Monday, April 13, 2020

Doing Our Part: Staying Safe in Bellingham, WA

A reverse selfie with my new face mask.
If you're a regular visitor to this blog, you may wonder why we aren't posting very often.

Like many Canadians, we were caught away from home while Snowbirding in warmer locales. Starting north we ran into the COVID-19 pandemic.

A city-folk condo with a natural "backyard."
We are isolating in our part-time condo in Bellingham. Border and BC Ferries restrictions make returning home to Powell River difficult.  Wayne and I are healthy, but we don't want to bring anything to our small town with limited medical resources.

When Mom passed, we kept her U.S. condo. Having her sewing machine, ironing board and sewing supplies helped me make face masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

I picked Billettes Baubles Eco Alternatives's video to follow and one about washing them.

Mom here in her Bellingham condo in 2008.
As children, both my mom and dad survived the 1918 Influenza Pandemic in Los Angeles. This account by the University of Michigan Center for the History of Medicine has parallels to our current Pandemic.

Strong mitigation including bans on gatherings, and school and business closures resulted in a lower death rate in Los Angeles than similar cities. And there was controversy about face masks.

To make our face masks, I first laundered the fabric. I cut two 7x9" rectangles from the sheet and one 5X7" of T-shirt knit. The knit took more ironing to keep it flat. The video called for flannel, but I didn't have any and I trimmed wide elastic narrower for my two 7" ear loops. 

1. Cut 7" sheet strip. 2. Then cut 7X9" rectangles. 3-4. Cut 5X7" T-shirt rectangle.

Here are the steps I used to assemble the mask. Watch the video to see it even better.

Stitch a smaller piece in the middle.
  • Pin and sew the 5X7" knit piece in the middle of one7X9" cotton cloth piece. I made my knit piece 5" wide to cover a larger portion of my face.
  • Pin and sew the two 7x9" pieces together leaving an inch and a half opening at the top. Make sure the front sides (if your fabric has a print pattern) are facing each other and the extra stitched on center piece is facing outwards. 
Turn it right side out through the hole.
  • Double stitch one end of elastic in each corner between the two pieces of fabric. Watch the video. It's easier to see than describe. The two elastic strips will create the loops that go behind your ears to keep the mask in place.
    • Trim the corners. Use the hole you left open at the top to turn the mask right side out. Iron the seams flat. Double stitch around the sides of the mask to close the hole and secure the edges.
    Make two horizontal pleats.
    • Create two horizontal pleats and pin in place. These pleats will allow the mask to shape around your nose and chin.
      • Double stitch along the sides of the mask to hold the pleats firmly together.
      • Your mask is ready to wear.

      Stitching the sides to hold the pleats in place.

      This type of mask will not protect you from the coronavirus. They can penetrate even three layers of cloth. However, a mask like this can help reduce spreading the virus if you are infected but asymptomatic. Wearing a face mask cannot replace social distancing. Stay home. If you must go out, always stay at least six feet (two metres) away from others.

      Are you wearing and/or making face masks? What about the people in your community?

      p.s. After I wrote this post (and made my masks) I read an article about preferred fabrics for homemade masks. It said that T-shirt material was less desirable because holes in knits are larger than woven flannel and cotton cloth. If you have these materials available, I would recommend using them instead. Also, this style of mask made with a soft fabric rides close to your nose, making it hard to breathe while walking or exercising. -- Margy 


      1. I'm getting distressed with it all. I just don't know.

        1. It is very distressing in both countries. I hear the border is closure has been extended until May 19. Hope that will happen along with a release of the quarantine for BC. - Margy

      2. Margy - we have not made masks. The only time we are in public is when hubby goes to the grocery store and post office. The last time he went was after they started recommending masks, and he wore a face mask that he uses for skiing. Not ideal but better than nothing. We don't have any material suitable for masks unless I cut up a piece of clothing …

        There are many people making masks in our area, so we could get some if we really felt we needed them.

        We have been isolated for a month, and have not seen anyone except the afore-mentioned trips to the grocery store. So, I think it is pretty safe to say that we are not carrying the virus … but that could change any time.

        1. I use a ski face mask when I ride the quad in winter. I am seeing more masks each time I got to the store, but not everyone is wearing them even here in a large city. - Margy

      3. Folks can use knitted material if they line it with tightly woven fabric. I am not good with sewing machines; they hate me almost as much as copier machines do. My daughter sent some masks and I bought a few, so we are managing. Trying to avoid many trips to the store, but they are out of things so I wind up going back within a week.

      4. My woven fabric is on the outside. I guess I could wear it inside out, they are reversible. I thought the soft side would feel better next to the face but it clings too much to my nose when walking and exercising outdoors. - Margy

      5. Thanks for your advices.
        Be well!

      6. Hi Margy, wunderbar dein Blogpost. Ich habe viele Masken genäht, für Familie und Freunde, aus buntem Baumwollstoff. Jetzt fragen mich immer mehr Leute danach und ich nähe und nähe und nähe... ;)...
        Hier einige meiner bunten Masken:
        Liebe Grüße von der Insel Rügen, Mandy


      We welcome your comments and questions. - Wayne and Margy