Making Masks

When the public opinion turned and many of us felt that yes, in fact, should be wearing masks, I jumped on the wagon to make and donate masks. Initially I tried out a variety of patterns, then settled on the one I thought most comfortable. I put the word out that I would make masks for those who didn’t have sewing skills or a sewing machine. It was fun to go through my fabric stash and pick out funny fabrics, all the while checking that they fit the “tight weave” criteria for a good mask. I researched and found that a three layer mask, with the inner layer flannel, provided a strong 85% filter rate. Sounded good to me. And it was nice to get thank you cards, photos of folks modeling the masks, and even a “Breathe” collage from one gracious friend.

I was proud of everyone making masks. My son, who designed a mask to fit over his beard, my friend Marlene, who made a zillion masks, everyone sitting at home, finding scraps of fabric and lace and contributing to this massive need.

Then I ran out of elastic. I was using a lot, having decided that the behind the ear models weren’t as comfortable. A double strap behind the head took up 25 inches, as compared to 16. A few trials of lycra (I had a piece I had saved for about fifteen years to dye and make a swimming suit!)….

Around that time the requests from friends faded, and the local organization distributing masks was “all caught up” with requests….so I put my sewing things away and moved on to painting furniture.

Then our government officials decided, well, ahhh, we should be wearing masks after all and it’s now official, you MUST wear a mask out in public. The demand increased. And I received notice that the local donation source really needed masks. And the Navajo Reservation really needed masks. And some of my friends did want masks after all. So I pulled everything out and went back to work.

BUT…suddenly I found my self working hours a day to provide masks for BUSINESSES….that felt very different than providing them for health care workers or folks in a convalescent hospital. Or my friends. With a sigh, I kept at it…oh, well, what else would I do with my time every day.

THEN…one of the convalescent hospitals that had received masks asked for FIFTY more…what? “How come?” they were asked….Well, uh….see, we don’t have a way to wash them so we are using them and throwing them away.

WHAT????? I was appalled. Each mask, even with the best production line method, took me thirty minutes to make. With my own fabric, thread, labor, and precious elastic.

Then when I delivered masks to a local grocery store I saw that they were selling disposable masks to the public at the end of each check stand….again…what? They sold masks but wanted them donated for their employees?


Yep, just so. Not sew. I’m sitting here today looking at my piles of supplies ready to be cut and sewn. But I just can’t bring myself to donate any more time without knowing that it’s being appreciated. And that is human nature for you. I’m not 100% altruistic at all…in fact, with the information that people were throwing away my hard work, or using it in ways that scraped my soul, well, my altruistic score slipped to a…hmmm…10%?

Maybe time will change my mind.

Who knows? But for now I’m back to sorting old photos, painting, working in the yard and binge watching Netflix.