GANANOQUE -- Rebecca Watson has had success with her sewing and design work, with some gowns appearing on red carpets at the Emmy Awards and the Canadian Screen Awards.

Usually this would be a busy time of year for the Gananoque woman, working with brides-to-be and upcoming graduates on prom dresses.

That work has slowed down, and now she’s focusing on designing and making something a bit different during the COVID-19 pandemic– cloth masks.

“I had a good friend whose sister is in dialysis, and I asked if she had a mask when she went in for treatment and she said no,” said Watson.

Her good friend is Kerry Coyle, and she said Watson wanted to help right away and quickly made masks for her sister.

“She gave us both a couple masks which was phenomenal. My sister was actually hiding under a blanket to go into dialysis because they didn’t have a surplus of masks and weren’t giving them to patients,” said Coyle.

“It’s been an absolute blessing for her.”

For Watson, producing a mask was just like designing a dress.

“I’m in the design business. I went through a series of different designs and styles before I settled on one that I liked.”

Watson has donated the masks to chemo patients, staff at doctor's offices, corrections workers, and to people that want them for personal use.

They are washed with hot soapy water before being picked up and she advises people to do the same after each use.

Watson’s husband works at a long-term care facility in Kingston, so she was aware of the risks in contracting COVID-19.

“We self isolated pretty early in this and stopped allowing people into our house and stopped going to see other people,” Watson said.

She has also joined online sewing communities to get help with the masks, and said that the art of sewing seems to be making a comeback during the pandemic.

“It’s a bit of a dying art and in a time of need, the sewers are coming out of the woodwork right now and they are in high demand,” said Watson.

“It’s a huge surge of people sewing and trying to do their best with what they’ve got and helping everybody helping everybody else.”

Watson also does volunteer work with a woman in Kingston who opened a sewing centre in Congo.

They have sent patterns to the country so women could start making masks as well to protect themselves from the virus.

“That was a feel good moment to see a picture come back from that sewing centre with the piles of masks that they have made. It’s worldwide,” said Watson.

For Coyle, she’s thankful that the community is coming together.

“It’s pretty amazing thing to be doing when she could be doing her own work. Pretty grateful to have her in the community.”

Watson adds “it’s an unfortunate situation and we’ve all got to pull together and get through.”