In the stress and confusion of life in a pandemic, few things have been clear to me lately. Social distancing works; it is our most important weapon. People of an age and state that makes them likely to take up scarce medical resources if exposed, must quarantine. I have to remind myself that doing nothing in this case is actually helping, but I know it is. That said, everything else is confusing, and the need to do something—anything—constructive is great.
This is my convoluted explanation for why I find myself sewing masks. As with many pieces of information we’ve had contradictory and confusing information. While it is clear that front line health workers should have first access to masks, not much else is clear. Advice has ranged from they do no good to don’t go out without them; from only N95 works to cover your face with a scarf if you have nothing else.
Suddenly the internet has exploded with patterns for making cloth masks. This. This, I thought, is something I can do. They may help, they may not, but taking action feels good.
Getting started took a while. With little skill and no talent, I rarely sew and have no stash of materials, So step one was, find cloth and elastic. A high thread count fitted sheet gave me both. I tossed some pillow cases on the pile.
Step two, locate and unbury the sewing machine. It was in the basement, also known as Beloved’s lair. Tables were cleared; hairs moved; lighting arrainged.
Step Three, prepare material. The instructions were simple enough. I chose cut up an allergy barrier pillowcase for my first attempt. Measure twice, cut once. That part worked.
Step Four remember how to sew. It had been a while. The machine gave me fits as it and I got reacquainted, and I spent a rough couple of hours threading, loading bobbins, remembering things like, “tension,” but figure it out I did. Following the “simple” instructions, with much colorful language, I worked my way through two botched attempts.
I learned not to double material that is thick to begin with. Bunched up material gaps. In the end I managed to produce three to four serviceable face coverings with a pocket for some sort of flitering material, and I actually understand how to make the blasted things. The next ones will go much faster.
Do they work? I have no real idea. It isn’t a substitute for hand washing and social distancing, but the CDC now recommends we all cover our faces in public. Beloved and I are still not going out, but if we have to we have something to where. These can be washed and bleached after every use.
Who knows, if I can do a bunch, maybe the kids will want them, or the letter carriers, or the rubbish crew, or the UPS guy. (I’m under no illusion these would be of any help to first responders or health workers.) It just feels good to do something. I’m going to make more—call it my Holy Week penance.
Writing? Maybe not this week, but I do have promotion to do. Scarsdale Publishing put Music on the Waters on pre-sale over the weekend. Orkney, a lonely widower, a passionate musician—I need to get information out there. But first, sewing. And coffee.