The fabric masks made by Sam an Seb for health NGO TB/HIV Care

What started out as a donation to health NGO TB/HIV Care staff has turned into a bigger project to distribute fabric masks.

About 1 000 colourful, reusable material masks have been donated to TB/HIV Care, who in turn distribute the masks to clients.

Sam and Seb, a children’s clothing company which trades at the Watershed at the V&A Waterfront, has suffered a blow to business since the national lockdown to curb Covid-19 started on Friday March 27.

Owner of Sam and Seb, Amanda Williamson, said the trade tumbled dramatically as tourists disappeared when the borders closed.

Ms Williamson, who lives in Salt River, shares a building with TB/HIV Care’s Cape Metro Key Populations Programme. A discussion with Cape Town site manager, Yolaan Andrews, about safe practice during lockdown led to the start of the free mask project.

“As frontline workers they needed to continue in the field through the lockdown, and because we live here alongside them as a family we needed to be safe. She told us about how they had a shortage of masks, and I offered to sew some for them, according to their specs.”

TB/HIV Care communications manager, Alison Best, said a template of a non-surgical cloth mask was provided and advised that the fabric mask should be double layered and have a pocket so that one could place a breathable filter inside.

By the end of March, the first batch of masks were made available, and donations from the community ensured that more masks could be produced.

Ms Williamson said she initially used material from orders that were cancelled. “The masks are made of African wax print, are good quality, and they are beautiful – which makes people want to wear them.”

The mask is made with a pocket for a filter, which is made from dried wet wipes or tissue paper, that should be removed after every use.

She cut the patterns herself, and with her essential service permit, distributed it to her seamstresses at their homes in Athlone and Mitchell’s Plain to sew. “I started doing it out of my own pocket, but we received generous donations to make more.”

The fabric masks started catching the eye of individuals, and Ms Williamson started selling to the public as well – however, she says, to keep the free mask project running, she made a deal with her individual clients: For every 10 masks sold, two can be donated to TB/HIV Care.

“The fabric masks protect everyone in the room. Also, there’s no point in buying a mask just for yourself – if you’re wearing a mask, I’m protected and vice versa,” said Ms Williamson.

She said people ordering and buying masks for them and their families are keeping the project afloat for now, and they were approached to assist TB HIV Care’s Key Populations Programme sites in the North West Province, and 500 masks will be sent to Mpumalanga this week.

Ms Williamson’s staff members have returned to work and are now assisting with the production of masks.

She said they are taking all the necessary precautions, practising social distancing, and wearing masks all day. “It is lovely that my sewers have work and they are very grateful for that.”

She said they are unclear when the business will open again.

To buy masks or to support the project, visit