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From lockdown with love

- distributing face coverings to friends, family and community

· Covid,Masks,Community,Sewing,Coronavirus
A pile of homemade fabric face coverings with elastic straps - the first in the pile is made of fabric with brightly coloured drawings of cats with smiling faces

Going into lockdown was tough for me on many levels, not least because my status as a vulnerable person meant that I wasn't able to volunteer to help in my community. I'm not someone who who can sit still if there is a problem to be solved, but had to stay home. I was restless. 

After reading about Covid-19 and the benefit of masks, I was fairly sure we'd all be needing face coverings in the weeks ahead. I unearthed my sewing machine and a fabric stash intended for some long-forgotten projects. It had been around 10 years since I last had the urge to sew - I'm a novice at best - but I set to work identifying patterns and sewing up a few prototypes.

Once I'd got a little stockpile together I posted a few out to friends and family with a note, signed 'with love'. It felt like I was sending a hug in an envelope.

I then asked a relative to post in a local Facebook group to let people know that I had put a supply in a community shed - the shed is used for newspapers, notices and book swapping. The masks were available free of charge, with a suggested donation to FareShare.

In the first 24 hours my entire stockpile of about 30 coverings had gone, so I got to work and made some more. I was brought to tears a few days later when people started to leave donations of fabric and small gifts of handmade soap with thank you notes. Beautiful humans.

Today, I was chatting with a friend who'd just received one of my face coverings in the post. She asked me to share some information about what I'd done because she wants to do the same - distributing masks at the mosque in her community.

So here I am, posting what I've learned, so the hugs can spread even further.

So far, I've made over 200 face coverings. Thank you to Erica Arndt whose DIY Face Mask pattern (PDF) demonstrated in a Youtube tutorial was where this all began.

Making the face coverings

I made a few prototypes based on the pattern by Erica Arndt of www.confessionsofahomeschooler.com to see how they worked out. It was a great starting point. I made a few choices and adaptations after testing them out:

  • I opted for 2 layers of cotton fabric plus a layer of iron-on interfacing between, rather than cotton flannel - I found this easier to work with so I could sew faster
  • I added a couple of extra centimetres to the elastic for the size described as 'adult female', to make it more comfortable but still snug-fitting
  •  I created a new template for a size slightly larger than the size described as 'children', but not quite as large as 'adult female' - this is 8.5" x 6" with 6" elastic straps. I therefore had 4 sizes that I labelled: Large, Medium, Small, Extra Small, with small intended for older kids
  • For straps I chose 14mm cotton tape (around 45cm per strap, with 4 straps per face covering) or 6mm 8-cord elastic (measurements in the pattern). Elastic straps I found much easier for getting the face covering on and off quickly, but cotton straps are much more comfortable when wearing for a longer period of time.

    Materials

    Back layer - I used plain cotton fabric and later moved to cotton sheets, which were more economical. Sheets were also easier to get hold of during lockdown, from many online sources or from my linen cupboard.

    Middle layer - I used whatever I had to hand for the interfacing layer but found medium weight, iron-on interfacing the best. I bought from whichever suppliers on ebay had stock, good feedback, and provided washing instructions - I chose interfacing that was able to withstand a medium heat iron and over 40 degree wash (the higher the better).

    Front layer - I used some fabric from my own stash, some from donations and also bought some. Most of what I bought was cotton poplin and had cheerful prints - especially those by Lewis & Irene and Rose & Hubble. I also found a fantastic supplier on ebay that sells clearance stocks of fabric including cotton poplin, so that was a great way to shop in bulk. Recycling clothes and bedding is great too.

    Straps - I made 2 different types of masks, some with cotton straps and some with elastic. I'd advise you to buy these in bulk if you intend to make a large number of masks. I started off buying 10m lengths, thinking that was plenty. It soon ran out and it cost a fair bit doing it that way. I've now taken the plunge and have invested in a 250m roll, which is much better value. It might last longer than Covid...

    A note on washing and packing

    Make sure you wash any new material according to the manufacturer's instructions before making up the pattern.

    I also chose to pack each face covering into a small bag with a note giving the size and the washing instructions, advising that it should be washed before the first use and after each use.

    Suppliers

    I used a mixture of local and online businesses and ebay sellers including:

    Go spread a little extra love in your com​munity - by shopping local!

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