When the corona virus shut down so many countries, states, and cities, there was nothing available to keep the populace protected. The American government asked people not to buy the medical masks so the inventory could be reserved for the medical personnel and first responders. But what were the regular people supposed to do for Personal Protection Equipment (PPE)?
Face masks were still the answer, and now men and women who knew how to sew turned to their sewing machines. The internet filled with people announcing they were sewing. Hospitals and other medical facilities arranged to receive these gifts. Companies transformed their product machinery to make the masks. People stepped up to help.
I also sewed face masks until I ran out of fusible interfacing and 1/4” elastic. Despite my best efforts, the local stores didn’t have any more in stock, nor could you buy the items online without waiting months for delivery. I distributed my stock to my family and to members working in the medical field.
These were not N95 nor medically rated at all. They are just something to help. I used the pattern JoAnn Fabrics posted on their web site. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VgHrnS6n4iA&list=PLFmfBXEzoOPXznkrI9VzJUTqVxYYPNMkM&index=5&t=0s)
However rather than fold the fabric, I made one side cotton and the other flannel, which I believe is softer against one’s face. There are two layers of fusible interfacing in the middle, which will hopefully act as a type of filter, too. I know these won’t stop the virus, but should help slow down the spread.
While stitching, I remembered reading about the knitting women did for the soldiers in World War I. One of my historical knitting books even has a copy of the Red Cross brochure on what were the approved items to knit and the patterns. The instructions state only gray or khaki yarn is acceptable to create a muffler, sweater, helmet, or socks. There’s even a pattern included for a hot water bottle cover. This could be knit of white yarn. Considering how cold the weather was, the men probably needed hot water bottles, something I’d never considered.
If I were writing a scene of women knitting for the Red Cross, this brochure would give me details I could use for my setting’s background. My character could even be tired of the everlasting khaki and gray yarns and wish for a better tomorrow that involved color. The research an author discovers can flavor her story in ways not originally thought of.
Maybe in the future, someone will wonder how regular people coped during the lockdown. Sewing face masks for others is one way to help others and provide self-satisfaction. It continues a proud tradition of using one’s needlework to fulfill a need.