this thing's incredible

I’ve Made 1,200 Face Masks (and Quilts and Slippers) With This Sewing Machine

The author’s sewing machine with an in-progress quilt. Photo: Courtesy of Jessie Randall

Sewing, for me, is like drawing: A skill that allows me to create whatever I can dream up. My sculpture professor in college used to get emotional about Edward Scissorhands, saying the character is a sculptor who can’t separate from his tools. I feel that way about my sewing machine. It sits right at my dining table, like a sixth member of my family. I joke that if it weren’t for Brian, my husband and business partner in our fashion brand Loeffler Randall, I’d still be hand-making shoes in my kitchen. Even after being in the fashion business for 16 years — and just opening our first Loeffler Randall store in Soho — I find myself spending more time than ever making things at home with my Singer Quantum Stylist 9960 sewing machine.

I’ve owned several sewing machines over the years, including a superfast industrial one and a Hello Kitty machine my daughter used that was made in Japan and whisper-quiet. While neither the quietest nor the fanciest, the Quantum Stylist 9960 earned (and has kept) its seat at my table because the relatively affordable model can do so many things, including quilt, embroider, make hundreds of different stitches, and gather fabric, making it versatile enough to execute most any project I throw (sew?) at it. In my time using it, I’ve sewn no shortage of stuff, from Halloween costumes for my kids, to little gifts for friends, to a quilt from all the old bathing suits my sons grew out of, to scalloped, ruffled pillows for our new store, to scrunchies, to the prototypes of some Loeffler Randall slippers that sold out right away after we released them mid-pandemic.

Speaking of the pandemic, I also used the machine to make reusable fabric face masks — some 1,200, at last count. A bunch went to frontline workers like my neighbor Christy, a doctor in Brooklyn, and her whole team. The machine’s embroidery function allowed me to write a short message (“Thank you, hero”) inside each. Other masks I made went to friends, the older ladies from my writing group (don’t worry, we now meet on Zoom), and my family. My son Casper even got in on the effort, filming a YouTube tutorial with me to teach people how easy it is to make a lot of masks super-fast. Which brings me to my hands-down favorite feature of the machine: When you are done sewing, you can push a little button and it cuts the thread very close to the fabric. This saves so much time and thread, which is important for someone who is constantly sewing, like me, and wants to be economical with their materials. When I am sewing 30 face masks at a time or quilting, those extra thread tails really add up and are so wasteful. But the Quantum Stylist 9960 corrects that. Plus, I can move very, very quickly because stopping and starting a line of stitching on this is so easy.

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I’ve Made 1,200 Face Masks With This Sewing Machine