Muffled, not silent

Slight change of direction, then.

Up to this point, we’ve been told that only virus patients and their nursing/medical carers need to wear a surgical mask. Despite that, shelves have been stripped of them. A Chinese-owned property company here in Australia quietly bought up hundreds of thousands of masks, gloves, hand sanitiser, etc, and exported them back to China. I’m glad they did, or the infection rate would have been far worse, but it did leave Australia unexpectedly a bit short. To get to the point; new research indicates that droplet and aerosol infection from the virus can actually reach far further than originally suspected, up to 8 metres (26 feet) in some cases! Which means that social distancing is not really the safeguard we’d all hoped for. Many argue that only a properly fitted N95 filtration mask as worn by medical professionals is effective. However, despite the massive increase in mask production, we will run out if everyone has to wear one, and wear it correctly. The US Centers for Disease Control have stipulated that if correct Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) is not available, then home made masks are better than no masks.

I’ll take that.

Mask as fashion statement? Muffled, but by no means silent!

So far, I’ve made two for myself and three for the Husband. He does, after all, go out in public more than I do. I plan to have one for every day of the week for him, so they can be well-laundered between wearings. The pattern is from Craft Passion, and there is a long how-to as well as a downloadable pdf of the mask in 4 different sizes. The mask fits snugly around the face and under the chin, and there’s an option for adding an additional layer inside for extra filtration. You can fit the elastic so it goes around your ears in two loops, or two bands round the back of the head (which I personally find easier on the ears). It’s comfortable, not too hot, and because it’s shaped, better than just tying a hankie or bandanna around your face. As you can see, it’s also possible to make them to co-ordinate with your outfits, teehee!

Something a bit more neutral for the Husband….

I made a card template of the pattern to avoid the palaver of tracing paper, etc, in the instructions. I draw around it with biro on the back of my fabric to give me a correct sewing line. There’s nothing difficult about it. It helps if you are neat-fingered when pressing and top-stitching, but if you’re not fussed about straight stitch lines, it’s not important. You could get creative and decorate them for kids with animal faces, big smiles, etc.

I’m expecting an announcement soon that we should all wear masks in public places. When it comes, we’ll be ready. Given what I’ve read, I’m thinking I should wear one without waiting for any announcement, as my immune system is not very effective any more.

The smiles on the faces of our neighbours may be hidden, but we’ll know they’re there.

68 thoughts on “Muffled, not silent

  1. jeanswenson says:

    Tres chic! A fashion statement indeed 😊
    I too have been making facemasks for family members, moreso the past week with both Los Angeles County and the CDC strongly encouraging everyone to wear one when out in public. So, even though our President has no plans to lead by example, I have every intention of continuing to wear mine when I have to make trips to get groceries 😃

    • katechiconi says:

      I think the only reason they haven’t yet got people wearing them here is that our shortage of correct PPE is not yet as critical as in the US, and they’re worried about people wearing them for too long, or putting contaminated fingers underneath them…

  2. Today I went shopping for the first time since all this started and I was surprised how blasé some people were about staying 2m apart… stepping right up to staff in the shop, leaving a basket on the floor and keeping returning to it no matter whether another shopper was nearby. I felt sorry for the staff in the shop who were busily disinfecting card readers, shopping baskets etc and trying to persuade people that respecting the markings on the floor to ensure distances were maintained was essential. I shall, therefore, be following your lead and making some face masks. Did you use cotton for yours? I’m guessing that would be best as it can be washed nice and hot.

    • katechiconi says:

      I think our supermarket shoppers are getting the idea, especially since the introduction of security guards to enforce the distance! I used tightly woven cotton – sheeting would be perfect, the higher the thread count the better. If you’re going to boil wash, I’d recommend using tapes rather than elastic. There is also some suggestion that you can nuke the virus in the microwave to kill it:
      Personally, I’d rather not put anything potentially germy in my microwave, but I suppose if I had a spare….

      • Our spare microwave is currently in Reading, so it will be hot washes. I’ve downloaded the pattern, so that might be my job for tomorrow… the mend for Mend It Monday might have to wait this week.

      • katechiconi says:

        Oh no! Just as I finally got a Mend ready for tomorrow! But I’m glad you’re going to make some masks. I find the women’s size comfy, and the Husband finds the men’s size snug but bearable. Is Mr Snail still in his winter plumage?If so, he may need an adjustment to achieve the extra space needed…

      • He left his beard trimmer in Reading – when he came home he thought he’d be back down there a few days later… and that was 3 weeks ago! So earlier this week he went straight from winter to summer plumage because he does have his electric razor at home. It’s probably for the best – less hair to trap any pesky viruses, plus more comfortable wearing of face masks.

      • katechiconi says:

        Oh good! Fitting the mask will be much easier.

      • Oh, and perhaps I’ll write about an old mend… maybe the teapot lid, which is an impressive Sugru mend.

      • katechiconi says:

        Oh, that sounds interesting!

  3. I will make one for me as like you I don’t go out much … hubby though can’t be that chic’ coz of his job and needs a new one each place he goes to as is his gloves

  4. Your background is glorious 😍

  5. Terri says:

    I’ve been sewing masks too. A request from the nursing home where my parents are living got me started. My first test mask I kept and have been wearing since yesterday. The CDC here in the USA recommends wearing a mask now. The mask pattern I got from a local hospital is pleated in the front and ties in the back. Pretty easy to make.

    • katechiconi says:

      I had a look at one of those, and I worry that the gaps around the sides might let a fair bit through. I like the pattern I use because it fits very snugly to the face and is double-layered. The theory is that you should change them once the cloth gets damp from exhaled vapour, as virus particles can migrate through the moisture to the inside. So I’ll be making a lot more!

  6. Dayphoto says:

    I hope this stuff peaks soon. I heard from some medical personnel that they are now thinking it has been here since November.

  7. Susan Nixon says:

    Oooh, you have elastic! Even hair bands have run out around here. You look tres chic!

    • katechiconi says:

      The drive to make masks hasn’t really taken off here, as our PPE supplies were adequate and the government’s medical advice to the public has mostly been not to wear them… As a result, we haven’t run out of elastic – yet! Also, my LQS held back some packs of quarter inch elastic for me when I asked them, so I should be OK for a bit. I think this pattern would be fine with ties, though…
      I love the idea of making them to match various outfits. Very trivial of me, I’m sure, but colour is such a huge part of my life!

  8. I did read something about making masks out of those hepa vacuum bags as they have to meet the 99.9% criteria …. I confess to not taking a great deal of notice of it at the time and now can’t recall where I saw it. Which is typical of a shut in who doesn’t feel the need to wear a mask! Personally I’d go for the coordinated look myself 🙂

    • katechiconi says:

      That would make sense, but the only Hepa filters I can see online are built into plastic filters and wouldn’t render enough material to make a mask… Thanks for the idea, though, I’ll carry on looking!

  9. magpiesue says:

    I’m beginning to wonder if I need to make a cover for my regular mask since we have now been encouraged to wear masks in public. I only take the filters out of mine and launder the cover on occasion. Might have to step that up a bit now, and maybe make new covers to boot. Can’t say I’m excited at the prospect.

    • katechiconi says:

      No, I can understand that. Masks are fine while they’re still novel, but once we’ve had to wear them a while, we’ll be pretty sick of them. I’m hoping that a variety of colour schemes will help me stick with it…

  10. Kate, you’re a wonder. I looked at a few face mask patterns early on, but they were not nearly as clever as this one. I would really like to make some for family and friends. I don’t have much fabric lying around, but if I can order online, I will follow your lead and get sewing.

    As for the wearing of masks, we can’t seem to get it right here. Originally they said no, now they are suggesting yes and we wore gloves, too.. We shopped today wearing the only two masks we have, a pair of N95 masks that we’ve had in the garage for years. Mike probably bought a pack of five once for a project under the house. They are hot and uncomfortable but effective. I take the masks outside when we get home and leave them in the sun. The idea of wash and wear makes good sense. Thank you!

    • katechiconi says:

      If you’ll take a practical suggestion, order batiks. The fabric is finer and more tightly woven than most dress or quilting fabrics, which makes it a better option for filters. High thread count sheeting is also tightly woven, so if you have some old 900+ thread count sheets you don’t mind cutting into, that would do well too.
      The sun is a good disinfectant, but I’m not sure if it kills the virus. We have a current news story about how a common anti-parasite drug for animals has been shown to kill the virus. Perhaps a bucket of sheep-dip and then sun-drying is the way to go!

      • I will always take a practical suggestion. They’re my favorite kind!

        Now where do you suppose a suburban woman can find sheep-dip? 😉

        I’ll see about the batik. I do have a spare sheet but I doubt the thread count is that high.

        Thanks for the link. How’s this for snark. I hope ANY country but the US comes up with a treatment, vaccine or cure. I could not bear it if the Orange One took credit.

      • katechiconi says:

        It wasn’t a serious suggestion, but if you’re willing to give it a go, try your local veterinarian! What you’re after is Invermectin. I don’t know if you have an agricultural supply place locally; there’s one in every town in Australia, but things are different there…
        I believe we’re testing a couple of vaccine options. I know it was on the news here that a company in Germany was developing a vaccine and the Orange One tried to buy the company so that its output could be diverted away from Germany and exclusively to the US. The German government confirmed the report, but the company later denied it, although its US citizen CEO, who’d attended a White House briefing at which he presumably entertained this offer, subsequently departed the company in a big hurry…

      • He’s such a despicable human being, putting profit before people, and ego above everything else. I remember hearing about this, but it becomes just one of a million indiscretions at the hands of this monster. What’s one more? 😦

      • katechiconi says:

        Friends of the American people watch with horror as the mismanagement rolls on inexorably: Coronavirus is a hoax; it’s just another flu; millions of testing kits will be available; we can’t lock down, it’ll ruin the economy; back in business by Easter; no, I won’t wear a mask. Just waiting to see what other gems of wisdom are handed down by one now so manifestly unfit to lead a nation at war with an invisible enemy.

  11. kymlucas says:

    US CDC just came out saying we should all be wearing them. So I’ve begun, not so much to protect myself, but others, since I work with the public. Working in a grocery store, I – along with my coworkers – just operate on the assumption of having been exposed. My friend made some and gave me a couple – out of a fabric patterned with bees.

  12. tialys says:

    I only go out once a week – maximum – for shopping and it is very ‘unbusy’ here but maybe I’ll make one anyway. Mr. T. is busy making a leather ‘plague mask’ – you know one that doctors wore back in the 17th century with the long pointy nose. He’s been keen to buy the pattern for it for ages from a guy who makes costumes and steampunk stuff but, for fun, hopefully he’s not going to wear the thing. I can just imagine all 6’4″ of him wandering around the supermarket in a plague mask – that should empty the place.

  13. Cheers Kate. I’ll send a link to my re-purposing pal – she’s making button headbands at the moment (I just ordered half a dozen for my nursing niece) but I can imagine she might like to make a few of these too. Thanks for sharing.

    • katechiconi says:

      Tell her to use high thread count old sheeting if possible, or batiks, to get the finest, tightest weave possible. Also, cotton can be hot-laundered so they can be worn, washed and worn again.

  14. claire93 says:

    I used the same pattern and made a batch for our ladies who work in our Spar, a couple for the neighbours, 4 which I went to eldest son & girlfriend, and a batch for the husband and self ^^
    Not that we go out much but there’s talk of what happenes when the deconfinement happens so I’m trying to keep one step ahead.

    • katechiconi says:

      It’s a great pattern, isn’t it? Easy, but well-fitting and effective. I’ve just made some for the husband of a friend in Melbourne; she is immune suppressed and he’s still working, so he can wear them at work, along with gloves.

  15. claire93 says:

    that was “sent” not “went”

  16. cazinatutu says:

    Someone posted a comparison chart of different types of mask on a group I belong to. It suggested that DIY cotton masks were pretty useless against viruses, but 50% effective against bacteria and dust. Personally at the moment I think any mask is probably better than no mask. I’m fortunate that my dear darling son had some FFP3 masks that he’d bought way back in SARS time and squirreled away in the garage.

  17. I have only seen 2 people wearing maks around here – they were in a council lorry delivering a compost bin to a local house! Most of the places I go to shop have an order and collect system so there is no contact with staff and other shoppers seem to be being careful to maintain distance. If/ when I have to go to a supermarket I may have to think about a mask.

  18. anne54 says:

    Thanks for the links and the advice, Kate. I fancy making some too, and I will raid the linen cupboard. I knew I kept those old sheets for a good reason. ☺️ I bought a couple in the chemist and made the Fella wear it, which he did. The mask muffled some of his grumbling!

    • katechiconi says:

      Muffled, but not silent, eh? As I said elsewhere, what harm can it do? If nothing else, it will help us all feel that we’re doing whatever we can to stay safe.

  19. Thanks for the pattern, Kate. I’m glad you found it easy to make. Please let the hubby know he’s appreciated for the work he does. It’s dangerous and necessary. I know you are concerned when he’s on the road. The mask can add another layer of safety. I know you are vulnerable as well. Keep taking care.

    • katechiconi says:

      Now that we both have basic protection, I’m having fun making a few more for myself – matching my favourite shirts and tops so I can colour-coordinate, of course!

  20. On Saturday a neighbour reported that her expedition to the supermarket had been an ordeal of chaos and confusion. After a sleep restless with supermarket shopping nightmares I ventured to town this morning for the first time in 3 weeks with the thought that if things get worse, a second wave, further lockdown… a quick, well-prepared top up shop would come in handy. I donned a long sleeved shirt and jeans that would go straight into the washing machine once I got back home, work boots that stay outside, a baseball cap, a scarf that would double as a mask if necessary, took disposable gloves and hand sanitiser with me. I was prepared if I could see chaos as I drove up to our local Woolies to detour to the lesser patronised independent largish supermarket at Bellwood but at the carpark it all looked very quiet. I tucked my keys and credit card into my pocket, left my handbag in the car and walked in, was given a freshly sanitiser sprayed and wiped trolley, and joined a very quiet, small throng of people keeping a distance as they went about their shopping in the clean, orderly, well stocked supermarket. First up, at about 8.15 am I saw quite a few wearing masks ranging from full-on vented gas mask types to a man wearing a paper sanding mask which bemused me somewhat. By the time I left just before 9 am, no-one was wearing masks. I was glad I wore my disposable gloves but really, I felt quite safe. The were a few empty shelves… I thought of you… no sugar.. but I got everything I needed. Success. Despite some of the reports I think the stay safe, stay home messages are getting through to most, at least locally here. I believe if it gets so bad that masks are mandatory, even though I have some proper ones from the swine-flu days, I’ll just stay home.

    • katechiconi says:

      You know, our supermarket’s much the same, but a mask does at least prevent me touching my face in a moment of absent-mindedness. It’ll stop the worst of the splash in the event that some antisocial moron sneezes or coughs in my face. I think it’s a reasonable habit to get into if your immune system isn’t good, like mine, and no-one is taking issue with it, least of all the checkout staff, who thanked me for wearing it! I’ll stay home too, whenever I can, but sometimes, I just need to shop…

  21. Joanne S says:

    Thanks for the pattern, Kate. First, we are told to stop wearing the masks; they are not going to work. Then, we are told to wear them – but, our sage President won’t be caught wearing one. I made up a few masks this weekend for my “family.” My sister (cancer survivor with a weak immune system), my other sister’s family, 2 God-nieces, my 87 yo mom, hubby (dealing with cancer), and 2 daughter’s (cancer survivors). Cray-cray to say the least. But, I want them protected as best as I can manage.

    • katechiconi says:

      Your sage President may wake up too late, just as he’s come late to all the other disease milestones. We are not yet being told to wear masks, and I fully concede that they are not as effective as a surgical mask and much less effective than an N95, but even the tiny bit of protection they offer may be enough, and as I’ve said elsewhere, they stop me touching my face. I also put them on and off correctly, wear them only once and launder them thoroughly. Where’s the harm?

  22. […] I was inspired by Kate’s fabulous looking mask. […]

  23. […] recommended the same pattern, so that’s the one I went for. Kate Chiconi wrote about it here and then, when we were chatting via Zoom, my friend Katie (who only lives a few miles away, but […]

  24. Can’t remember if I commented about this already but chances are many have. I cut 1″ strips of soft cotton fabric to use as ties, somewhat wider if I think the mask will get heavy use. The fabric I’ve been using for this is a Jersey knit bed sheet. I pull on the strips after cutting and they curl into themselves, concealing the edges. They make soft adjustable ties for both upper and lower head positions, without strain on the ears.

    • katechiconi says:

      That’s a good option too. I had elastic, so that’s what I used, and the masks I made are only for me to use, as we have sufficient PPE here. I’m pretty sure that with long term use, your ties would be more comfortable.

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