It started by word of mouth. An employee at Mystery Ranch, the Montana-based backpack brand, heard from a friend that a local quilting guild had started sewing masks for hospitals, and soon many of Mystery Ranch's own employees were clamoring to do the same.
"Lots of people around here quilt and sew," Mystery Ranch COO and co-founder Renee Sippel-Baker told SNEWS. "We found out about the effort initially on March 19, and by the 24th we had gotten approval to start making masks using a stock of obsolete material we had sitting around our factory. We designed a few different versions of a mask and took them to a local hospital. They loved the design, so we immediately committed our sewing staff to making 500 units."
The excess fabric Mystery Ranch used for the initiative was a soft, antimicrobial, breathable textile. According to Sippel-Baker, the company had once sewed it into various packs in the company's line, but had discontinued it in recent years.
"We don't use the material anymore, but the hospital loved it," Sippel-Baker said. "They asked if we could order more. We have about 600 yards on the way, which will make roughly 7,000 masks."
Mystery Ranch employees won't cut and sew all 7,000 units; members of the community in Bozeman, including local seamstresses and the staff at West Paw, a dog accessory brand, are pitching in to help with the production. Even the local paper, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, is getting involved. Sippel-Baker said discarded aluminum plates used in the newspaper printing process will be donated to make the nosepieces of the masks.
"This was a real community effort," said Sippel-Baker. "You don't need to be a large company to help right now. People are doing this kind of thing everywhere. Here, it was the local quilter’s guild that got the effort going. If people want to help, all they have to do is reach out to their local hospital or health department and ask what's needed."
Check out this video of Mystery Ranch employees hard at work making masks.