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April 25, 2020


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I am sewing WAY more masks than I expected to. Back in mid-March, a friend started making them for local nursing homes which had requested them. I eyeballed my fabric stash (ALL the print cotton napkins from Miriel and John's wedding,and coordinating solids) and decided that I didn't feel this was a call to me. But I have now made enough for several other families, and finally today managed one for Roger which fits his larger face plus full beard without steaming his glasses. Keep that machine handy. Once you start, there's no stopping...

I'm still firmly ambivalent about wearing a mask. And definitely not in the masks are terribly comfortable camp (I note that Westley's actually covers the top part of his face, NOT his nose and mouth). But our town issued the order yesterday that all employees and customers in all stores must be wearing masks. And a similar order is in place in the neighboring town where I actually buy my groceries. So masks it is.

So far I've acquired one that does fog my glasses. But it has a sleeve for a wire to go across the nose and I think I just need a firmer wire. So there's that.

I've also acquired a bunch of masks that we may not be able to use at all because I did not think when I purchased or accepted the gift of these masks that most people do not have fragrance allergies and therefore think nothing at all of washing masks in detergent that smells like flowers. So I am shocked and appalled and horrified that I am now the proud owner of 10 masks that my family may not be able to use because they smell. I suppose I can regift them to someone who doesn't mind the smell. But my kids were really looking forward to getting to use the masks with the cool StarWars fabric and cammo fabric and bird fabric (to each his or her own taste). Sigh.

And I'm still not sure how to deal with this. I really want to put our a very polite APB to all mask makers, asking them to please think about the people who might be receiving their beneficence who are asthmatic and allergic and who might be intolerant of their fragrance-laden detergents. But at the same time I don't want to be ungrateful or to make the people who have generously gifted me the bounty of their work feel bad. Do I say something? Or do I politely keep mum?

Yes, I am moderately crafty and I own a sewing machine and a stash of fabric. But... I'm not sure I want to venture into mask making. My sewing table has been buried since Lucy was a baby-- so that's seven years now since I last embarked on a project. I've been avoiding the terrible project that is cleaning out the laundry/sewing/pantry room. And angst over the pandemic is not helping me face that task with equanimity.

I hear you, Melanie! Sewing is a use-it-or-lose-it skill for me. I learned as an adult and I was struggling yesterday with clipping curves and other basic skills I haven’t used in a while. I even failed at “stitch with right sides together” at one point, which made me extremely crabby. Halloween costumes are more forgiving than masks!

I sewed my first masks out of a ripped/worn king-size fitted sheet, so I am not too worried about messing up, say, cute fabric. Plus, when I forget to put "right sides together" it doesn't really show. Now, when I forget and use the black bobbin... it's not quite so pretty, but oh well. I like both the mask you link, Jamie, and also the horizontal duck-bill (with florist wire or heavy-duty twist tie), both better than the plain rectangular tuck version, although that may be more forgiving of unknown face-sizes (except my husband's, ahem).

I made my husband 3 for work (mandatory here since... forever? Maybe 3 weeks?) and then made mine but OOPS didn't notice the pattern didn't include seam allowance, so that fit my 6yo. The size mistake was actually handy, since she's the one who broke her arm after we hunkered down, and therefore the one going out into the mask-wearing public spaces. So we have boooooring masks, all of understated green-blue pinstripe plaid, now 4 for the working guy plus one each for the healthcare-seeking mom-daughter combo.

The Deacon's Bench pointed to a recommendation for soap-water washing glasses, and then NOT rinsing but just air-drying, to give the glasses that little bit of surfactant to allow the condensation to spread and be see-through. I find, even with a bendable nose-piece, mask-wearing involves *either* fogging glasses *or* my touching the nose-piece repeatedly to reposition/repinch. On the other hand, since the goal of cloth masks is not to protect the wearer so much as keep droplets off others (like a surgical mask rather than an N95) I have decided that I'll take air leaks toward my ears rather than up into my glasses - either way, it stays near me and off others in front of me, but that way I can also see, a key safety feature :-)

Off to sew husband some more distinguished looking masks, with stash outer layer and ripped sheet relegated to the inside...once I fix the sewing machine. My 9yo made her doll a very cute mask, but as soon as she started on her own dress-up mask, the machine got all jammed up. Argh....

I have an odd question. If you aren't making a mask for a true healthcare person is there anything wrong with a tube of jersey which is way simpler to sew than rectangular double-sided masks with elastic and layers? If I'm just trying to lower exposure it seems like it would do the trick. I never see anyone except the grocery clerk behind the new plexiglass shield.

Jane, the study I saw about cutting down the exposure to others was done using t-shirts to make study-participant-designed masks. The surgical masks were 3x better, but the t-shirt masks were still 1/3 as effective as the surgical masks, and way better than nothing. Our local ordinances just specify a cloth covering over nose and mouth, and says bandannas and scarves and balaclavas all count.

Thanks. I have at least 14 positions on wearing masks. Today I saw something saying it's about compassion. Oh. I'm not into that kind of signaling. If I'm lower germ count, sure. If I'm signaling compassion. Not.

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