Tamworth, Gunnedah retailers tell of elastic shortage after NSW government recommends mask-wearing

DEMAND: Inspiration Cafe owner Peter Bell has fielded a number of calls from mask-makers in search of elastic. Photo: Jacinta Dickins
DEMAND: Inspiration Cafe owner Peter Bell has fielded a number of calls from mask-makers in search of elastic. Photo: Jacinta Dickins

As new recommendations on mask wearing from the state government kick in, there are fears mask making supplies won't stretch far enough.

In two NSW New England locations - Tamworth and Gunnedah - one particular supply is starting to run dry: elastic.

Peter Bell from Tamworth's Inspirations Cafe said they had fielded quite a number of calls already this week asking if they stocked elastic.

"We don't, but the number of calls received is certainly an indication of how many people are looking to buy it," Mr Bell said.

People are getting innovative however, with many telling him they'd bought hair bands and ties, stretchy material and a variety of alternatives to make the snap.

He had also seen a fair few people coming in to buy material for beautiful mask designs, however in particular noticed how many sewing machines he had sold.

"People have been buying the machines up to make them themselves," he explained.

"We don't make them here, except to donate them to Rotary, but maybe if things go they way they go we may have to look at an alternative."

Kathie Spence from Fashion Fabrics has been amazed at how many people are coming in to buy material for face masks.

She said the demand had already spiked in the wake of chain stores like Woolworths announcing late last week their request for customers to wear the masks.

"Every customer I've had this morning has been buying something for mask making," Ms Spence said.

PREPARED: Fashion Fabrics' Kathie Spence says elastic is in short supply, with everyone preparing for the possibility of mandatory mask wearing. Photo: Vanessa Hohnke

PREPARED: Fashion Fabrics' Kathie Spence says elastic is in short supply, with everyone preparing for the possibility of mandatory mask wearing. Photo: Vanessa Hohnke

She says the frenzy may resemble the toilet paper panic-buying of the early pandemic, especially if the new recommendations do become hard and fast rules.

Elastic may become the new loo rolls, she reckons.

She's sold 150 metres in three days, has ordered another 200 metres, and is considering another order.

"Our biggest issue is that we can't get elastic. I can only by 3mm black elastic, there is no 6mm elastic in Australia in any stores," she said.

"I think the other thing people think it is inevitable that we will get to that point Victoria is in. Everyone is getting prepared so that they don't get caught short."

The demand has been so high, the store will be hosting workshops to show people how they can make their own mask this Sunday and Monday.

Woolworths announced all customers and staff in their stores, including Dan Murphy's, Big W and BWS, are "strongly encouraged" to wear masks.

This story Is elastic about to become the new toilet paper? first appeared on The Northern Daily Leader.