If we have to wear facemasks, why not sport a favorite color and be comfortable. That’s not a question. It’s a statement.

So said, and did, Martie Pienaar, a longtime friend and supporter of The Luke Commission.

Martie’s sewing room highlights the purpose and organization of a seamstress determined to do her part to combat COVID-19.

When COVID-19 reached into Eswatini, Martie decided to stay home. Still, she wanted to help.

“I saw many sewing posts on Facebook and obviously thought of The Luke Commission,” she said.

A view of facemasks from above shows the variety of designs and styles.

Like people worldwide, TLC staff members are wearing facemasks to keep from spreading germs, which may include the rampant coronavirus.

Over the last two weeks, Martie has made 200 colorful, comfortable, reusable, washable facemasks for TLC staff. For how many is she aiming?  “One thousand,” she answered, with a grin.

Hosanna practices smiling with eyes, a skill we all need to acquire these days to relate to those around us who are also wearing masks.

Sewing is Martie’s favorite pastime. She started sewing with her grandmother when she was eight years old, making her own clothes. “I’m still doing that,” she laughed.

She attributes her ability and desire to sew to “an inborn love of working with fabrics.”

Nonhlanhla and Hosanna stand apart but both obviously appreciate their new cotton facemasks.

At first, Martie tried different shapes and sizes to get the right fit for the most people. TLC leaders gave their input about which ones would be best.

After testing prototypes, Martie kicked into production. It takes her about 10 minutes to make one mask, she explained. She lays them out 10 at a time.

Nozipho wears one of many new facemasks seen on the Miracle Campus.

The cotton material allows for easy breathing and dries quickly when the African temperatures rise. In one of her several styles that continue to develop, she uses four layers of cotton over the nose and mouth and only two layers by the ears where thickness is not needed. Other variations are lighter. Different styles fit different jobs on—and outside—the Miracle Campus.

Her husband Frans, chairman of TLC board of directors in Eswatini, assists Martie by the turning the masks inside out and straightening them before they are ironed.

Frans helps Martie prepare the facemasks for the final touch – ironing.

“Sewing facemasks is therapeutic, like knitting,” said Martie. “Focusing on the needle helps me to focus in general. I love listening to worship music while I’m working.”

Practical and pretty. Comfy and cozy. Bright and beautiful. Thank you, Martie,
and please keep sewing. Thank you to all those throughout the world who
are working at home to provide for those on the front lines.

Those on the Miracle Campus who work directly with patients wear N95 masks underneath the new masks. The worldwide shortage of N95 masks means stock must be conserved, and the “cover” mask will keep the N95 mask beneath cleaner for longer periods of time.

Needless to say, TLC staff members are grateful and nod thankfully behind their new masks. (JT)