Roy Exum: Can Your Kids Sew?

Sunday, April 5, 2020 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

A crisis, particularly as evil and deadly as the worldwide coronavirus, brings out the very best in people. But just as the great pendulum swings, the worst appear as well. These are the ones I detest the most: “The Legion of the Miserable” (LOM for short) because they are void of common sense, problematic, stupid, spineless, and fearful of their own shadows. For every 100 problem solvers, there are two who create problems. They seek out the worst result in any idea and then, like an empty pot, make the noise which consistently costs America untold hours of senseless angst and a search for answers to problems that normally never emerge.

Several weeks ago the idea of a face-mask coalition was brought forth in Chattanooga where Memorial Hospital, Erlanger and Parkridge would band together in an effort that would ask our community’s “real people” to make face masks for the secondary ones who will care for a huge influx of COVID-19 patients. The idea is that it will lessen the demand for the now widely-sought – and woefully scarce – medically-approved model N95 masks needed by our front-line heroes. It is a fabulous idea.

But the LOM got involved and the coalition idea fizzled. Never mind that in Nashville, Huntsville, Birmingham, Atlanta and other places where the LOM is quickly told to hush or to leave, the face mask programs are already making a difference.

Allow me to plead to “the real people” to ignore the naysayers and – what? -- begin to make face masks! Let’s beat the LOM by asking our families and friends to help our hospitals with a real problem. This is hardly the time to pick sides, stir up discord, or let a person smaller than you prevent your family’s ability to do all you can, hopefully for those valiant who I pray you’ll never meet in a terrible crisis.

In New York, where the hospitals are bulging and the respirators and ventilators are horribly strained to meet the demand, one of the largest hospitals is going through “at least 40,000” N-95 masks every day with the expectation it will soon reach 70,000. The Centers for Disease Control just announced all of us who go outside our homes are advised to wear a face mask and that any mask is better than none.

A face mask is easy to make. In the hayfields of long ago, a bandana was your best friend. Soaked in cold water and worn around your neck, the cooling device is excellent, but when your time would come to tend to the bailing machine, the hay dust would be so bad you’d wear the bandana like some desperado in the western movies robbing the train. A bandana also protects your neck from dreaded hay-field itch and is easily my tool of choice. And, yes, bandanas and personal face masks should be washed every night.

Quite simply, the coronavirus is asymptomatic. This means you can be infected from someone in the early stages who shows no symptoms of the disease. While “masking up” protects you from airborne particles, it also protects an unknowing carrier from infecting others from the inside of the mask. Sneeze inside a mask, and it helps contain airborne droplets.

How glorious it would be to get our children involved. Face it, the children know what’s going on … what better way to fight fear by actually doing something to prevent it. The more colorful and innovative their creations, the more fun. Oh, the face masks won’t be to N-95 specifics, and cannot include dangling spiders or other adornments that would prohibit them from being washed and sanitized, but what better time to teach a Little League shortstop how to sew – it’s a life skill our children will have for the rest of their lives. As they make one for themselves, make one in a child’s size for Children’s Hospital at the same time.

Big families can create an assembly line. Who is the best scissor-man (exact precision counts), who can thread a needle fastest, who is the ‘wheel’ this being the child who can identify where the assembly production squeaks and who steps in to ‘oil’ the squeak?

Early this week there will be an announcement where “real people” can drop off face masks. Mind you, they must be made of new material, preferable all-cotton, and should be two ply, the inside layer being softer cotton, like a T-shirt fabric. Be warned, elastic is the new toilet paper. It’s already scarce so we need to sew two ties on either side of the mask, so it can be tied behind the head.

Some fabric stores may be closed, so consider all-cotton bed sheets at Walmart for fabric and XL men’s T-shirts, too. It’s said a woman’s bra can provide two face masks, but some are lightly padded for comfort and thus harder to breathe. Strips of Velcro work great but itch. Be creative but avoid lace. It causes beer buddies to point.

On CNN there is a great instruction sheet for making a mask and here are Vanderbilt’s instructions for making a mask. NOTE: No face mask of any kind can be used as a substitute for quarantine, distancing, or any other protective measure for coronavirus. Do not let your guard down.

* * *

DIRECTIONS ON MAKING A SUITABLE FACE MASK FOR VIRUS CONTROL

(This from the Vanderbilt University Medical Center website.)

INSTRUCTIONS FOR HOMEMADE FACE MASK (WITH ELASTIC)
Materials needed (with elastic)
Tight-weave cotton fabric (i.e. quilting cotton)
Fabric must be newly purchased within approximately the past year and never used.
Wash and dry fabric without fragrance or dyes prior to sewing.
Rope Elastic, beading cord elastic will work (you may also use 1/8” flat elastic if ¼” is unavailable. Some have used wider flat elastic and cut it in half with some success).
One adult mask requires two (2) 9”x6” pieces tight-weave cotton and two 7” pieces of 1/4 inch elastic.  Therefore, one yard of 44” wide fabric yields 12-15 masks.   You need 7.5 yards of elastic for 25 masks (14 inches per mask).  
You can make two sizes: Adult or Child. Adult-sized masks will be the greatest need.
Put right sides of cotton fabric together (Be sure any fabric design is placed horizontally.)
Cut 9x6 (Adult) or 7.5x5 (Child)
Starting at the center of the bottom edge, sew to the first corner, stop. Sew the elastic with the edge out into the corner. A few stitches forward and back will hold this.
Sew to the next corner, stop, and bring the other end of the same elastic to the corner and sew a few stitches forward and back.
Now sew across that top of the mask to the next corner. Again, put an elastic with the edge out.
Sew to the next corner and sew in the other end of the same elastic.
Sew across the bottom leaving about 1.5” to 2” open. Stop, cut the thread. Turn inside out.
Pin 3 tucks on each side of the mask. Make sure the tucks are the same direction
Sew around the edge of the mask twice.

* * *

INSTRUCTIONS FOR HOMEMADE FACE MASK (NO ELASTIC NEEDED)
Materials needed
Tight-weave cotton fabric (i.e. quilting cotton)
Fabric must be new.
Wash and dry fabric without fragrance or dyes prior to sewing.
Options for Ties
Bias Tape (either ½ or 7/8 as available)
OR
Make ties from strips of fabric indicated above (cut strips 2 ” wide by 16? long)

One adult mask requires two (2) 9”x6” pieces tight-weave cotton and four (4) 16” pieces of bias tape or fabric ties (64” total per mask).  Therefore, one yard of 44” wide fabric yields 12-15 masks.   You need 21 1/3 yards of bias tape for 12 masks.
You can make two sizes: Adult or Child. Adult-sized masks will be the greatest need.
Place right sides of cotton fabric together (Be sure any fabric design is placed horizontally.)
Cut 9x6 (Adult) or 7.5 x 5 (Child)
Starting at the center of the bottom edge, sew around the edges of the fabric leaving about 1.5” to 2” open.
Stop, cut the thread. Turn inside out.
Pin three (3) ½” tucks on each side of the mask. Make sure the tucks are the same direction.
Make ties using Bias Tape or Fabric.
Bias tape: stitch closed.
Fabric: Fold in half, turn under 1/4 ” on each long side, iron in place.  Stitch long edges closed.
Pin one (1) tie at each corner.
Sew around the edge of the mask twice, catching the bias tape as you go.

* * *

VIDEOS FROM YOUTUBE ON MAKING FACE MASKS
* -- How to Make a Face Mask (from JOANN FABRICS) -- https://youtu.be/VgHrnS6n4iA
* -- How to SEW a Medical FACE MASK // TUTORIAL https://youtu.be/4FB--BOyTiU
* -- No Sew DIY Face Mask -- Bandana And 2 Ponytail Holders https://youtu.be/b6ADNMFRzIM
* -- DIY Surgical/Medical Face Mask To Protect Yourself From The Virus. No sewing. https://youtu.be/NF7Ag8Z0uFA
* -- To make the BEST DIY face mask, and what to use if you can’t find supplies. https://youtu.be/v8HNYKvlaN8
* -- EMERGENCY? how to make an anti-virus mask in two minutes with only paper towels, two rubber bands and a stapler. https://youtu.be/72werg3W6Jc

royexum@aol.com


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