Unmasking the Mask

By: Robin Pyatt Bellamy - Mountaineer News Contributor

Update: April 7, 2020 | 03:32AM EST

Who is that masked woman?! Hopefully, me. I’m making a face/breathing mask from an internet pattern, so I have at least minimal protection and don’t have to take a mask from a healthcare worker. If I can do it, you can do it. You SHOULD do it. Folks in the know now say you should wear a cloth mask when you go out.

First, I ordered fabric, bias tape, and thread from Walmart. I got the fabric yesterday, and the tape the first of the week, but no thread yet. Fortunately, I have some, so that’s not going to slow me down. I got pre-cut fabric from Clearance for about $2, which is enough to make four masks from each pre-cut pack. Bias tape was just over $6 for a pack that is enough for two masks. The bias tape is for making the ties, as the whole concept of elastic eludes me. Thread was about $5 and will probably last me the rest of my life. All of these are sturdy cotton, and will hold up to hot water washes.

I’m sure you can tell by now that I am no seamstress. I took Home Economics in high school and had a sewing machine until my kids were in high school. At that point, we were too busy for me to sew anything beyond the holes in pockets or a quick patch. I’m also 58, disabled, and stressed over this virus thing, so focus is difficult.

I’m sharing this with you for a couple of reasons. I want you to know I am just like you. I’m a little lost, and looking for anything I can do that feels the slightest bit helpful. I’m staying home, ordering from small local companies when I can. I’m staying connected via social media, especially with my mom, my kids, and my grandkids. I worked in health care in WV many years ago; in respiratory therapy actually. Masks are not a preventative measure of much worth, but it’s a start. If I were skilled enough, I’d make hundreds of these to donate to our front line, but I suspect I will do well to make even one.

I gathered my “equipment” with great anticipation. I don’t really have a usable solid surface, so I improvised with a cardboard box. Heaven knows I have plenty of those, thanks to Amazon. I printed the free instructions from SarahMaker.com. I actually discovered I own a ruler, which is a surprise as I haven’t used one in probably a decade. I use a measuring tape often and that would have worked if needed, but the ruler was much more manageable. I pulled out my very best scissors, which are Fiskars Lia Griffith Non-stick Micro-Tip Crafting Scissors that I’ve had for a year or so. These are amazing for everything under the sun. Even if you don’t sew, you need a pair of these, hidden from your kids, for everything imaginable. I also dug up my ancient pin cushion, which fortunately still had some pins in it, and a couple of needles.

It really proved quite easy to sew. I would think that with a machine it would be significantly easier, and certainly much quicker. It did aggravate the arthritis in my thumb, so I did it a little at a time.

With hand stitching, it takes a while. It can probably be done in about 15 minutes with a machine. It took me two days. Fortunately, I only had to take the stitching out once! I also learned that my oldest daughter, who has two kids under 3, is making these as well. She has a sewing machine, but how does she find the time!? She finds it though, and I work through the arthritis, because it matters. Even if I only make for my own family, I have at least contributed.

Here is the final product:

There is a small pocket to insert a coffee filter to aid in the protection. Change that after every use, and remember to remove it before laundering. I got a pack of 40 at Dollar Tree. With as little as I go out, it should last me two years!

Robin Pyatt Bellamy was born in Point Pleasant, WV in 1961 and grew up in Ravenswood. She is a professional paranormal researcher, family history researcher, and author. Currently living in Toronto, Canada she is the mother of three adult children, grandma to two littles, and a modern day “southern belle”.

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