It feels strange but this seems to be the new normal for now. I am still working from home but sooner or later, I will need to make that hour and a half trip to work by public transport again. Recently, the government announced that wearing a mask/face covering will be compulsory on public transport, but I am way ahead of this rule as I have been wearing a mask during the lockdown when I go off for my essential shopping. I also suffer from mild asthma so coughing is a normal occurrence, but the problem is how do I know if it’s a normal cough or something sinister?
The wearing of masks has been contentious as there are reports of reduced supplies to health worker and questions about the efficiency of it in a public setting. Several studies have come up with conflicting results and there are people who strongly support or are against wearing masks. However, I chose to wear a mask as it doesn’t cause any harm to others and used as a tool together with good hygiene and social distancing, surely it is better than nothing. I know that normal masks will not protect people from the virus but it may at least stop the virus from spreading to others.
The evolution of my home-made mask is really interesting. What started out looking like a codpiece eventually morphed into a more palatable style that is comfortable to wear. As I continued to make more iterations, I have also been experimenting with different fabrics. The initial fabric that I used was neoprene but I found it really difficult to breathe in and it made my skin itchy. Eventually, I moved to more skin friendly cotton fabric before experimenting with silk fabrics.
I have also been bulking up the layers between the masks. Surgical masks has been hard to come by but the materials used to make them have been plentiful online. Initially, I bought some of these materials to make surgical masks at home but after making a few, I realised how unsustainable it was as they can only be worn once before being disposed. These disposable masks are also very ugly and in most situations, badly fitted. Instead, I opted to sandwich the water repelling layer and filter layer into my mask.
The main fabric that I have used are all remnant Liberty fabrics from my previous projects. I didn’t want to buy new fabrics and with all those gorgeous prints, reusing remnants is beautiful. At first, I was sceptical about using masks as a fashion statement but if it gets more people to wear them, why not? I have now made about four masks for myself and my favourite is made out of silk.
To ensure a good fit, I have also included a nose bridge and elasticated loops around the ears. I read that fit is extremely important as a small percentage of leakage can reduce its efficiency by half.
I also toyed around with the idea of making them reversible and with an abundance of Liberty fabric, I did just that.
This is how they look, reversed.
I have made some masks for my family and friends, but I always give a warning that these masks cannot offer much, if any protection against the virus. It is still best to stay at home, exercise good hygiene and apply social distancing. However, wearing a mask should be an act of altruism. In fact, this lockdown has always been about that as it was done to protect the NHS, protect the vulnerable and to protect our loved ones. The time spent apart has been mentally draining and emotionally difficult but it was a sacrifice worth taking. Spending all this time at home should have helped us appreciate others more and be kinder to everyone else. As the world wakes up from a long slumber, I can only hope that this new normal will make the world a better place.