Editor’s Note: What’s Up Newp and What’s Up Rhode Island are asking readers to nominate unsung heroes from the community during this COVID-19 crisis. Jenni Field was among those nominated.
Normally, Newport-based Master Seamstress Jenni Field puts her passions for sewing and upcycling to work by creating eco-friendly personal accessories, housewares, and décor out of vintage fabrics. Since 2012, she’s been selling her colorful handmade creations through her Etsy Shop, Fruition by Jenni Field. But last week, amid mounting concerns over shortages in supplies for those on the front lines of COVID-19, Field shifted her focus entirely and got to work sewing protective face masks for donation. We had a chance to ask Jenni a few questions about how she’s using her talents the help those in need during this public health crisis. Here’s what she said.
Can you tell us a bit about your background and history of your business?
I have always loved sewing and vintage anything! I started my business in 2012 with a mission of only using vintage and recycled fabrics for my handmade creations. The fabrics I found were what decided what I would make. I liked the idea of only working with what I sourced from recycled findings. I studied textile design at CCRI and completed the Master Seamstress program offered through URI. I was originally planning to become a personal Tailor, but my creative side had other plans. Hunting, sourcing, and re-working vintage fabrics was and is my passion. My mother and my grandmother were both avid sewers and really encouraged me. Fruition is an ever changing line of personal accessories and housewares for the eco-friendly minded.
What changes to your business happened because of COVID-19?
I noticed a change in the “shopping” atmosphere almost instantly when people became serious about what was going on with COVID-19, myself included. I felt suddenly that obtaining essential needs: water, food and toiletries quickly replaced shoes, clothing, and even days at the thrift shop wandering around for that special find.
Why did you start making masks and who are they intended for?
I had read a very heartfelt post that a close nurse friend of mine had posted on Facebook that just seemed unimaginable. She talked about having to re-use her stained and torn mask and about how medical professionals were developing sores and rashes on their nose and mouth from the bacteria. Within seconds of reading her post, a different friend sent me an article from Courier & Press about making masks…there was NO COINCIDENCE, and I got right to work. I wanted to make masks right away for doctors and nurses, but also for anyone who felt they needed one – delivery drivers, people with compromised immune systems, even my sister who works every day in a grocery store.
When did you start making masks and how? What materials and techniques are you using? Is it just you making them or others you work with?
I started making masks on March 20th. I make my masks in my home studio. I hand cut and hand sew each one (my husband has been helping me cut!) I followed the tutorial from the Courier and Press article which had the CDC requirements. I had TONS of stock here: fabric, elastic, and the community has been incredibly generous by dropping additional supplies to my home when needed. I have been making them myself, but have had a few people inquire about sewing too and I encourage them to get sewing as there is such a need for it! Since we can’t work in a group because of the need for social distancing, I tell them to still work on their own if they feel inspired.
Are you working at all with government organizations, non-profits or the medical community?
I am working with the medical community, veterinarian offices, delivery services, concerned individuals, and more .
Anything you want to share with the community or think it’s important for people to know during this time?
Each person has their own gifts, talents, and treasures. Find yours and help others!
Know an everyday hero who is making a sacrifice to help others in the fight against COVID-19 in Rhode Island? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.