With supplies of face masks dwindling due to the spread of the new coronavirus, many people in Japan have started making their own, boosting sales of sewing machines.
Japanese mothers usually buy sewing machines at the end of March to sew fabric bags for their children in time for the start of classes at nursery and elementary schools in April. But even after April, the popularity of sewing machines is showing no signs of waning.
Some companies are also stepping up efforts to encourage people to start sewing by teaching online the basics of do-it-yourself masks.
Nagoya-based Brother Sales Ltd. saw a 30 percent rise in orders for sewing machines between February and March compared with the previous year.
The company's website that allows users to download mask patterns saw views surge to 50,000 from March to early April, up by 500 times from a year earlier.
With the number of views for its products beyond April continuing to rise by about 2.5 times from the previous year, Brother Sales made additional orders to its parent company, Brother Industries Ltd., which handles manufacturing.
"Although the situation is different from last year when there was no coronavirus, I never imagined (sales) could increase this much. Not only the middle-aged and elderly people, but many young mothers are also making purchases," said a Brother Sales official.
Janome Sewing Machine Co., headquartered in Tokyo, saw sales rise by 20 percent between March and early April from the previous year. The company said many customers bought entry-level sewing machines that cost 50,000 yen ($464) or less, but higher-priced models at 100,000 yen or more are also seeing brisk sales.
As face mask making is popular on social media, "inquiries are increasing on how to use old sewing machines that haven't been touched in a long time," said a company official.
As many people are complying with stay-at-home requests amid the pandemic, the Brother Sales official expressed hope that more would take an interest in sewing machines "not only to make masks but to create a variety of items."