Quite a few sewing machines used to be donated to the Goodwill store in North Huntingdon, Westmoreland County, said David Tobiczyk, vice president of marketing and development for Goodwill of Southwestern Pennsylvania. The machines tended to sell slowly.
Since the pandemic, the donations of sewing machines haven't changed, but the ones the store has are "going very fast," and phone inquiries have come in about more, he said.
The pandemic-driven sewing trend started with face masks.
"There was this feeling that people needed to do something," The Fabric Place's Sampson said.
Though her business is dedicated to apparel sewing, she has various pieces of elastic for masks laid out on the first display in the store.
Horn makes mask kits that sell for $30 and include the fabric and elastic to make masks. The store has sold enough of these kits to make 100,000 masks, she estimated.
She also sells "Gloria Gaiter" kits for the same price. A neck gaiter is a type of mask that ties around the neck and can be pulled up to use as a mask or pulled down to look like a scarf. The store is getting 20 to 40 orders for the gaiter kits per day.
Horn launched her online store just before the pandemic hit. She also started a thrice-weekly Facebook Live segment at 3 p.m. touting the newest fabrics and services in the store, which is jammed with bolts of fabric and has quilts, blankets and pillows hanging from the walls and ceiling. The store, a repurposed single-family home, has five sewing machines and a projection screen in the basement, where she offers lessons.
"Consumers have more time on their hands, so they've pulled that sewing machine out of their closets and started with masks," said Dean Brindle, chief marketing officer of Nashville, Tenn.-based SVP Worldwide, which makes the Singer, Viking, Husqvarna and Pfaff brands of sewing machines. " ... There's only so much you can watch on TV."
In March and April, "we were literally sold out of machines," he said. The company experienced "at least 20% growth in all brands," he said, and increased production of sewing machines.