Strange Times

Who knew quarter inch wide elastic would become such a sought after commodity? And the surge of videos on how to make bias tape is another sign of our times. Then, there is a rush to buy HEPA vacuum cleaner bags to make impromptu mask filters. [Note: my brother tried a HEPA filter in a mask and found it was almost impossible to breathe through it.]

Speaking of masks, while sewers go into high gear, it’s unclear how many hospitals will accept homemade masks. The University of Kansas Health System has said they won’t accept them. Some San Francisco Bay hospital systems also won’t accept them. Kaiser Permanente will accept masks made according to specific instructions as an extra layer over N-95 masks. (Note: when I tried the link to the instructions I got an error message.) And to think that N-95 masks are now part of daily conversation.

A PolitiFact article on homemade face masks that examined studies of effectiveness said:

A study from 2013 found that cotton masks only perform about half as well as surgical masks and “should only be considered as a last resort to prevent droplet transmission from infected individuals.” More recent research had similar results.

So at best, using thick or layered fabric to make a homemade mask could be as effective as using some surgical masks. At worst, it prevents at least some of your respiratory droplets from spreading to others while in public.

Under ideal circumstances, no face masks are intended to be worn for more than one encounter. That guidance also extends to homemade masks.

“At the end of the day, these cloth masks should be treated as contaminated materials that you bring in to your home — they need to be laundered in hot soapy water, and you’d need to consider sanitizing in bleach or hydrogen peroxide regularly,” Peltier [an assistant professor of environmental health sciences at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst] said.

Some experts have said face masks could also serve as a reminder to not touch your face, which is one of the ways the coronavirus spreads, according to the CDC. But Peltier said he’s not aware of any research that shows that’s the case. And there’s a chance that masks could actually encourage people to touch their face more since they can be uncomfortable to wear.

Still, since those infected with the coronavirus may not exhibit symptoms for up to 14 days after exposure, the CDC may soon advise everyone to wear masks in public just in case they’re sick. In that case, if you’re going out in public, wearing something is better than nothing.

For me the bottom line is I just haven’t seen enough evidence that homemade masks are that useful in a medical setting. I’ve made two masks apiece for my husband and me. If I learn that hospitals are actively using homemade masks I’ll crank up my machine.

I have begun a sewing project that involves inset ovals, though rounded edge rectangles is a more accurate description. In the Curves issue (issue/07, p. 74) of “Curated Quilts” I found a mini quilt called Happy Little Ovals by Jill Fisher. It inspired me to pull out a set of squiggly striped Marcia Derse fabrics and construct my own ovals using the 6 minute circle method.






















It seems to be turning into a table runner. I’m now auditioning some black fabric for inserts between the three vertical columns, as shown in the second photo. Let me know which you think works best.

I’m linking to Off the Wall Fridays.


Filed under Commentary, In Process

21 responses to “Strange Times

  1. Rebecca in SoCal

    This is way after the fact, but I’ve been hearing warnings about using the vacuum filters in masks. It seems they have glass fibers in them, which will definitely injure your lungs if inhaled!

    • I don’t know if sandwiching filter material between layers of cotton would prevent inhalation of filter material. I think the key is knowing what the HEPA filter you’re considering for use is made out of. Some are made with polypropylene, others with fiberglass.

  2. I love the quilt and vote for version two, also. The fabric is terrific and your oval design is great.
    My local Hospice has asked for masks to cover the N95’s. They are a little fiddly to make. I posted some on my latest blog.

  3. Penny

    I vote for version #2. I like those little snippets of horizontal stripes connecting the vertical panels together.

  4. I made my first mask today. I plan to make them for personal use for ourselves, neighbors, family & friends (who live long distance). I think for this purpose the masks I’m making will be fine. At least gives us a bit of a barrier (to or fro). Staying occupied with lots of creative projects. Take Good Care

  5. Jane E Herbst

    I like where the colors of the horizontal lines are linked to the colors of the ovals. That gives better contrast and movement than where the horizontal colors match the rectangle colors as with one of the pink/red sections. Yes, this design definitely says it wants to be a table-runner. Re masks: I tend to agree with you. My biggest concern is whether the masks made at home, especially those with elastic, will hold up to any needed sanitizing/disinfecting needed before they are used. Those with ties will better handle the processes that would damage elastic. From what I have heard and read most of the types made by home sewists will be especially good for use by people who are sick, to trap coughs and sneezes; not so good for protection from other people not masked. That use would, of course, keep the higher-protection masks more available where needed. The biggest key will be making sure to swap out, launder and sanitize the masks often enough.

    • Thanks for your input. You’re three of three for insets. They’re now cut. Yes, we’ve all been so focused on mask making we may have forgotten about mask maintenance.

  6. I like the option with the horizontal lines in the inserts too.

    I am with you on making masks. I don’t want to make them if they are not useful. I did see this video from Fabric Patch which talks about using interfacing — I am going to link to just one, but she has several that discuss different aspects:

    • I think one problem with homemade masks is getting them where they’re wanted. Logistics problems are also bedeviling the manufactured ones. I did use interfacing in the second set I made for my husband and me. If I make any more I’ll try flannel as the backing. You’re two for two for the insets.

  7. Of all the quilts you’ve made and posted thus far, this has to be my favorite. So much energy! I think I enjoy it all the more because I made peace with the curved seam this past year.

  8. I share your sentiments on masks. I may make some for my family, but will wait a bit while this plays out a bit more. I need to try the 6-minute circle. I like the look of your Marcia Derse project!

  9. Jean Krusinski

    I favor the second layout…they are linked with the horizontal lines of the inserts. BTW — some Memory Makers/Hudson guild members are making masks for nursing homes (per requests). Some to be used by non-nursing staff.

    • I’m glad to hear Memory Makers has found willing recipients for masks. Nursing homes may be good places for their efforts. And I’m coming to prefer the second option, too.

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