Putting a good face on things

I’ve set up a bit of a production line.

I have a nephew who lives in Melbourne, Victoria. Residents of that city are now required to wear a mask in all public places unless they obtain a medical exemption certificate. It’s not optional, not discretionary. My nephew’s been buying single-use surgical masks, using them once and throwing them out. Aside from the cost implication, the waste irks me severely. I have seen photos where a snowdrift of discarded masks has blown about. Those things contain polypropylene, they get into waterways, cause environmental damage… it’s a Bad Thing. So I offered to make him a few cloth ones that he can launder and use again. Quite apart from the cost and environmental issues, these will look a lot better!

Then I told his mother, my sister, who lives in northern New South Wales. So far, her area’s Covid-free, but she’s older, her husband’s health is not great, and the time may soon come when they are asked to wear masks too. She asked if I’d mind making some for her and my brother-in-law too. Well, sure! By this time, I have the process down to an art and can crank one out from scratch in 20 minutes, curved seams, topstitching and all.

I’ve drawn myself a new pattern. The one I had before was a bit too snug across the nose. I think it was designed for dainty Asian noses, rather than my increasingly aquiline honker. This new one also comes higher at the ear so there’s less pressure on the elastic loop around the ear, and further across the cheek. I find it quite comfortable, even after prolonged wear. I’ve also simplified the construction process; the channel for the elastic is now simply the end of the mask folded in by half an inch and stitched down. It’s thicker – but quicker!

Luckily my stash had sufficient quantities of both batik and fat quarters in quiet dark colours for the blokes, and that increasingly rare commodity – elastic! I think my sister will enjoy the patterned ones and the slightly brighter colours for hers. I use good quality quilting cotton on the outside and tightly-woven batik for the lining. I treat the outer surface with a light coating of Scotchgard® Fabric & Upholstery Protector to make it more waterproof. The stuff is safe for use on clothing, and I don’t use it on the inside, next to the skin, so there should be no problem with irritation. You’d probably need to reapply it after a couple of washes, but as they’re now telling us that masks would ideally contain a waterproof fabric on the outside (and most waterproof fabrics aren’t that breathable), this seemed like a good solution. So, 10 masks done, dusted and (almost) delivered. They are now in the tender care of Australia Post…

Now that mask-making duty is over, I can crack on with finally making my F2F blocks. Hurray!

38 thoughts on “Putting a good face on things

  1. Job well done!
    ‘Aquiline honker’ made me laugh out loud!

    • katechiconi says:

      I used to have a much more recessive nose, but the older I get, the bumpier the bridge becomes. My mother had an impressive nose; not outsized, but assertive. I’m getting more and more like her…

  2. Emmely says:

    Looking good! The number of new cases here was looking good for a while but the past couple of weeks it’s rising again. So far masks are only mandatory in public transport (which we are not using right now) but I would not be surprised if we’ll have to wear them in more places if numbers don’t go down again soon. I have some fabric laundered already and will make some just in case we’ll need them.

    • katechiconi says:

      Same here… We were congratulating ourselves on how well we’d done. All it took was a few people being selfish and careless and the demon has its teeth back into us. I hope you won’t need yours.

  3. nanacathy2 says:

    Nice masks, I just detest them intensely.

    • katechiconi says:

      I just feel that the inconvenience and discomfort are outweighed by the benefit to other people. It’s a small price to pay if it makes a dent in the statistics.

  4. Sharon says:

    Great job on the mask production, 20 mins 🙂 awesome. Here where I am in our county of Washington state of US – masks are mandatory in all public places. So many people are opposed to the ‘mandatory’ implications of this as it becomes more and more common, that it is mediatory and not up to the individual. I totally agree its a small price to pay to try and stop this virus.

    • katechiconi says:

      To be honest, it seems like a no-brainer to me; you wear the mask to protect yourself and others. Why is that a problem? Are you really so selfish that your personal freedom to go maskless is more important than the possibility that you might infect dozens of others, or that you yourself might be infected? Yes, it’s a pain the backside to wear one, it’s uncomfortable, isolating and reduces communication, but really, why take chances?

  5. tialys says:

    I’ve also just made some more masks as we have to wear them now in the interiors of all public places. i also hate the idea that we have regressed into single use plastic and would rather make my own out of fabric. However, I did hear – although it might be fake news – that a couple of airlines, I think Air France was one of them, are insisting that passengers wear approved, non-fabric masks 😒
    Like Cathy I absolutely detest them and not just because they are not the most comfortable thing to wear, especially in the heat but mostly because I can’t hear what people are saying properly, they can’t hear me and, even worse, you can’t see their expression. Casual social interaction as we knew it is dead. I know it has to be and we’ll just have to put up with it but I now put off going out anywhere where I’ll have to be inside apart from the supermarket if desperate and I’m in and out of there like a rat up a drainpipe. When I’m back in England I won’t even do that, I’ll order my shopping online.
    On the plus side, no need to put on any make up apart from perhaps some mascara. Although that doesn’t make me feel much better to be honest. Please excuse my rant – I know (assume!) it makes sense but only now, am I starting to get a bit depressed about the whole thing even though I haven’t seen my daughters for 7 months. And I was doing so well…..

    • katechiconi says:

      Oh dear, I’m sorry to have set you off down a rather sad and disheartening path… I do sympathise; as you know, my nearest family is very far away, and some I’ll never see in person again. But it helps give some meaning to things knowing that I’m being useful to my friends and family, staying busy and cheerful, and making pretty things. So I’ll just carry on doing that until we come out the other side, or until the virus gets me too.

  6. magpiesue says:

    I truly admire all those who have undertaken mask-making. I have the skills and the material but haven’t made a single one yet. I’ve been purchasing and wearing my washable masks for more than ten years now I bet. All we do is replace the elastic when necessary (and that’s a chore, let me tell you!). Hubby has purchased a set of plain black masks for himself. He knows me better than to expect me to make plain black masks and he’s too conservative to wear anything else. I figure we’re doing our part to support small businesses by purchasing our masks rather than making them. That’s my story anyway. 😉

    • katechiconi says:

      Your 10 years of enforced mask wearing rather puts to shame all those who complain about having had to do it for a few months… and there are plenty of other people turning out masks for all and sundry. The trick is to get *some* people to wear them, of course…

  7. Marty K says:

    Love those masks! A friend of mine has made a few for me and I’ve ordered some (our spca had a fundraiser). I have the double-curse of the wide face as well as the honker, so it’s hard to find masks that fit comfortably and effectively. I keep saying that I’ll make some, but find other things (like the new batch of kittens!) to occupy my time. You’ve inspired me, Kate!

    I MUCH prefer the masks — even the uncomfortable ones — to the alternative, as I live in what is now the hotspot in our country. I just don’t understand why people won’t wear a mask to save someone’s life — possibly their own or that of a loved one. Even people who “feel fine” may have COVID-19 and just be asymptomatic. Those less fortunate may be looking at long hospital stays, hooked up to ventilators and STILL be frantically gasping for air like a fish out of water. The descriptions from patients and medical personnel that I’ve read and heard sound absolutely horrific and terrifying!

    If a little piece of cloth can keep that from happening to me or my fellow travelers on this planet, I will cheerfully wear mine, stay home whenever possible, and wash my damn hands! We have all sorts of laws and regulations on the books for the public good. Of course, people freaked out when “buckle up” seat belt laws and helmet laws came into being. smdh

    • katechiconi says:

      I agree on all points. A mask that fits is a good motivator to wear one, I find, and now that I have one that fits better, I’m more comfortable keeping it on. It’s sad that people need to be told they have to wear a mask. Clearly altruism isn’t enough; if they’re so selfish that their personal freedom is more important than risking the health of others then there’s not much hope for the human race, and I wouldn’t want to know anyone who does that. We’re currently have a rash of attention seekers who go into stores without a mask, are stopped and then start bullying and threatening the staff with all sorts of bogus ‘legal’ rants, all of which have subsequently been shown to be utter nonsense. They film themselves and post it to FB and bang on about their pet conspiracy theories. I’d like to put them in a room with a bunch of Covid-19 patients, unprotected, and make them stay there till they have it too. Grrrr

  8. Yours are really snazzy. The masks I’ve been making are lined with a very soft vintage bed sheet, plain white, because I’ve gotten so deep in my fabric stash that I’m running out of cotton. Two cedar chests of fabric but few are cotton!

    • katechiconi says:

      Yours sound lovely and comfortable, and much more enticing to wear than most I’ve seen. I still have plenty of fabric, but I’m running out of the densely-woven batiks I like to use for the linings for extra protection. And as a quilter, of course, most of my stash is cotton. I may have to do a mercy-dash to my favourite quilt shop for a couple of metres of batik. Something conservative, I think, so it would suit men too. At least my bright pinks and oranges are safe!

  9. Your masks are fabulous, and I’m impressed at the efficiency of your production. Sunday week ago rising numbers south of the border and within our own rattled me enough to spend the afternoon ordering washable 4 layer masks with vents (‘cos I doubt I would be able to comfortably wear em’ otherwise) and N95 filter inserts. I had a small emergency stash of disposable masks left over from Swine Flu times but decided they would be best for emergency use for my 87 year old MiL and her 90 yo husband… and our DiL is going to send up a bundle for them too. I would prefer them and us to stay safe at home but at least if the situation deteriorates as I fear it will, we’ll be covered literally when we must go out… hopefully not much. On the fun side I also bought some cool bandana/durags to give extra coverage to the G.O.’s bearded face, which in -fingers crossed- better times we’ll be able to wear when we ride.

    • katechiconi says:

      I’d pay good money to see the G.O. in full regalia… It makes me wonder if the time will come when everyone wears either a positive pressure bubble helmet or else nose plugs with a nano-filter small enough to catch viruses. Sounds like science fiction, but then, so does a global pandemic…

  10. anne54 says:

    I have been mask making too, as they are very difficult to get here in Melbourne. I am getting used to wearing them, although I feel sympathy for Tialys. I find interactions very difficult, compounded by the blasted fogging up of my glasses. Often it is easier to stay at home. It is also difficult to breathe when I walk fast. So, I have decided that when I go for my fast walks I will wear a disposable mask, and the material ones at all other times. I do reuse the disposable ones over a few days, and then I cannibalise the parts for my material ones. The ear loops are much more comfortable than elastic, and the nose thingy nice and long.
    One more argument for those who feel they have a right not to wear masks….think of the people who are organising funerals for loved ones who have died awful deaths on ventilators, away from everyone who loves them.

    • katechiconi says:

      Everyone has to mask the best way they can, enough to be safe and comfortable. I just hate the idea of all that plastic making its way into the environment after we’ve all been trying so hard to reduce.

  11. I’m one of the lucky ones who has Kate’s hand made masks. It came to me before masks became mandatory in Victoria and I’m very happy to use them as it makes me feel safe …
    I’m sure your nephew and you sis will also be thankful and grateful to u for these as I am 😍

    • katechiconi says:

      You’re welcome, my lovely. Let me know if you’d like any from the new pattern, which are a bit roomier.

      • So far I’m all good. My one has very limited use as I’m always at home. As I’m having groceries delivered as well I rarely go out….. besides my bones hurting from the cold 😃
        Looks like we will come up north to u guys once we retire Nd spend the cold months with u in the lovely warmth of QLD 🤩
        On slightly better news there’s 295 cases yesterday… by far the lowest in 2 weeks… hopefully we have crested and it’s going to go down …. but it’s a waiting game

      • katechiconi says:

        So…. how long do we have to wait for a visit? Fingers crossed the figures continue to go down.

      • At the moment no idea at all …. now NSW figures are rising but they are at least using our debacle as a heads up on what to do to contain & apparently QLD has a few more as well !!!

  12. We’ve been in masks since the beginning of April. Not optional. The variety available in SA is extraordinary. They’ve almost become a fashion accessory.

    • katechiconi says:

      We’ve been very lucky, we got through the first wave without them, but now that we’re deep into community transmission it’s mandatory in the hot spots. I’m bombarded all the time with online mask ads, most of them a bit, well, meh. I’d like to have them colour co-ordinating with my outfits, made from gorgeous fabrics, generally have them as an asset rather than an impediment.

      • One of the problems associated with wearing masks is that it’s incredibly difficult for criminals to be identified in CCTV footage. This is unlikely to be a problem where you live, but over here crime is very rapidly on the increase. It makes life just that bit easier for the bad guys. A friend of mine was assaulted in a supermarket recently, but it was impossible for her to identify the two perpetrators for that very reason.

      • katechiconi says:

        Yes, I can see it would be much, much harder. I’m not sure our crims have caught on yet…

  13. cedar51 says:

    I’m reading your posts and others on this matter…but I find it very difficult to make a good sounding reply as I’m in New Zealand, where it is all very different…

    • katechiconi says:

      So far, it hasn’t really happened to us either, so far north of all the bad stuff. But I do want to help people who have to live with the fear of infection.

  14. We hardly wore our masks when we were in lockdown, but now things are easing and we are swamped with tourists, we are using them for all shopping trips. I make mine with an additional layer of iron-on vilene – still easy enough to breathe through, but an extra layer without gaps between the weave.
    I hope that your family down in Victoria/NSW are staying safe and well – it’s such a worrying time.

    • katechiconi says:

      It’s very worrying. The inherent stupidity and selfishness of some is thrown into sharp contrast by the wonderful grit and dedication shown by those who are caring for the sick, guarding the borders and managing the fractious public in our shops. Victoria is super-scary in the way the figures keep climbing, and it will not surprise me to see Queensland’s borders slam closed again soon…

      • I despair – yesterday I went to a lovely local shop (where they have been super-helpful and careful over the last 5 months) with a sign at the door saying 4 customers only in the shop at any one time. As I arrived a family of 5 were walking straight in. The staff had to ask them to leave, but even so the two adults went in and moved around as if there was no need for caution… the remaining customers and staff had to take evasive action. It was all so selfish and unnecessary. I’m starting to find it much more stressful to go shopping than previously. I am, however, enjoying meeting with my friends – carefully distanced and in outdoor spaces.

      • katechiconi says:

        So many people feel that rules shouldn’t apply to them, for some unknown reason. I seriously wish there was a way of naming and shaming, or ensuring that they were de-prioritised when vaccination is handed out. They have to learn that selfishness has consequences and that the burden of responsibility is not just for every one else to carry. No mask? No ventilator. Yes, OK, that’s too drastic, but if you refuse a mask and say you don’t believe in the virus, then you surely can’t require treatment if you become ill…?

  15. kymlucas says:

    As always, your results are beautiful. We have been wearing masks in any enclosed area since March, though the county-wide mana date for our county has been in effect for just a week or so, and the governor last week mandated a state-wide mandate. I am so lucky to have a good friend who made us several, including ones with bee fabric!

    • katechiconi says:

      I spent a few hours yesterday updating the elastic on the Husband’s because it was too snug for long term wear. I also sewed in a wire nose strip salvaged from a disposable mask. Ours are washable, not throwaway, but I think the wire will survive the laundry. Love the sound of your bee fabric version. I’m making sure each one has a layer of batik fabric, and I’m Scotchgarding the outside; experimentation showed it really does help make them less water-permeable.

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