Make It spoke to three sellers from different parts of the U.S. to see what it's like to provide such a necessary and in-demand product amid a global pandemic. Interviews have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Stone House Crafts

Photo courtesy of Stone House Crafts

How long have you been an Etsy seller? Is this your full-time job?

I have been an Etsy seller since 2009. It is my only job, but it's part-time. However, since I started making masks, it has been full-time. 

How would you describe your shop?

My shop, Stone House Crafts, is primarily handmade felted wool home decor and gifts. Before Covid-19, my best seller was felted wool acorns. Over the last 30 days, approximately 98% of my sales have been face masks and ear protectors. My 15-year-old son designed the 3-D printed ear protectors.

When did you start making masks? 

I started making masks in early April after an email request from Etsy's corporate team.

What are your masks made from?

I make my masks from 100% cotton, flannel and elastic. Almost all of my fabric I have had saved for years, as fabric is now difficult to get quickly. The cotton fabric is not something I use in my regular Etsy shop, but like many artists, I have many hobbies. I went from a fabric hoarder to prepared for this pandemic rather quickly.

How many masks have you sold? 

I've sold over 250 in the last three weeks and over 1,200 ear protectors. My masks cost between $12 and $15.

Have you found selling masks to be rewarding? 

Yes, it has been nice to get masks to people that need them. I enjoy making masks that have some style and allow customers to feel more comfortable in a fabric they like. It's also a chance for me to spend some time with my son, who is home from school. He is learning about running a business and sales while also putting his 3-D printer to work.  

Why did you think it was important to sell masks right now? 

We want to contribute where we can, but also allow people to feel comfortable and like themselves while wearing masks. We want our masks to be high-quality and keep people healthy, but we also aim to make them stylish and colorful to bring people some small joy during this difficult time.  

Rosemarine Textiles

Photo courtesy of Rosemarine Textiles.

How long have you been an Etsy seller? Is this your full-time job? 

I have been an Etsy seller for two years. It's my full-time job.

How would you describe your shop?

My shop sells plant-dyed home goods, decor and accessories that are all made in-house using sustainable production methods in my Detroit studio. Our cotton gauze bandanas are the best sellers, especially the colors 'charcoal' and 'indigo.'

When did you start making masks?

I started making masks on March 3 and it quickly became apparent that there was a huge demand. I started offering them online during the first week of April.

What are your masks made from?

I sew them in my studio using my plant-dyed fabric scraps. I use either 100% cotton or a blend I have that is cotton and hemp. I try not to waste any materials in my studio and it's been great to be able to use up everything I have for something so important.

How many masks have you sold?

I've sold about 150 masks so far. It's crazy. I've never had this much demand for something so fast! I charge $18 for each.

Have you found selling masks to be rewarding?

Yes, I'm trying to get them to people as quickly as possible and help everyone have a little extra protection when they have to leave the house. I love making something that is both beautiful, useful and sustainable.

Why did you think it was important to sell masks right now? 

I initially made a few for myself, my spouse, my family members and neighbors. I posted on Instagram about the masks and there was so much demand for more that I decided to offer them for sale.

Infusion

Photo courtesy of Infusion
  • Seller: Abby Meadow of Infusion
  • Location: Central coast of Oregon

How long have you been an Etsy seller? Is it your full-time job?

I have been an Etsy seller since March of 2008. With exception to most of 2019, my creative work as an Etsy seller has been my full-time job since 2009.

How would you describe your shop?

My shop is a place to find useful goods that one might appreciate on an everyday basis. I focus on natural fibers and leather, but enjoy many projects using varied materials, from wood carving to beeswax candles.

When did you start making masks?

I started making masks at the end of March, as the reality of a pandemic was starting to set in here in our coastal town. My mail carrier was the first to make a request, and then a friend, and then another friend. It sort of landed in my lap, this task of making masks for the people around me.

With so much new energy around me making masks, I decided to put some up in my shop. Almost as soon as I made them available for general purchase, my studio became a full-time mask-making space. The demand has been extraordinary. In one month's time, I have made about 400 masks, mostly through my shops, some as donations and a handful of gifts.

What are your masks made from?

As orders arrive I make a list of size and fabric preferences. Linings, interlinings, outer materials are all cut by hand and the body of the mask is assembled. Every mask is made of cotton, or cotton and linen, and is composed of at least three layers, sometimes four, depending on the material chosen. Wires for nose bridges are cut and the ends are looped with jewelers pliers. Elastic ear loops are cut and threaded through the sewn-in channels created.

There are many steps to these little masks and the details are important. It means a lot to me that these fit and feel comfortable for the wearer. I know we are all trying to feel a little more safe in an unusual situation. My masks cost between $20 and 25.

Have you found selling masks to be rewarding?

I have been so moved by making masks and relating to my customers in this unique time. It took me by surprise a bit, the feelings it brought up and how meaningful it has been to to be able to provide a need during this time. The appreciation and feedback from my customers has been such an encouragement. I feel moved to reach out more and am working on a project to support some of those hit hardest by the ramifications of Covid-19. The sense that we are all in this together, working together, has been so encouraging.

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