KI Farmers Market

Spunkwear associate Stacy Castle and owner Sheilah Ruppert sell lightweight protective masks Thursday afternoon, May 21, at the Kent Island Farmers Market in the parking lot at Cult Classic Brewing Co. in Stevensville.

STEVENSVILLE — Originally closed as a nonessential business by the stay-at-home directive given by Gov. Larry Hogan in mid-March, Spunkwear, a small business clothing line headquartered in Stevensville, was permitted to reopen during the third week of April to make protective face masks.

Spunkwear owner and founder Sheilah Ruppert said, “We already had the material needed to make the masks, and I received permission to reopen our factory to make the masks.”

She had designed printed fabrics for this season’s clothing line when production came to a halt after her Pennsylvania factory shut down.

Ruppert said she had to switch gears and get creative.

“Along with every other quarantined sewer, I began making masks from my stash of quilt fabrics,” she said. “I was also stitching buttons onto Spunkwear headbands and donating them to nurses whose ears were rubbed raw from the elastic on their masks. After daily requests from our customer base, I finally designed a comfortable mask using some leftover Spunkwear prints on board short fabric. With the help of a local stitcher, we would produce about 200 a day, which would sell out on our website within an hour.”

When the factory in Pennsylvania reopened for “essential” goods only, Spunkwear’s mask production ramped up, and the sales of Ruppert’s masks and neck gaiters took off.

Spunkwear has made thousands of masks using stylish patterns and bright colors, everything from the Maryland state flag to steamed crab pattern designs on a blue background.

“Turns out, our soft, quick drying, nylon/spandex fabric, makes the most comfortable and breathable mask around,” Ruppert said.

Spunkwear’s popularity began after Ruppert designed a simple spandex dress with a sports bra top and an A-line skirt. She wore the dress to a weekend-long lacrosse tournament, where she sold her goods from a tent. Requests from players’ mothers to buy similar dresses lead to the beginning of her women’s apparel line. With teams from around the country attending the huge Maryland summer lacrosse tournaments, website sales spiked when moms returned home and showed friends their Spunkwear dresses.

Brand recognition came quickly, and Spunkwear grew to include a dozen dress styles, skorts, tops, pants, tights and accessories — all in high demand with female lacrosse, field hockey and soccer players and their moms. The line also is sold under the wholesale label Southwind Apparel.

A portion of all mask sales goes to Haven Ministries, a local nonprofit, that feeds, clothes and shelters the needy.

Spunkwear is in the Chesapeake Bay Business Park at 235 Log Canoe Circle, Suite N, Stevensville.

For more information, or to make an appointment to stop by, call 443-249-3006 or email sheilah@spunkwear.com.

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