Editor’s note: This is one in a periodic series called Stepping Up, highlighting moments of compassion, duty and community in uncertain times. Have a story we should tell? Send it via email to newstips@seattletimes.com with the subject “Stepping Up.”

Kati Nguyen of Spanaway decided to temporarily close her custom sewing island attire business even before the state ordered nonessential businesses to close because of concerns about the novel coronavirus.

She found a new use for all the fabric she had on hand: making protective masks.

“I watch and listen to the TV and the coronavirus number is up each day, and that made me worry for me and my family,” said Nguyen, who is from Vietnam. “I decided to sew masks and give to the hospitals because I know hospitals are running out of supplies and it’s very dangerous.”

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Nguyen put out a call for help, and several women joined her in the effort, working together at Nguyen’s house while wearing protective gear and adhering to social distancing guidelines.

The women, also Vietnamese and most of whom Nguyen had known previously, came from Seattle, Renton, Bellevue and Federal Way.


Other women came to get fabric, then sewed at their own homes.

Nguyen worked 12 straight days — usually joined by eight to 12 others — and made more than 10,000 masks. Most have already been distributed to local hospitals, with one of the most recent batches going to Whidbey Island.

After taking a day off, the sewing resumed at Nguyen’s house. How long will it last, she was asked.

As long as there is a need.

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