A sincere and heartfelt thank you to everyone supporting tenshimadeShop.etsy.com! It’s been a crazy whirlwind, but one we feel blessed to join.
Sewing started as a hobby and it remains my second “job.” By day, I write and by night, I sew. Before this adventure, I was a therapist, but when my husband’s service-connected disability got so bad he couldn’t work, I changed careers to be home with him.
A couple of years ago, my husband bought me a sewing machine in the hopes that I could learn to make fun tactical stuff. Then came the idea of embroidering our own patches. It’s been an interesting journey learning sewing skills, but our goal from the beginning was to make things we would like in the hopes that others would like them too.
So we started making things for ham radio (callsign nametapes), the flight sim community (patches and equipment dust covers), as well as custom patches and patch boards. Because who doesn’t want a place to display their cool patches in a way that shows uniqueness? And of course, all things geeky, which means superheroes, Star Wars, Star Trek, Firefly, Mars Attacks…we are gamers (PC and tabletop), so game gear is on the list of fun things to make (dice bags, playmat bags). And of course, we love honoring this country’s warriors, past and present, so military stuff is a big deal.
When the pandemic and the mask craze started, my husband asked if I could make a mask, but in multicam. Because why shouldn’t we have camo? I found a pattern online and started making them. After the first couple, he suggested we list them on Etsy just in case, which coincided with a call from Etsy for people to list masks. Then the challenge became how to make something high-quality yet priced reasonably?
The response has been tremendous! The first surge of orders took me by surprise and I ran out of supplies right away. Then, ordering supplies became a challenge due to pandemic-related delays, but everyone who ordered was kind and patient. Thank you!
That surge also occurred at the same time as the busiest three weeks of writing. That meant writing from noon to 8pm and then sewing from 8pm until 3am, a cycle that continued for quite some time. It has since calmed down, both writing and sewing. I have learned so much in the last weeks, and we are working on improving our designs and making more options available since it sounds like masks will be around for awhile.
Blessings abound as well because we’ve met some amazing people through this project throughout the entire country! Families who need masks for returning to work, active duty military wanting to show esprit de corps, or people looking for embroidered designs just to make them fun. Parents sending masks as gifts for their children on active duty, veterans buying them for their neighbors.
As a result of the overwhelming support, we’ve put a ton of resources into buying good fabrics and materials to make these masks durable and functional. But we’re still a two-person shop. My warrior-husband takes care of graphics and technical details while I do the sewing and embroidery. We are committed to making good quality stuff that we would use ourselves (which we do!).
These are not the “make a mask in 3 minutes” type. The outer fabrics are the kind used for military uniforms – the cotton/poly blend ripstop. The inside fabric, which creates a pocket, is cotton quilting fabric. We chose these two because a recent news article suggested that multi-layered fabric masks with different levels of weaves may offer more protection that just one layer of cotton fabric. The shape of it allows for a better fit around the face, so you don’t have the air gap on the sides. Also, the the pocket allows for adding more fabric or other types of filters.
The straps are always a bit more challenging because you want them to keep the mask snug on the face while staying comfortable. So now we have elastic and softer Lycra straps as well as Lycra straps that can be adjustable.
We’re in this for the long haul and we love getting special requests. Like the mom who asked for a navy camo mask with the US Navy logo showing for her daughter who is in training, and the military police officer with the 101st Airborne who got us started on the embroidered masks, and the Gulf War Navy Seal veteran, and the guys who work outdoors and needed something that wouldn’t fall apart, or the parents who asked for Spider-Man and Batman fabric for their kiddos.
From the depth of our hearts, we thank you for your support and your patience. You are helping a disabled veteran’s small business and blessing us with your stories.
Our prayer for everyone we meet briefly through these sales is that these masks bless you and you your family, not only by contributing to health and safety, but also by making it a little more fun to wear them.