#HerWorldHerStory: She teaches Singaporeans how to make their own reusable masks

by Hayley Tai & Cheong Wen Xuan  /   August 3, 2020

The part-time sales manager stepped up to teach people how to make their own masks

sheila khoo masks

Ever since I attended a dressmaking course in my 20s, sewing has become my pastime for the last 40 years. In February, my daughter Hedy encouraged me to sew something more useful than tote bags and patchwork blankets. That is, reusable masks. I thought, what a great idea! I could use the time at home to make them for my family and friends. So far, I’ve sewn more than 1,200 masks. I made 30 pieces for healthcare workers to use when they are off-duty. Making these masks was daunting at first as I didn’t even have a sewing pattern with accurate dimensions.

I researched Youtube tutorials and after “studying” the videos for a few days, I finally got it right. I quickly produced a prototype. Through the weeks, I picked up speed in production. From sewing about five masks a day, I was soon making up to 15 a day. I gave these masks to my close friends and family members, who passed it to other people who needed them. My tech-savvy daughter made a 12-minute video for The Straits Times, with me giving step-by-step instructions on how to make a mask.

I wanted to encourage Singaporeans to make their own masks instead of buying disposable ones. My daughter posted the video and article on Facebook, and the post was also shared by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
Many people have asked me where to buy or order the fabric Well, I sourced and bought the (100 per cent) cotton fabric (used for inner and outer layers of the mask), which is the most comfortable and “breathable” material, from Sing Mui Heng at People’s Park Centre, Spotlight and online stores before the Circuit Breaker.

Though there’s a demand for these masks, I don’t intend to sell them. I sew them as gifts for friends and family. During the Circuit Breaker, I sat at my sewing table from 10am to 10pm, stepping out only for meals and an afternoon coffee break.

At the moment, I have fulfilled all the requests for my masks, so I have switched back to sewing other items such as tote bags and home clothing. I may experiment with sewing other types of masks later on.

This article was first published in Her World’s July issue. Grab a copy today!