Best Locally Designed Masks: Knotzland | Pittsburgh City Paper

Best Locally Designed Masks: Knotzland

click to enlarge Best Locally Designed Masks: Knotzland
CP Photo: Jared Wickerham
Nisha Backwell, owner of Knotzland
Since 2014, Knotzland has been gracing the necks of fashionable people with its bespoke bow ties made from recycled fabrics. When COVID-19 hit, the Wilkinsburg-based business quickly shifted gears to create thousands of face masks that combine functionality with eye-catching designs. And now, Pittsburgh City Paper readers have voted Knotzland as the winner in the Best Locally Designed Masks category. Knotzland founder Nisha Blackwell says the win came as a bit of a surprise.

“While extremely grateful, we actually didn't realize that we were nominated and [were] pretty in the weeds mask-making at the time and couldn't put much into promotion of our nomination,” says Blackwell. “So this win truly feels like our community and supporters uplifted us to this.”

She says Knotzland started making masks back in March when the outbreak reached pandemic proportions and people were scrambling to get protective gear. To keep up with the demand, she and her team formed the (mask) Makers PGH collective, through which 300 volunteers worked to provide masks for “community members who had low to no access to them and also those who are at higher risk.”

As of now, she says they have given away 8,500 masks to people in the community. She adds that Knotzland currently has 22 people working remotely around the region to continue making masks from their homes. In addition, Knotzland has sold around 5,000 masks, which come individually or in colorful bundles. Blackwell says custom mask orders, including requests for corporate gifts and weddings, have been “increasing each week.”

The masks, she says, are made from donated fabric that came from quilters or from local organizations like the Center for Creative Reuse.

Blackwell says the response from customers has been overwhelming.

“I love sharing the story about one of our customers who purchases masks to go with her church outfits and is currently commissioning us to select some for her fall jackets,” says Blackwell.

Knotzland. 303 S. Trenton Ave., Wilkinsburg