Sunday, April 5, 2020
Who was that masked man?
My husband was determined to go to the fruit market last week, and I was equally determined that he not do it unprotected. I made us each a mask with just two layers of tightly woven batik fabric.
Then came the directive/suggestion that we all wear masks in public (good guidance for all of us plebs to follow, but apparently not good enough for the president or all the minions lined up behind him on the daily dog-and-pony show). I made several more for friends and family. My son brought me a fancy air filter that is rated effective against virus particles, and thought I could take it apart and use the innards for masks. Sounded like a good idea, so I proceeded to dissect.
I concluded that the air filter fiber is the moral equivalent of plain old interfacing, maybe even morally superior because it's more firmly stuck together, and heaven knows interfacing is a heck of a lot easier to work with than this rigamarole with the air filter.
So my second batch of masks contained one layer of batik on the outside and one layer of medium-weight interfacing next to the face. Since batik doesn't ravel much, I just turned the raw edge over and stitched it down. This time I pleated the edges before finishing the side seams, and encased the pleated edge in a fabric binding. This meant way less time in sewing and fiddling.
I also realized that stitching fabric for the ties was taking a lot of time, even after I found a lot of inch-wide bias tape in my stash, probably dating back to the 1970s. I thought maybe I could substitute tightly woven selvages or ribbon, eliminating 72 inches of seams per mask, but then I thought to look in my stash again and found some sturdy nylon cord that required only knots at each end.
After I made four masks with this model, I saw an online report that gave me an even better idea. Finish and pleat the mask as described in Plan B, up until you need to finish the short edges. Cut a piece of fabric or bias tape 36 inches long, center the mask on the binding, and stitch the whole length over on itself just once. Finish the mask and make the ties, all in one step! Why didn't I think of that? So that will be my new plan C.
I would rather be in the studio making art than making masks, but when I contemplate my non-fiber art pals, not to mention my sons, trying to produce masks without even a sewing machine on premises, I think it's time for me to step up and take one for the team. Perfecting my technique every time I make a new batch.
I'm still not sure what degree of protection these homemade masks offer. You would think it's a lot more than zero, because even though viruses are small enough to sneak through porous materials, the glob of snot the viruses are riding on should be stopped even by a simple bank-robber handkerchief mask.
If this keeps up for months and months, I fervently hope that some materials scientists and microbiologists will start testing all the different fabrics and patterns circulating out there and tell us which ones work and which ones don't. Otherwise I'm afraid that millions of sewists will have spent millions of hours making things that make us feel warm and fuzzy but don't actually protect anybody very much.