Behind the Mask-Making with Tiffany Turner

by Elizabeth Rubenstahl

If at first you don’t succeed, keep sewing! As Tiffany Turner knows, a first attempt at sewing rarely comes out as expected, but keeping at it can lead to benefits you’d never expect.

Starting to Stitch

Back in 2014, Tiffany was looking to pick up a new hobby. Sewing was something that she always considered, but the idea seemed far fetched. “Nobody does that anymore,” she remembers thinking. Yet the thought of sewing remained in the back of her mind. When she would see a dress or blouse, she would imagine ways to change the length, color and more so she could have exactly what she wanted. Sewing her own clothes seemed like the perfect solution.

To start, she borrowed her mother’s Singer Precision sewing machine and chose her first piece to sew: a pencil skirt. How hard could a straight skirt be, right? Tiffany found out the hard way that sewing the perfect pencil skirt was trickier than she imagined. Frustrated that her first sewing attempt did not turn out as she hoped, she was ready to relegate her sewing machine to the back of the closet. When her husband asked her why she thought her first attempt would “magically work,” she said, “Because I followed the directions.”

Tiffany’s response illustrates her analytical mindset. With a background in engineering, she self-admittedly approaches sewing in a more methodical than artistic fashion. You wouldn’t know that from her wonderful sewing creations, which she documents on her blog, TipStitched.

Originally, her blog started as a sewing journal. “I hate making the same mistake twice,” she writes in one post. “I decided I would just keep an online journal where I would keep my notes and upload photos.” In her blog, she details her sewing process and honestly reviews patterns. What started as an online journal quickly morphed into a platform where she could share her experience and other sewists could learn, ask questions and provide advice.

In addition to her blog, Tiffany has a YouTube channel and an Etsy store with some hilarious sewing “definition” merchandise.

Finding a New Pattern

Like others, Tiffany started sewing face covers because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to sewing and donating face masks requested by facilities lacking personal protective equipment (PPE), Tiffany donates part of the proceeds from the sale of her face covers to Sewing Masks for Area Hospitals (SMAH). Donations to SMAH cover the cost of supplies to create masks.

Tiffany found SMAH on Facebook and immediately gravitated toward the group because of its organized direction and clear purpose. She appreciates the group’s processes and weekly updates, which clearly outline how many and what kind of masks facilities need. SMAH provides sewists a clear sense of purpose as opposed to “making something and hoping it’ll be useful.” Tiffany also was able to direct those requesting PPE and looking to volunteer to SMAH.

In addition to the processes SMAH provides, the Facebook group fosters a sense of community for all those sewing masks. Tiffany recognizes the importance of “knowing that you’re part of a bigger initiative,” whether you’re an experienced sewist or beginner. 

Going From Singer to Singer

Tiffany received a 1949 Model 66 Singer sewing machine that was refurbished and donated by sewing-machine hobbyist Evan Pitman. According to a manual for the model 66, Singer designated the model “for family use.” The machine is delicate enough to sew through “flimsy material,” like silk, but powerful enough to sew through thick fabric: “The heavier the material, the heavier the pressure; the lighter the material, the lighter the pressure.” Simple enough!

Now, this Singer has a new purpose as a mask-making machine. As Evan beautifully wrote, “I give it freely to help fight the 2020 coronavirus pandemic. Keep it well.”

With two Singer machines, Tiffany can further balance sewing for facilities requesting PPE and for herself. She hopes that all who started sewing masks during this pandemic keep sewing: “Don’t put your machine in the closet. Everyone should sew.”