Essential Pandemic Fashion

[Vital Industries]

Making Masks at Home

Busy Sheltering In Place: How People are Coping during the Pandemic

by Reviewer Rob

Finding mask fabric at JOANN Fabrics and Crafts during the pandemic shutdown
Finding mask fabric at JOANN Fabrics and Crafts during the pandemic shutdown, April 11, 2020.

So, I’ve been thinking about what the post-pandemic shutdown world will be like. Will the world ever come back the way it was, and will socializing ever be the same. Are public displays of affection and intimacy going to make people uncomfortable even if it’s among family members or lovers? What about mingling in crowds like at bars or concerts, remember that?

I was told today that I needed a mask while entering the local grocery store. I said to the kid, “No I don’t, I just saw you let two people inside without masks.” I had, as he had said something to them but apparently they ignored him.

“If they can go in without a mask so can I,” I said firmly. He relented, resentfully, and after I was inside I noticed others were indeed masked, but some were not. I also saw I was pointed out to security. No one brought it up again. I asked the cashier about it as I paid for my groceries and Guinness and she said the word came down “from the CDC two days ago” that masks were required. In retrospect next time I’ll simply go back to my van and get my dust mask. But I didn’t like being singled out when I saw other weren’t required.

So there’s that. On my way out a guy who appeared to be the store manager was near the door (with a security guard now) and I said quietly, “Tell the kid at the door that if he lets some people inside without a mask he shouldn’t tell others they need one to come in.” He replied they weren’t supposed to let anyone in who isn’t masked.

Friday at the local arts and crafts store there was a line of people waiting to get in, all social distancing themselves down to the street and around the corner. I was curious as to why so as I was driving out of the parking lot I rolled the passenger window down to the Reviewervan and asked somebody in line why was everyone eager to get in, “Do they have hand sanitizer?”

“We’re getting fabric,” he said. I was momentarily curious as to why but then realized, they all want fabric to make masks. Homemade masks. During a worldwide pandemic.

I’ve discovered there is a new booming cottage industry of shelter-in-placers manufacturing masks from home right now. One of them told me the local craft store isn’t the best source, “There’s plenty of sellers on etsy and eBay and it’s much easier to social distance while shopping online,” she said. “I already have a huge fabric stockpile but before everything went totally insane I stocked up on needles and thread. If I need more supplies I’ll just order online. I’m working massive overtime at my day job so I’ve just been sewing my own projects to keep myself entertained during the pandemic. My good friend has been making a lot of masks to donate to the hospitals, post office, etc and she’s been selling ones on her etsy too.”

Kaylene Marie's  tie-on mask
Kaylene Marie’s tie-on mask.
Kaylene Marie was another San Diego mask maker and has made the rounds at the local crafts stores too. “Yes I was there too, some have them been standing there for an hour or more. The Walmart fabric section has been cleaned out. Looks like everyone is trying to do their part,” she said. Kaylene makes her masks for “friends, family and co-workers” but told me she could make one for me for $5 plus shipping “or if it’s close by pickup/drop off.”

Kaylene is in City Heights so I’ll likely opt to pick up since my supply of N95 dust masks from Home Depot acquired two years ago during a period of surfboard repair won’t last forever or outlast this shutdown if it does into the months they are rumoring it might. Her price is better than what I’ve seen advertised for more elaborate masks online. Business is good for her too. “I’m running out of elastic,” she said, “so I’ve been making surgical-style ties.”

They ones she makes, “have a pocket for extra layers for filters.” If you don’t have proper filters for these fine pandemic fashion accessories — now growingly required in public by health code decree apparently — blue shop towels will do.

Kaylene Marie is on Instagram at @misskaylenemarie and or @charmingminx and accepts Venmo.

Ron Magnus Swanson
Ron Magnus Swanson
Another online mask builder talent is Ronn “Magnus” Swanson. “I’m a teddybear seamstress. I have recently switched all efforts to making masks. Friends and family, even former clients, have been reaching out to me from all over the states. They just can’t find what they need. I mostly deal in fur for the animals I make, but I do have a dresser full of cotton that I’ve been collecting over the years. I’m not charging for the masks, but I am accepting donations to help pay for things like elastic and filter inserts,” she said, “eBay and Etsy are often less expensive than JoAnn. I recommend searching there, too.”

She’s not advertising outside Facebook and says, “I hand stitch everything and I don’t want to get overwhelmed with orders. People are going nuts with orders… needing ten or fifteen at a time because they are looking for their families too.”

Mask effectiveness stats
Mask effectiveness stats

“The masks are 100% cotton, and have an inner pocket to insert filter media or a disposable surgical mask. They are washable.” She then provided “some neat info about mask material effectiveness.” It came in the form of this meme-type image:

“I use quilters’ cotton plus a PM 2.5 filter,” she said.

“I am an underemployed scientist right now I’m working as a cook at a fast food joint. It’s essential job but even so they’ve cut my hours in half. I always run the teddybears as a side hustle it provides steady income year round.”

Meg Pinsonneault is a Pasadena based film maker who says, “We’ve made 350+ masks so far! It’s so hard to get fabric right now. We have three orders in at Joann but have no idea when we can get them. Fortunately we found a small shop (in L.A.) that’s still open! If you need a mask HMU.”

Meg’s masks can be found at her merch site.

Most industries’ job markets are slimming down in every city. Even fashion designers are shifting from doing proper lines for Fashion Week to re-configuring their catalog during this wartime-like output of essential items. Mask wearing is a trend that looks to be growing in the near term and, while no one can guarantee prices and materials will stay at current levels, the ‘buying local’ ethos takes on greater significance when the regional economy is under threat of collapse.

But if all fails I’ll tie a torn up t-shirt around my neck. That should get me into Vons or Walmart.

Wear a mask, save a life: a timely sign.
Wear a mask, save a life: a timely sign. Me with my Home Depot surfboard repair N95 dust mask,

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