A few months ago, Ashburn electrical engineer Dina Qureshi bought a sewing machine to fulfill her longtime goal of making herself a dress, but she ended up leaving it in the closet for several weeks.
"I never put it to use," Qureshi told the Times-Mirror. "I didn't get a chance to take any sewing classes, and I'd never sewn anything before."
However, when she heard local health care providers were in need of personal protective equipment due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she was finally motivated to remove the machine from storage and learn a new skill.
"I just decided to take it out and learn how to make masks," she said.
Lucky for Qureshi, she had stocked up on fabric before local stores began closing. She saw so many colors and patterns available that she could not decide which she preferred, so she bought multiple.
Those purchases have served her new hobby well: So far, Qureshi has sewn more than 120 masks and donated them to local hospitals.
"[My output] depends on my workday, because I am still working full-time with Dominion Energy," she said. "I can make eight to nine masks per day."
Each quarter-yard of fabric yields two masks, and she uses ribbons for the ties, as elastic has sold out in many places. The masks Qureshi has created feature a variety of fun patterns, from the American flag and polka dots to the Batman and Star Wars logos.
"I just try to kind of put as many colors as I can. These are hard times for everyone, so if I can pick a pattern that will put a smile on someone's face, I will try to do that," she said.
Last week she donated 70 of her masks to Inova Loudoun Hospital and the remaining 50 to Mary Washington Hospital in Fredericksburg. She stays updated and checks which hospitals are still accepting homemade PPE, which Inova stopped doing after she made last week's delivery.
Her rate of output already impressive, Qureshi does not plan to cease her new hobby anytime soon. Atop the satisfaction of having learned a new skill, the gratitude of medical workers who receive her donations keep her motivated to continue.
"It's very rewarding," she said. "It takes everyone's help to get over this difficult time, so whatever I can do, I'm more than happy to do it."