(CNN) – After sitting idle for several decades, a nearly 100-year-old sewing machine has been put to good use during the coronavirus pandemic. Giselle Williams’ hairstyling and knitting businesses came to a standstill during the coronavirus lockdown. Mask shortages in their community of Arvada prompted her to put her time and talents toward sewing masks. In doing so, she found a new purpose for the family heirloom belonging to her great-great-grandmother.
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With the help of her husband Darin, she has been using her great-great-grandmother’s sewing machine to help people around the world.
Williams inherited a 1922 Singer Model 66 “Red Eye” treadle sewing machine that was originally purchased by her great-great-grandmother Addie Harrison.
Her husband rehabilitated the machine with a deep cleaning, lubrication, and a leather drive belt from watching YouTube videos.
“We dug it out, dusted it off, and oiled the entire machine,” he said.
Giselle Williams had never sewn anything before her mask-making endeavors but learned quickly under her husband’s expert instruction. His grandmother, Lovetta Corbell, was a seamstress and taught him to sew in the summers he spent with her during his childhood. He showed his wife how to thread the machine, wind a bobbin, and sew a straight stitch.
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“In my wildest dreams, I would have never guessed that the time my grandmother spent with me on her Singer would come back to bear fruit … responding to a real need,” he said.
Before long, they were supplying friends, family, and frontline workers with masks. Their team efforts inspired other members of their community to get involved. Family, friends and neighbors donated fabric to support the couple’s mission.
Demand for the homemade masks soared in May. To accommodate the flood of requests, the couple upgraded their operation. Darin Williams enhanced the “Red Eye” by adding a motor with a foot pedal and his wife acquired a new Juki sewing machine. Their upgraded process allows them to produce 30 masks a day.
They have managed to distribute nearly 500 masks across the country and around the globe, from New York to Thailand. The Veterans of Foreign Wars recognized Darin Williams for his contribution to his community and chose him to serve as a spokesman for the VFW Still Serving campaign.
Giselle Williams believes “it was meant to be” that she could use her great-great-grandmother’s machine in this time of need.
“It means a lot. There’s a lot of meaning behind every mask that was made on that machine,” she said. “It’s been so rewarding, and we want to do more of it.”
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