First, I waited until there was a pandemic.
Next, I saw that many of my friends and acquaintances were sewing their own. Sewing them for themselves and giving and trading them away.
Still I waited. Then the word came from the CDC, please wear face masks.
So I thought, OK, I’ll make a few, sell them and donate the money to a worthy cause.
But remember, I had never made one before. Never even worn one. So I researched, found what looked to be a good pattern [thank you craft passion], read up on the best material [tightly woven cotton], called my good friend Elisabeth whose non-official title is, ‘Technical Advisor for Ann Williamson Designs,’ who kindly offered a soft elastic to use in the masks.
Elastic, if you have heard, is hard to come by, so this was a generous and very special gift.
I had a wonderful cotton muslin in my stash, and I thought, if one layer is good, then two will be even better. Two layers with a kimono silk for the top.
The first one I made, the prototype, I wore here in my studio. Sitting quietly by my computer and at my sewing machine. All was good.
So I made some more and posted them in my web-shop. Wondering if anything would happen.
And Whew! They sold and kept selling until I figured out how to stop the sales by indicating that they were ‘Sold Out.’
The next day I wore mine to the grocery store. Imagine my surprise when I couldn’t get enough air through all those layers and my glasses fogged up so I couldn’t see! Not breathing, not seeing, not good. Sitting quietly in my studio, no problem, but even the little effort of a slow walk down the grocery store aisles my breathing picked up. Or tried to pick up.
Back in my studio, I removed the middle cotton layer. It made a huge difference. Much better. Air, though not as good as no mask, was moving through and I could walk around.
Still my glasses were fogging up. So I tried adding a second pipe cleaner to help keep it in place. Slightly better but still not very good.
To my delight, in my Instagram feed the artist Adam Pogue, had a solution for the foggy glasses situation. Instead of putting the mask on and pushing it tight to your nose, make a sort of a tight box shape with the wire, then put on the mask, then your glasses. So much better! Not perfect, but much better. The picture below is from his Instagram feed. [Please notice, it is pieced! There’s a cool idea.]
During all this time, I had been sewing like crazy and mailing out the masks. With each new discovery I wrote to the people who had bought them and made suggestions on how to better wear their mask.
Thank you each and everyone of you who bought a mask and, as I step by step learned the best way to make them, patiently read each of my ‘updates’. Some of you received more than one….
I’ve just now added my updated and revised masks to my web-shop. Each 2 layers thick, a cotton lining and a top layer of kimono silk. All fabric first washed in hot water with detergent. Each with one pipe cleaner to help keep the mask in place. And elastic from Elisabeth. 5 different fabrics to choose from. Because the designs on the kimono silk are varied, each mask will be slightly different from any other. They are one of a kind!
The very best part of all of this. As of today, we have raised close to $900! So amazing. I am beyond happy! We know that even in good times, people are struggling. Now with job losses and illness, even more people are food insecure. Check out Feeding America here to see where your mask money is going. If you already have a mask or plan on making your own [fantastic!] you can still donate. Or find suggestions for other ways to help. The website also has links to local food banks in your area.
Thank You to each and everyone one of you. I know we are all doing our very best to help in whatever way we can. You are all awesome!
Judith N says
They’re beautiful. My mask-making journey is similar to yours. I’m making the 3-pleat surgical style with fusible non-woven (light) on the side nearest the face (keeps the fabric from being sucked in (when wearing and breathing). I’ve left small opening near the inner bottom in case someone wants to use an actual surgical mask inside but I suspect that would cause the same problem you discovered with the third layer. Mine have not been for sale. I’ve been making batches of 50 for a couple of nearby nursing homes for staff who are working in the most wrenching circumstances – one facility offered to pay me – my masks are not for sale – they are labours of love and appreciation. I’ve made masks for friends and family as well and have a stack by my front door for myself. I’m waiting patiently for supplies ordered online to arrive – still at least a week to 10 days away. The demand won’t let up. Even if people have one, they really could use at least two – one to wear and one to wash. I guess I’m working on supplying a second one to everyone I’ve given one mask to! Keep up the good work.
Ann Williamson says
Thank you Judith for passing on your experience. I did hear that non-woven interfacing was a good solution as a filter, but not about it working to keep the fabric from being sucked in while breathing. Very interesting. Another very good idea.
Super kudos for making and donating your masks to nursing homes! Wonderful!
Judith A Fardig says
Thanks for taking this task on and making such beautiful masks!
Ann Williamson says
You are so very welcome! It feels so good to be doing something that can help.