Face masks for medical staff — an essential component of the newly endangered Personal Protective Equipment — came into the public’s consciousness as the coronavirus pandemic took hold. On CBS’ Sunday Morning a couple of weeks ago, host Jane Pauley introduced a touching segment about one community’s collective efforts to produce masks:
Some of the most effective weapons against COVID-19 are turning out to be a needle and thread.Jane Pauley, CBS Sunday Morning
A group in my community of Wellington, Florida, Sewing Love for our Neighbors is making face masks for first responders, senior citizens, and others.
A local taqueria is donating a mask with every order. And, since this is Florida, the owner of All American Gator is making face masks with python and alligator skin.
My own efforts are pretty lame. I once had a sewing machine, the one my mother used in the 1970s to make a line dresses with Simplicity patterns in the basement rec room of our split level house the Maryland suburbs. I must have found it in my parents’ basement on Cape Cod some 20 years ago and driven back across the Mass Pike to our home in Albany, where I was now the one living in suburbs with a young daughter.
My use was sporadic, at best, and the machine did not come with us when we retired and moved to Florida. When I found a bagful of our daughter’s Girl Scout badges that I’d never attached to her sash, I sewed them on by hand last year and wrapped them up as a Christmas gift. She’s 27.
This is all to say that I’ve been hacking away by hand at making a couple of masks for my husband and me to wear when we leave home. Although we are staying away from stores, doctors’ offices, and other public spots, we walk our dog in the neighborhood, and having something across our noses and mouths reminds us that we are living through this pandemic.
I cleared off the kitchen table, found You Tube instructions, set up the iron (which we use so rarely that we haven’t replaced the ironing board that got caught in a closet and somehow bent months ago), and dug out my mother’s old sewing basket.
My first attempt involved a pair of roomy flannel pajama bottoms with a handy drawstring for ties. I rather forgot that South Florida is already approaching the steamy season, so my product fogged up my glasses and quickly grew heavy with sweat. On a positive note, I’m pretty sure I was giving myself a facial with every outing!
So I went back into my pajama drawer to see what other fabrics might work, and there were the pair of lighter pants that Ray bought in Amsterdam for me to wear in the hospital. It felt good to be re-purposing these vestiges of that medical saga, but the overall effect was still more The Invisible (Wo)Man than the safety precaution.
When I was making the flannel mask, I was wearing an old pair of yoga pants and also watching television. I say this because while snipping at fabric and threads I also snipped a hole in the knee of my pants. So, that’s the fabric I’m trying out now. Or maybe the old pillowcases in the closet. There’s lots of time ahead of us to figure this out.
On April 3, an LA Times article posited that face masks may be here to stay. Through either direct orders or guidelines — isn’t it crazy how we fight a commandement? — people are wearing masks to protect their noses and mouths from the coronavirus, particularly if the prescribed 6 foot distancing protocol can’t be assured.
Even our dog’s doing the mask thing. In his case, it’s a muzzle, a precaution that’s protecting him — and other dogs — from aggressive tendencies so completely at odd with his personality that continues to happily bloom while he is away from other canines. He is calm, sweet, easygoing, dear. Social distancing is giving him time to separate from whatever happened before he was rescued by Labrador Retriever Rescue of Florida. It turns out that this Baskerville model is also a very handy chew toy…
Sooner or later, I’ll make or buy good, sturdy masks that my husband and I can wear with confidence, but it’ll be a while before we venture forth. Until then, we will be caring for each other and Kumba at home. Please stay safe, be well, and wash your hands.