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‘Tis the seasons of the mask’

Sewing machines are humming ‘upstairs Bhola’s ten dollar store’ on Victoria Street in Grenville. The top floor of this longstanding building is home to two separate businesses – J’s Variety and Pikey’s Tailor Shop – and a place where masks are made by the dozens.

While the State of Emergency brought many businesses to a halt for several weeks, Grenadian tailors found a new and what is turning out to be essential addition for their businesses; making masks.

Edris Brathwaite, owner of J’s Variety, knew since she was nine years old that she wanted to sew. “It was a gift God gave me and I’m thankful for that,” she said in an interview with The Grenadian Voice on Tuesday (June 2). Self-taught and a keen observer of anyone sewing, she draws her own patterns and was looking forward to graduation season. However, COVID-19 changed all that and she adjusted. During the lockdown, if she could not find a ride she would walk from her home in Mt. Fan to her Grenville shop to make masks. Now, with the economy opening she is getting requests for masks to match jerseys or dresses.

“It’s like a style for some customers,” she said. Tote bags are one of her most popular creations; so she is making masks to match bags. With COVID-19 part of life around the world, masks may be here to stay. At 60, she has no intention of retiring and is looking forward to eventually making a trip to Trinidad to purchase some special materials for her shop. Meanwhile, she remains philosophical about COVID-19.

“If everybody copes with the situation, it’s going to be better. I’m positive in that way.”
Brothers Dellon, 33, an electrician by training, and Nerron McEwan, 31, have been running Pikey’s Tailor Shop for the past seven years. As a young boy, Dellon would watch his mother sew and take over the machine as soon as she left the room. It got him into a little trouble with his mother, but it also opened up a world of learning. He learned from other tailors and shared his sewing knowledge with Nerron. The brothers sew and repair clothes, seat covers and many other items. They are experts at free hand cutting, never using patterns.

“You have to learn to visualise and have the patience to make everything perfect,” Nerron said.
When it was announced the banks would open for limited business on Thursday April 16; they were in their shop on the Tuesday making masks.
Customers are now showing up at the shop with clothes to repair and outfits to be created. Looking ahead, Dellon is hopeful that a postponed wedding he was sewing for will take place in the future. “I just want COVID-19 to go,” he added while taking measurements of a new customer.

The latest iteration of the Emergency Powers COVID-19 regulations, which were gazetted on Tuesday (June 2), stipulate that once persons leave their residences or yards they must wear a mask or suitable covering over their nose and mouth. Previously masks or face coverings were only required when standing in line or entering businesses or government offices and while in a vehicle with another person.

The World Health Organisation advises persons not to touch a mask while wearing it. “If you do, clean your hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water (and) replace the mask with a new one as soon as it is damp.” This implies persons need more than one mask, which is welcome news to mask makers.


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