More than half-way through Passover now, I’m finding the holiday’s food and kitchen restrictions (no leavening, separate dishes and utensils) a fitting metaphor for our new reality. That, and the spread of matzah crumbs throughout our home. I’m also finding the rituals and rules about what and how to cook strangely comforting. Having our mini Seder last Wednesday night via Zoom with two dozen family and friends from across the country was wonderfully uplifting. Sticking with our Passover observance feels like an act of defiance in the face of this pandemic, that it can’t uproot everything we hold dear.
But there is still a lot to contend with, of course. Here in Massachusetts, we are being told to wear fabric face masks when going anywhere that makes physical distancing difficult, like grocery shopping. So, on Sunday, I pulled out my trusty 35-year-old Viking sewing machine and experimented with making masks out of old pillow cases.
I still love sewing, but it has become much more challenging since I had my hand surgery several years ago. Tweezers are an essential tool for threading the needle. I have to constantly be mindful not to reach quickly as I adjust the sewing foot, thread the bobbin or change stitch settings, or I’ll mash what’s left of my fingertips on metal. Then there’s the nuisance of cut threads sticking to my bandages.
Nevertheless, I persisted, using a pattern I’d found online, one magenta-and-pink and one cobalt-blue pillow case, and a few pieces of quarter-inch elastic from my five-decades-old sewing stash. I cut out enough fabric for several masks, but only finished two—in part, because I skillfully managed to sew the second one together wrong side out and had to pull all the stitches, a real challenge for my hands. I made an opening in the back for an insert. From what I’ve read online, coffee filters are considered one of the best options.
Along the way, I discovered a couple of mistakes in the directions. The biggest issue is how long to make the elastic loops to go over ears. The pattern said seven inches, which seems to be standard advice, but that’s way too big for my narrow face. So, a word to the wise: If you decide to sew your own mask, plan on the first one being a prototype that needs adjusting.
Here is a good article from The New York Times that includes everything you need to knows about wearing and making your own mask.
I hope, Dear Reader, that whatever your circumstance, whatever holiday you may have been celebrating or will be, soon, that you are staying safe and well. And if you can’t sew, here’s how to make a mask from a teeshirt that requires no stitching.