when we went on our long overland trip to china we expected to see people wearing masks in the highly polluted cities there. we hadn’t expected the same thing to apply to ulan bator, the capital of mongolia. there, despite the crystal clear skies over the vast plains surrounding it, the city suffers from smoggy skies as do all the people living there. in beijing although anticipated it was still a shock to see the sun shining through a sickly yellow murk and the taste of that murk in the back of your throat.. wearing a mask seemed so little to counteract the threat but most of the people we saw did and we were grateful to be only visiting rather than living in it full time.
since the covid-19 pandemic arrived the arguments have gone back and forth about the efficacy of wearing masks to protect ourselves as well as others.. do they make the wearer complacent, falsely assuming his or her immunity is guaranteed by one? do they really work if not the same quality given to top ranking doctors and health workers? whatever the right answer is a lot of people have taken it into their own hands, literally, and made masks for themselves while others have created mini enterprises making masks at home to offer to pompiers, gendarmes and anyone else who interacts with the public on a daily basis.
I was one of those people who tied a scarf around my face and hoped it was of some use. when the ‘experts’ began to change their minds about masks a few days ago there was a rush of self help videos on facebook showing how you could make one either the no sew way or not. I tried a no sew one which involved folding a scarf several times. it looked like a facemask but the thickness of the folded material threatened to suffocate me before I even left the house! then I found what looked like a fairly simple method based on just a few seams and basic materials I had kicking about the house.
now sewing and I do not have a good track record. my maternal grandma taught me to knit but my tension was and is too slack so everything ends up big enough for two of me. baby clothes knitted for my grandson probably would only fit the three year old he is now. as for sewing I avoided it for years. until, that is, I hit the technical school at 13. I was one of the last year group in kent to take the 13+. I didn’t make the grammar school but scraped into the local technical school for girls. there were two options, commercial – shorthand and typing or the o level stream. that was my parents choice for me and part of that stream was domestic science ie cooking and sewing. cooking started from our second year and we made our cookery aprons in our first year. I wore an apron from home for the first six months of cookery classes as my apron took me a year and a half to finish.
however, as a mum of two boys i soon became adept at mending and even took up patchwork, briefly, after retirement. sewing machine have i none and no desire to own one but a little light hand stitching wouldn’t faze me…i thought. assembling my materials i watched and re-watched the video. nailed it, i smugly told myself as i got out the iron to press in the pleats.. sewing the two rough edges i began to try and work out where these edges would ultimately be. it became clear that i had turned the whole thing once too often and my carefully pressed pleats were, in fact, the wrong way round. back to the drawing, or, in this case, ironing board. next came the fixing in place of the the elastic loops that would attach the mask to my ears. another video viewing and the loops were duly pinned into place. i made a cup of tea and adjourned to the garden balancelle to do my ‘little light sewing’ in the sunshine.
realising the imprtance of the elastic loops and the rather powerful strength of the only elastic i could find in my sewing box (a present from my mother in law, a trained tailor, years ago) i decided they needed to be very firmly sewn in. so i did just that. but as i continued the seam i began to have some doubts.. reveiwing the shape under my hands i turned it right side out and realised i had succeeded in placing my loops so that they would be inside the mask rather than outside!
spot the mistake?
it was a standing joke when i was teaching that design tech and i were not good friends. latent dyslexia was how i excused myself! so i began the laborious task of unpicking all those savagely inserted stitches i had just done. loops pinned in i turned the mask right side out several times to convince myself that i was finally getting there plus checking the video one last time.. the tinkly background music was really beginning to annoy….
our elderly cat wandered over, probably with the intention of joining me on the swing seat but after watching my stabbing at the material for a while he walked away to find a calmer spot.. but then it was done. i turned it right side out, pulled down the pleats as shown and tried it on, pulling the loops behind each ear. it worked and looked like a mask. and no blood had been spilt. with a natty pocket into which i attached a double sheet of plastic i was ready for my next outing. would anyone spot i matched the gite curtains?
Thats a great piece of writing.Lynne. When did you go to China.? How recent.? I love the mask of curtains, and I love your hair.My friend Richard Kaby is now making and designing them- tried to send you facebook but didnt go. And what is the balancelle? sounds exotic. I am getting to know your place by the photos and it looks heavenly. Im brown now after so much sunning, but also have to plod on computer a lot to finish before deadline Friday.my subject today. How did I become a Woman? is very challenging and I am trying to unravel the Patriarchal home I lived in.”Heartbreak Hotel” I called it. ““have more fun, stay sane, drink water. x JO