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Extra time translates into mask project

Off work due to the coronavirus situation, Sue Murdoch tried her hand at a variety of pastimes before putting her sewing skills to work making masks. [Damon Maclean]

Her job on hold since mid-March, Elmira’s Sue Murdoch has had plenty of time on her hands, an opportunity to lend a hand during the coronavirus crisis by making masks. An attention to detail and investment of that time can be seen in her handiwork.

What sets Murdoch’s masks apart is the amount of time she invests into making them, an estimated hour or longer to create each mask. Sizing ranges from extra-small to extra-large, and Murdoch has even made them for young children. The high-quality, non-medical fabric masks Murdoch creates include a wire nose piece, ensuring a tight fit, and unique straps to ensure the masks will stay on. Designs come in masculine, feminine and children’s patterns, as well as the “True North Collection” in preparation for Canada Day.

It’s been a labour of love for Murdoch, who’s been off from her job as a slots supervisor at the Grand River Raceway casino in Elora, where she’s worked since the place opened more than 16 years ago. Her job was to make sure things were running smoothly, helping out other staff where needed. Murdoch’s last shift was March 15, when she received some disheartening news. “We didn’t hear about it, but we saw it on the TV screens. It was ordered by the OLG (Ontario Lottery and Gaming Commission) that they were going to have to shut down.”

Typically, Murdoch worked between 36-40 hours each week, and she suddenly found herself with excess time on her hands. She decided she wanted to do something creative.

Murdoch said she “wasn’t inspired to make masks, [she] just needed a project to do.” With so much time now on her hands and having her husband spend his weekdays in Peterborough, she began making herself busy.

“I had fumbled around with inspiration stones and painting stones and things like that,” she said, adding that those new hobbies are ones she wouldn’t keep up with for a long time, and she wanted to do something that could be helpful in the community.

“I realized one day that I can sew and that I could [start] sewing masks.”

She borrowed her daughter’s sewing machine and some supplies around the beginning of April. Since that time, she has created 370 masks, finding a great reception for her handiwork.

When Murdoch will return to work remains uncertain – largely dependent on the provincial government’s reopening schedule –  but she says she feels safe and expects her position to remain. “There is a gradual process where they have to meet criteria… a five-step plan to get back on track.”

In the meantime, Murdoch is more than happy to create masks and deliver them to people within and around the community. She can be reached by phone at 519-669-1145 or by email at suemurdoch@live.ca.

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